Archive for GreenCorps

Final GreenCorps Update

A final update from the MN GreenCorps desk…

As the end of the GreenCorps service year draws near our GreenCorps member Chris has been busy summarizing and quantifying the results of projects implemented over the past 11 months.  The projects have been well documented through this blog but in case you need a refresher here is a list:

Many of these projects are ongoing and will require the help of the Sustainability Council at LSC to continue.  The vending miser installation and the Green Office Challenge are simple enough that a student worker can continue thanks to documentation that Chris has put together.  The continuation of the EEOM will require The Sustainability Council & the Maintenance department to work together to ensure this is fully implemented.

Number Crunching:

Now onto the data for each of the projects.  There’s more than one way to quantify the impacts of these projects so the 1st metric Chris calculated was kilowatt hours (kWh) saved as a result which totaled 52615 kWh saved.  Another reporting metric was pounds of CO2  saved which Chris calculated by using a converter on the EPA website to come up with 86,326 pounds of CO2.  Finally the most excited metric: cost savings.  The total saved from projects implemented this service year come to $4,257!

Let’s Break Those Numbers Down:

The largest source of kWh and 2nd largest source of cost savings came from the installation of vending misers which also facilitated the removal of 3 machines.  These savings alone accounted for 16244 kWh in electricity savings & $1,187.  The second largest source of energy & surprisingly, the largest cost savings was the lighting retrofit at the CAA which saved 13924 kWh of electricity savings and $1,253 in cost savings.

Where Do We Go From Here?

All these energy savings projects should be viewed as the continuation of something larger rather than the end of an era.  All these projects are part of a larger ongoing effort to save energy at LSC that will continue even after Chris leaves. The EEOM in particular is the best example of a project with HUGE energy and cost savings potential that maintenance and sustainability staff at LSC are now aware of and have the opportunity to continue into the future.  Stay tuned to this blog and the LSC Sustainability Facebook page for future updates!   

Posted in: Good Stuff, GreenCorps

Leave a Comment (0) →

Summer Energy Saving Tips

An update from the MN GreenCorps desk at LSC…


As we enter the so called “dog days of summer” our GreenCorps member Chris has one last update on seasonally appropriate energy saving tips.  In addition to the tips given in other posts for holiday energy savings there are several summer specific energy savings strategies you can implement at home.  

First and foremost setting your thermostat at an appropriate temperature is perhaps the single most important adjustment you can make.  According to the Department of Energy setting your thermostat at 78° is the best combination of comfort and cost savings. See the infographic to the left from the Department of Energy that compares types of air conditioners and the advantages & disadvantages of each type.

One perk of the sunny dry days of summer is the ability to air out your clothes outside.  This does represent a modest cost savings that can be calculated using a few free online tools.  The Department of Energy website has a calculator to figure out the energy use and cost of many household appliances.  Using a relatively conservative estimate of a clothes dryer rated at 2790 watts running for 3 hours on one day a week for the summer months of June, July, & August and a utility rate of $0.12/kWh (the national average) results in a total energy savings of 100.44 kWh and $12.05 for the summer months.  In terms of monetary cost this is not much but using another calculator from the EPA we can calculate the estimated CO2  emissions from the kWh savings which amount to 165 pounds of CO2 saved from simply not using a clothes dryer during the summer months drying them outside on a clothesline instead.

Another energy saving strategy is to turn off lights during the day.  This is not only because it saves energy used to illuminate a room but because light bulbs – especially incandescent ones can generate a lot of excess heat in their operation.  According to the Department of Energy 90% of energy used by these bulbs is given off as heat with only the remaining 10% used for light. This means that upgrading these bulbs to more efficient LEDs can save energy on two fronts.  

For many more spring and summer energy tips see this article from the Department of Energy.  The website is also a great resource for energy saving tips in any season ranging from quick tips to long term upgrades.  

