A Tradition of Sustainability
Sustainability—meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs—has been a part of Saint John's since its founding in 1856. The pioneer monks carefully managed the surrounding forests, fields, and lakes to provide shelter and food for the community while at the same time preserving these resources for our enjoyment today. Throughout the history of Saint John's, community members and our neighbors have worked to ensure that this stewardship continues. Sustainability includes three interdependent components: economy, society, and environment. A practice is sustainable if the needs of all three components are met. Benedictine values and Catholic social teaching guide the Saint John's community in working toward environmental, social, and economic justice.
Saint John's made a bold step toward becoming carbon neutral with the construction, in late 2009, of the 400-kilowatt abbey solar farm, which annually supplies four percent of Saint John's electricity. It has produced over 2,498,498.9 kilowatt-hours since it began operation, and has prevented the release of 2,152 tons of carbon dioxide. The farm also educates students and the community about Minnesota's rich solar resource.
Saint John's also works toward sustainability behind the scenes. The campus physical plant department retrofitted over five thousand fluorescent fixtures with new, efficient lamps and ballasts. The new lamps and ballasts use forty percent less energy than their older counterparts.
Since April, 2011, (and continuing through October, 2013), the Saint John's powerhouse has been using only natural gas as a primary fuel instead of coal. This switch reduces its emissions by 58 percent—preventing the release of 41,000 tons of carbon dioxide. This, factored in with other emmissions that exist, means that overall emissions for the campus are reduced by 32 percent.
The Abbey, University, and local community have helped to open the Minnesota Street Market (a local food and art co-op) in St. Joseph, Minnesota, to improve access to local, healthy, and ethically produced food. The abbey's vegetable garden continues to expand, this year providing over one ton of food to the monks' table.
Sustainability is a long, unending path of many small, yet important contributions by the whole community. However, we are emboldened by the promise that our work will help bring about a brighter future for God's creation.