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Sustainability Facilities and Investments

Sustainability began with students.


Conservation is how sustainability at UMN Morris began. In 2001, when students requested the campus purchase wind energy to reduce carbon emissions, the administration asked the students to find ways to cover the added costs through conservation. They started with reduced power & water usage plus increased campus recycling. That was only the beginning.

Fleet vehicles

We are in the process of switching our entire fleet of campus cars away from vehicles powered solely by fossil fuels. With the addition of a fully electric vehicle and numerous electric hybrid vehicles that use less gasoline and emit fewer greenhouse gases, we have decreased emissions by more than 21 tons of CO2 per year. In April 2019, the campus added a fully electric commercial lawn mower to its fleet.


We placed flow restrictors on bathroom faucets and showers, installed low-flow toilets, and automated our urinal flushers. We also recycle water from our steam plant. Campus water use has been reduced by two million gallons each year.

Light and heat

We continue to invest money into energy-saving retrofits to our buildings by switching conventional lights for energy-saving LED lights or compact fluorescent bulbs. We also installed programmable temperature controls to reduce power usage. The improvements generate several hundred thousand dollars of savings a year and have paid for themselves via an innovative financing arrangement with McKinstry, an engineering and energy services firm.


UMN Morris students led the effort to install VendingMisers® on refrigerated vending machines. The devices automatically power down the machines when they are not in active use, cutting energy consumption by more than 40 percent.

Construction and renovation

In construction, reusing existing structures and reclaiming materials are some of the best ways to reduce consumption of resources and cut emissions. Per a student-led initiative, all future construction and renovations will adhere to Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards.


The Community Services Building, originally an engineering structure built in 1915, is on the National Register of Historic Places. When the campus needed to renovate it to create the Welcome Center, we decided to bring it up to 21st century environmental standards while preserving its links to our heritage.

  • The new structure earned a LEED Gold rating.
  • It is one of the most energy-efficient structures in Minnesota and is the first building in the state––as well as the first listed on the National Register of Historic Places—to use chilled-beam technology.
  • Its interior features wood reclaimed from exterior demolition.
  • Motion sensors and dimmable light fixtures cut power use.
  • Placement and design features provide ample sunlight and passive solar benefits.
  • Upon completion, the Welcome Center received the 2011 Minnesota Construction Association Award.


Opened in fall 2013, the LEED-Gold certified Green Prairie Community is an innovative living and learning environment that complements UMN Morris’s focus on environmental sustainability. Environmentally-friendly features include:

  • Real-time energy monitoring system, which helps residents use power wisely
  • High thermal mass insulated concrete forms for superior insulation
  • Low VOC interior finishes and furnishings for improved air quality
  • Site placement and building design that provides daylight in all public and residential spaces and enhance green design features and links to the prairie ecosystem
  • Orchard, edible landscaping, and gardens
  • Low-flow water fixtures
  • Power, heat, and cooling from campus renewable energy sources
  • Abundant bike racks
  • Residence programs on sustainability issues
  • Community meals prepared with food produced onsite and locally


The Morris campus has made considerable investments in sustainability, which are providing immediate savings and environmental benefits. In addition, we will continue to save money as a result of these investments while reducing our carbon footprint. Significant portions of these investments go directly to the local economy, supporting farmers and small businesses in the region.

  • Over $2.6 million invested in energy conservation and retrofits for the campus, facilities, and operations, which helped us reduce electricity consumption by 1 million kWh between 2007 and 2012
  • $4 million invested in our second wind turbine, greatly increasing the amount of power we get from renewable energy
  • Approximately $9 million invested on the biomass gasification plant, which included about $3 million in federal and other grant funding
  • $1.4 million invested in capital equipment to further improve the performance of our systems, like the absorption chiller and the steam turbine on the biomass plant
  • Over $500,000 in biomass purchases from the farming community annually, displacing significant carbon emissions
  • Investments to build the new Green Prairie residence hall that will yield energy savings for decades
  • A solar thermal system that lowers emissions by approximately fifteen tons of carbon per year, purchased locally and funded in part by grants and an anonymous donor 



We employ many green best practices. Examples include storm water gardens, wetlands, jewel box greenhouses, low-maintenance native plants, pedestrian-friendly roadways, and an organic vegetable garden.

Campus maintenance crews use eco-friendly cleaners and recycled paper products whenever possible.