Posted in: Good Stuff, GreenCorps

Leave a Comment (0) →

Final Vending Miser Update

Another update from the MN GreenCorps desk at LSC…

Take a look at the pictures below.  Admittedly this is a pretty underwhelming before and after, but the addition of the sensors mean that 2 more vending misers are installed at LSC!  This may not seem like a big deal but to our MN GreenCorps member, Chris, this marks the end of a major project.  This was a slightly more invasive installation than previous misers, requiring Building Maintenance Foreman Mark Cardinal to drill 3 new holes in the wall.  These misers & sensors are a generous donation from UMD who already has state of the art energy efficient vending machines.  The sensors will allow not only for energy savings in future but also a more streamlined setup behind the scenes. The cost savings are also significant, just the 2 misers installed on the machines pictured below will save LSC $160 a year!  When you consider how many vending machines are on campus it is apparent the impact installing these devices can have.  


Block #1 Before:

Block #1 After:

Block #2 Before:

Block #2 After:

Posted in: Good Stuff, GreenCorps

Leave a Comment (0) →

CAA Energy Efficiency

Lake Superior College’s new aviation maintenance technician training partnership with Delta Air Lines has made national headlines in recent months, but LSC has been working closely with local aviation partners like AAR and Cirrus Aircraft for a number of years.  With their growing demand, the Center for Advanced Aviation (CAA) training facility made a leap from its main campus location to a more spacious facility at the Duluth International Airport in 2015.  That move brought with it facility challenges and opportunities, with almost 40,000 square feet to heat, cool and power.

Consistent with the Minnesota State’s goal to reduce statewide campus energy use 20% by 2020, LSC has made aggressive efforts to reduce energy use.  At the main campus, the electricity savings have been driven by retrofitting lighting fixtures and bulbs to efficient LEDs, and incorporated motion sensors and schedule optimization strategies where appropriate.  In 2017, collective energy improvements had reduced energy consumption by 7% overall from the campus’ 2009 baseline.

What’s NEW?

The latest lighting project at LSC’s CAA campus included a complete high bay fixture swap – 50 1,000 watt metal-halide fixtures were replaced with 50 185 watt LED fixtures.  That almost 41 kW per fixture (over 120,000 kW project total annually) advantage could potentially save BIG money; $9,513.16 calculated savings per year, to be exact.  With the $9,050 rebate from Minnesota Power’s PowerGrant Program, the project should pay for itself in 1.26 years(!!).

The project design is great, but how is it PERFORMING?

We like actual data, too.  Along with LSC’s Sustainability Coordinator, our MN GreenCorps member has been refining the energy tracking data for this site.  Using billing invoices going back to 2015, we are definitely seeing some trends in the right direction.  Since February, the invoices have taken a sharp decrease, with energy use dropping by 5,500 kWh when compared to the previous 2 year average; each month since January has been a significant improvement over previous years.  These decreases in energy consumption translate to a total dollar savings of  almost $2,000 over the past 4-months (based on previous 2-year average).  In fact, May showed an all-time low for electricity use since LSC has occupied the space.

year over year graph of energy savings

LSC’s CAA energy use 2015-2018

If you like number crunching as much as we do, you’ll find we’re really close to the calculated savings.  Building users are switch-flipping like bosses, and turning off half of the high bay fixtures when they aren’t using the space (zero energy use is even better than low energy fixtures).  The photo from our CAA campus (above) was taken during a surprise visit in June, showing exactly how they’re hitting these performance marks.  Users told us the lighting, although using far less electricity per fixture, is more than adequate.  Smart, cost effective, AND user friendly.  We’re calling this one a major win!

Posted in: Good Stuff, GreenCorps

Leave a Comment (0) →

Creating an Energy Efficient Operations Manual at LSC

A summer update from the MN GreenCorps desk at Lake Superior College…

In these final months of the GreenCorps service year we are undertaking one last major energy savings project at Lake Superior College.  This project is the creation of an Energy Efficient Operations Manual (EEOM).  This is an admittedly long and potentially confusing name but it aims to make things a lot simpler and more efficient in the future.  The EEOM is one of several services available to LSC through the B3 portal.  LSC has already utilized the benchmarking service which allows for us to track and measure past energy use on campus.  The EEOM falls under the operations site which looks at the day to day energy use of buildings.

