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The University of Saint Francis is inherently a Franciscan institution and part of our mission being Franciscan is to respect creation (which is one of our 5 core values as a university). As a way to live up to this value, the university began what is called the "Green Initiative" in the early 2000's. The Green Initiative heads up many projects each semester to further this mission. The two biggest, in my opinion, are the rain garden that was designed and planned by alum Cole De'Nise. It's purpose is to capture and filter storm run-off outside of our Pope John Paul II Center. Various flood and drought tolerant species were planted there and the garden was backfilled with organic soil and mulched.

The second is the bio-dredging of our Mirror Lake. The common method of mechanical dredging, removal of settled organic material, is destructive to the landscape and sends tons of waste to the landfill. USF worked with Sanco Industries in 2011, 2012 and again in 2013 to increase oxygenation and bacterial enzyme activity in the lake to naturally reduce organics. In some parts of the lake up to 17 inches of submerged leaves and other organics were digested, improving water quality, clarity, light penetration and biodiversity. (Taken from the campus website)

The Green Initiative also has made large steps to make the university paperless and to recycle paper. Most professors will not print out the syllabi or hand out papers, but make them available for their students on Blackboard. There is also a tray next to every printer on campus for students to put paper that they no longer need so that others can use the recycled papers to print on the backside.

In 2009, USF finished building on Clare Hall which is the university's most efficient and environmentally responsible building on campus. The lights and toilets are energy saving, the compact fluorescent lights use 75% less energy than incandescent lamps. The wallpaper is recycled newspaper, and like all buildings on campus, there is a recycling center on every floor.

If I had to head up an initiative on campus to make the campus more energy efficient it would be to install some kind of system to generate an alternate energy source. We have quite a large plot of land next to our residence halls that is intended to be for a future athletic complex, but we haven't gotten the funds to build. I believe that if we put in windmills there to sustain the energy used by the residence halls (one of the buildings with the highest levels of activity) that it will greatly cut back on our energy usage each year. Culture Change says that a  250-kW turbine installed at the elementary school in Spirit Lake, Iowa, provides an average of 350,000 kWh of electricity per year, more than is necessary for the 53,000-square-foot school. Excess electricity fed into the local utility system has earned the school $25,000 over five years. The school uses electricity from the utility at times when the wind does not blow. If we installed a wind turbine plant on campus I believe that we could benefit in the same way. The question would be where to get the funding since we are already having difficulty doing so for the athletic complex. I believe that it would be easier to raise the funds from our alumni and other benefactors because this benefits everyone on campus instead of just the athletes. Since it is such an environmentally responsible initiative and it does not fail to benefit everyone it would be easier to convince people of the good that it will do.

Faith Andert is a student at the University of Saint Francis - Fort Wayne and a finalist for the 2013® Education Scholarship. For more information about SaveOnEnergy's scholarship program, visit our scholarship information page.

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