For LSC it looks like the best use of the EEOM is to optimize the air handling units on campus.  These are the devices that supply hot or cold air depending on the season to all areas of the campus.  These units are controlled by a building automation system called Metasys which allows maintenance to schedule the operation of each individual unit.  The EEOM takes this scheduling feature and gathers feedback from building occupants to develop a more efficient schedule for each air handling unit.  There is also a feature built in to the EEOM that requires these schedules to be renegotiated on a regular basis in the future as schedules and building occupants change.  This ensures that building will be operating efficiently today and into the future as well.

Future Possibilities:

Looking to the future LSC can also use the EEOM to optimize lighting controlled by the Metasys system as well as water heaters.  LSC has also reviewed opportunities to supplement its existing systems with various software tools that provide additional control over heating and cooling on campus.  Right now a solution like these seems like more than LSC needs. However depending on the results once the EEOM is implemented a highly customizable and controllable system may make sense.

Other Updates:

Since the last blog post there are some other updates on other GreenCorps projects.  There is now a follow up survey available for the Green Office Challenge.  This is a quick survey designed to gauge the changes participants have made as a result of your participation in the challenge as well as an additional opportunity to give any feedback they may have.  The Sustainability Council still has 3 compost bins available for interested offices!  These bins have a built in filter to contain any odors associated with food scrap collection.  Contact if you are interested.  

Posted in: Good Stuff, GreenCorps

Leave a Comment (0) →

Spring MN GreenCorps Projects Update

An Earth Month update from the MN GreenCorps desk:

We are now more than halfway through the GreenCorps service year!  The main project in progress is looking at replacing an appliance on campus.  Many of the appliances that are prime candidates for replacement are refrigerators or coolers.  Using the kill-a-watt meters (available to borrow from the LSC Library) we have recorded energy use for a number of refrigerators on campus.  Most of the refrigerators are pretty energy efficient but some of them were surprising for a couple of reasons.  The maintenance break room and the Tutoring & Learning Center both have the same model of refrigerator in them. The fridge in the maintenance break room costs LSC $81.36 to operate every year.   However the one in the maintenance break room costs more than twice to operate the one in the Tutoring & Learning Center which costs LSC only $33.72 to operate every year. This difference in energy use and operation cost makes the fridge in the maintenance break room a prime candidate for replacement.

Using this data as well as Energy Star energy usage estimates for new models we have calculated what is referred to as the payback period for the purchase of a new appliance.  The basic calculation for this period begins by taking the annual operating cost for the current appliance and subtracting the expected annual operating cost of the new appliance.  Next you take the purchase price of the new appliance and divide it by the energy savings, this number is how many years it will take for those energy savings to pay for the cost of the new appliance.  For the purposes of our fridge replacement the payback period is just under 9 years.  This is well within the useful life of a new fridge so this is another indicator that this fridge is a good one to replace.  Many appliance replacements might not have the best payback period but many utilities including MN Power offer rebates for purchases of new appliances and even incentives for removing appliances like refrigerators.

Other Updates

There are some small updates on other GreenCorps projects as well.  3 vending machines have been removed from the main LSC campus, this leaves 3 more vending misers free to install on our satellite campus sites!  The Green Office Challenge also continues.  Since the last blog post 7 additional teams have completed the survey bringing the total number of teams surveyed to 12.  The Sustainability Council has also distributed the smart power strips that it purchased back in February. Among the people who have tested them out the clear favorite seems to be the timer equipped model.  Stay tuned for more updates through the remaining months of the service year!

Posted in: Good Stuff, GreenCorps

Leave a Comment (0) →

This Week in LSC’s GreenCorps Office: Smart Strips Battle Phantom Loads

Another thoughtful post from our GreenCorps member, Chris…

Have you ever thought about how much time your computer and everything else at your office desk spends idle when you aren’t there?  That thought is the starting point for one of the main projects of the GreenCorps service year.  There is no way around it; your computer display(s) and all other electronics at your desk spend a lot of time sitting idle, and even though they’re not in use these appliances are all still drawing power from the outlet they are plugged into (it’s called phantom load, in case that shows up on an exam).  “Phantom use” sounds diabolical…and it is.  It accounts for more than 10 percent household energy use, $3 billion annually across the US!  Find more information from  It’s kind of like having leaking water facets in every room of your house. 


First off, some background on the amount of idle energy use of computers on campus and how we got to that number.  We used the trusty kill-o-watt meters to measure a typical LSC employee workstation minus the laptop while one employee in our office was out for the week.  This employee took her computer with her (as many employees do) so the energy used was only to power the docking station and monitors at her workstation.  Using this week of data we came up with an approximation for the phantom energy use, that is to say the energy used when the equipment is still plugged in but not in use.  We approximated that equipment is typically idle for 16 hours a day (24 hours minus the standard 8 hour workday).  This means that during a standard 40 hour work week the equipment in your office sits idle for twice that time – 80 hours a week.  Combined with the full weekend days of Saturday & Sunday this brings the grand total of idle time to 128 hours per week.  The next part of the equation was take the amount of energy drawn over the course of the week in kilowatt hours  and divide it by the number of hours it was plugged in.  This gave us the energy use in kilowatt hours per hour and that number multiplied by 128 hours gave us the energy use for the idle equipment during a typical work week.  The final step here is to take that calculation of energy and turn it into a dollar value.  To do that we took the value for the workstations idle energy use and multiplied by an average of our electrical rate from MN Power for the 1st 6th months of 2017 which works out to .09 cents per kilowatt hour.  We then multiplied by 4.3, the average number of weeks per month, to get a monthly rate and multiplied that number by 12 to get a yearly cost.  After all of this math the grand total of the cost to power an idle workstation came to $2.26 per year without a computer in place, and $5.40 per year WITH a laptop left in place.  This number doesn’t seem particularly high, but when multipled across all the employees on the LSC campus (let’s say approximately 450) this means LSC is spending $1,000 to $2,000 a year to power workstations that are not actively being used.  This is a problem not only in the cost to operate them but also in the amount of greenhouse gas emissions generated to provide the energy.  And this is just 1 example of phantom load on our campus. 

What a Waste!

Enter smart power strips as a  solution.  As you can guess from the name they are basically regular surge protectors with features to either automatically or manually stop the power draw from devices that are plugged into them.  With approval from the Sustainability Council, we have purchased a handful of smart power strips to test (first with our Green Office Challenge participants).  These strips, if purchased instead of regular surge protectors, will be especially useful where workstations are often idle.  Our early trials are promising,  showing almost ZERO phantom loss overnight.  Stay tuned for more updates about the trial of these smart power strips and other phantom load analyses.  If you would like a workstation energy assessment, let us know:!



Posted in: Good Stuff, GreenCorps

Leave a Comment (0) →

Air Quality Index for Minnesota

One of the secondary roles of all GreenCorps members this program year is to inform employees of our host site and the community at large about air quality.  The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) maintains an Air Quality Index (AQI) for the state of MN using data from 11 cities across the state.  The MPCA has this information, broken down into local regions, on their Current Air Quality website which is updated every hour.  These hourly AQI numbers are based on measurements of five pollutants including fine particles, ground-level ozone, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, and carbon monoxide.

The actual calculation of the index is a rather complex process but the MPCA has that information on their website for those who are interested.  Once the index is calculated (this happens hourly) it is scored on a 5 tier/300 point scale from good (0-50), moderate (51-100), unhealthy for sensitive groups (101-150), unhealthy (151-200), and very unhealthy (201-300).  When the particulate with the highest scored AQI exceeds 101 the MPCA will issue an air quality alert.  You can sign up to be notified by email or text message when an alert is issued by going to  The MPCA also has mobile apps for both Android & iOS devices to view real-time air quality information on the go.  The EPA uses a very similar scale to rate air quality for the entire United States, you can view this information at

You can use this information to make informed decisions about your time spent outside.  Most days in Minnesota fall into the good air quality category meaning that air pollution levels are not expected to cause any negative health impacts to the population.  However, when the air quality falls into the moderate category, it means air pollution levels are elevated and some groups such as people with asthma may experience negative health effects.  If the air quality worsens, high levels of air pollution are expected and can affect a wider range of people.  Some of these groups include those with preexisting cardiovascular or lung disease, older adults, children, and otherwise healthy individuals participating in extended outdoor activity.  Finally when the air quality reaches the unhealthy category, everyone can experience negative side effects.  All groups of people should avoid spending time outside especially near high emitting pollution sources, and everyone should adjust activity levels by rescheduling or reducing the duration or intensity of their activities where possible.

There are a number of factors that can influence air quality in Minnesota.  The most common cause is changing weather patterns that increase rate at which air pollutants are formed in the air.  Fine particle pollution can rise above the good threshold at any time of the year but this happens most often between November and March.  These pollutants are what caused the air quality to fall into the moderate category across much of the state last week.  Ozone pollution tends to be more common on hot sunny days with calm winds.  Ozone pollution is also different than other types of pollutants because it is not directly emitted from a fixed source but rather is formed from a reaction between nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds in the air.

One very important thing to remember is that there are many things that you can do to keep the air good in Minnesota.  In your home you can choose environmentally safe paints and cleaning products if at all possible.  Another great day-to-day change you can make is to drive less both for commuting and errands.  If you have a wood burning stove make sure that it meets EPA design specifications and burn only dry, seasoned wood.  You can also reduce your homes energy use and choose Energy Star appliances when purchasing new ones.  Now you know the pollutants, how they are measured, factors that influence daily air quality and most importantly, what you can do to help!

Posted in: Good Stuff, GreenCorps

Leave a Comment (0) →

LSC Launches NEW Green Office Challenge

LSC is launching its NEW Green Office Challenge in 2018!  This core  Minnesota GreenCorps member project aims to provide energy and waste efficiency information and tips to our campus employees while offering a bit of friendly inter-office competition.  Here’s how it works:

  1. Within their office suites, teams will earn points using our online survey.  One representative will complete the Green Office Challenge survey to represent their office suite/team.  The survey takes about 5 minutes to complete (easy-peasy!) and covers current practices for managing energy and waste.
  2. Each team will receive a score, based on a 37 point scale, and will receive a “Sprout”, “Sapling”, or “Leader” rank, and will be represented with a sticker to proudly display in their office.

The Sustainability Council will use the information gathered to target its outreach and innovation efforts for the year, and through 2018, they’ll create additional awards (think, “leading leader”, “most improved”, “best new idea”, “most creative accounting”….).

As of the end of May we have had 13 teams (including our office in the Biology dept.) fill out the survey.  We also have a follow up survey available so we can track the changes that offices are making.  If you would rather complete a paper version of either survey email

Questions or Suggestions:  Contact


Posted in: Good Stuff, GreenCorps

Leave a Comment (0) →

Some extra GREEN this holiday season!

Some more energy tips from our Minnesota GreenCorps desk!

With the holidays upon us there are many things on our minds, not most of which is how to save energy. The good news is that with a little planning and thinking ahead you can reduce energy use.

One topic you might consider is gifting.  With TVs for example, many consumers take the initial cost into account when purchasing but often forget the cost of energy to operate it over the life of the product. The ENERGY STAR website is an excellent place to search for not only TVs but all types of energy efficient household appliances and electronics.

For decorations, you might again look to ENERGY STAR certified products like LED decorative light strings. These lights use 75% less energy than comparable incandescent decorative lights. In addition to their energy saving benefits, decorative lights that meet ENERGY STAR specifications do not have moving parts, filaments, or glass which enhances their durability compared to conventional lights. ENERGY STAR certified lights are also cool to the touch meaning they reduce the risk of starting a fire when compared to conventional lights.

Another thing to keep in mind is not only what lights you use but also how often those lights are on. There are a number of devices and timers to help you control when and how long your lights are on. These devices are also pretty inexpensive which makes them easy to justify, considering the potential energy savings, and you can’t complain about having one less thing to think about!  Also, if you leave your home for the holidays, consider using a lighting timer for home safety.

Finally, a great FREE tip for energy savings, regardless of the season, is to adjust your thermostat. According to Minnesota Energy Resources, you can reduce your energy use by 1-3% for every 1° you lower your thermostat.  This can be especially helpful if you leave your home for a few days. Alternatively, reducing the thermostat while you’re home does not have to mean making your house uncomfortable. Consider lowering your thermostat when entertaining, the human and appliance heat generated from all your day’s activities can offset the reduction in your thermostat temperature!

With these simple changes, you can reduce your energy use and focus on the more important things!

Posted in: Good Stuff, GreenCorps

Leave a Comment (0) →
Page 1 of 2 12