Archive for Good Stuff

2015 Full-Scale Composting Pilot Study

The Sustainability Council has an exciting project to share!  We have had a student working with us over the past few months to design a compost feasibility study for LSC.  As you all know, the 2007 WLSSD Solid Waste Ordinance requires LSC to separate our pre-consumer food waste and divert it to compost.  Currently, we deal with that pre-consumer waste and coffee grounds via our worm bins in the Atrium.  That project has been fantastic;  the soil has been used by the Garden Club, is annually added to your favorite wildflower area, and Theresa Hornstein uses it to start seedlings for her annual spring plant sale where proceeds benefit the LSC Foundation.


But here’s the exciting part, we can do MORE!  We can’t compost post-consumer food, or paper products, or compostable eat-wear in our worm bins, so all of that is still going to a landfill.  A typical campus waste stream includes 30% potentially compostable materials.  Our student’s (let’s call her Mel) pilot study will attempt to estimate volume and cost for expanding our existing composting program.

compost bin

This project was partially made possible with the help of a FREE triple bin we received from Max-R (an almost $3,000 value) during a 1-day promotional event that they called Free Bin Friday.  This bin includes a slot specifically for compost.  This beautiful bin (made over 1,000 recycled milk jugs) is located outside the LSC Café, and will be open for use when our pilot kicks off on January 20th.  It’s important to remember that while the study is being conducted, “compostables” that are collected will go in the regular trash dumpster as we don’t currently have a compost hauling service, BUT the information we get from separating and monitoring will be invaluable.  The pilot will run from January to March, and Mel will work with our maintenance department to track food and other compostable materials during that time.  On January 20th, education will start, and we’ll staff a table and provide all kinds of info on composting for you both here and at home.  Much of the information can be found on the WLSSD Composting & Yard Waste web page.

Here’s what you can do during the study:

  • put all of your food waste and napkins in the bin
  • put all of your used coffee grounds in the bin
  • watch for updates, and results in March!

If you have any questions about the study or general composting, email

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Interpretive Trail Grand Re-Opening

Miller Creek Interpretative Trail, Repaired from 2012 Flood Damage, to Formally Reopen on Oct. 1

Media Contact: Janet Blixt, 218/733-7774,


(Duluth, Minn. Sept. 25, 2014) – The record-breaking summer solstice flood of 2012 damaged many of Duluth’s 42 creeks and rivers and adjoining trails and bridges. The Miller Creek Interpretative Trail on the Lake Superior College campus was one of them. Both bridges spanning the creek were washed downstream and stream-monitoring equipment was destroyed.


A formal reopening of the Miller Creek Interpretative Trail will be held on Wed., Oct. 1 at 1:00 p.m. at the trailhead sign on the Lake Superior College campus.  The public is welcome to attend with free parking available in the west lot.


Since the 2012 flood, LSC faculty, staff, students and the Duluth community have pitched in to repair the damage done to this designated trout stream. The trail bridges were re-designed by Larry Sampson from the Superior Hiking Trail Association and located to new crossings. Volunteers, including LSC Fire Technology students, helped with bridge construction, installation and creating additional tread walkways, including stone stairways.


The $5,000 stream monitoring equipment was replaced through FEMA funding. Jerry Henneck with UMD’s Natural Resources Research Institute (NRRI) reinstalled this equipment, which provides real-time temperature, stage height, turbidity, flow, and conductivity data to the database.


Bridge locations and connecting trails were altered so the new trail system was re-mapped by LSC Civil Technology students. A Civic Engagement class designed and installed a new trail entrance sign and way-finding arrows. Building Construction faculty member John Calcaterra built the new cedar trail sign holders.


The Miller Creek Interpretive Trail is a half-mile route connecting 14 sites of ecological and geological interest in the creek valley and surrounding area. Illustrated signposts explain features found at each location.  “Our biology, geology and physical education faculty use Miller Creek as an outdoor classroom for our students. This trail serves as a community, educational and recreational resource, accessible to everyone for fishing and hiking,” said LSC Sustainability Coordinator Kristi Heintz. “We appreciate all the volunteer time and support from our campus and community.”


LSC is northeastern Minnesota’s largest two-year college with a fall semester enrollment of approximately 4,500 students. LSC provides a wide range of programs and services, including liberal arts and science courses for transfer, technical programs intended to provide occupational skills, continuing education, and customized training for business and industry. LSC is also a leader in online-delivered courses and programs in Minnesota.


News Coverage of the October 1st Event

Duluth News Tribune: Photo of the Day


Northlands News Center

Star Tribune


Crookston Times


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Solar Power Hour @ LSC 9/18

Lake Superior College will host Midwest Renewable Energy Association’s Solar Power Hour public education session on September 18th at 7:00 in E2154.  Park in the lower main parking lot (Lot 1) and enter the “E-building” doors, look for signs to E2154.

PP MN logo 300x292 Power Pack Power Hours

“This FREE, 1-hour program, called a Power Hour, educates participants on the benefits of solar energy and demonstrates that solar power has never been cheaper or easier to install.

The Power Hour details the components of a solar photovoltaics (PV) system, discusses market trends, outlines the step-by-step process of evaluating the feasibility of PV for your home, talks about the economic benefits, reviews the list of approved solar installers, and has a solar expert available from Midwest Renewable Energy Association (MREA) to answer your questions.

For additional details about the Power Pack Illinois program, visit the Grow Solar website.”

This event is open to the public.  Please register here (not required, but appreciated).  We look forward to seeing you!


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LSC Bags It

Have you seen the plastics display in the main floor concourse near Student Life?  It’s made from used plastic bags and plastic bottles collected during World Water Week.  The photos next to the plastics chain give you a glimpse of the environmental problems associated with accumulating plastics in our ecosystem.  BUT, do you know who is NOT contributing to the plastic pandemic?  The LSC Store!

plasticscol2LSC’s commitment to waste reduction can be seen throughout the campus, from worm composting to recycling uncommon waste, we’ve committed to diverting our waste load  from the landfill.  The very best way to do this, though, is to change the procedures that bring that waste to our campus in the first place.  Four years ago, the LSC Store manager, Connie Moore, decided to make a real change in the way she operated the store.  Like many retail shops, our campus store sent customers out the door with high quality, single-use, plastic bags to carry their newly purchased text books and other items.  Recognizing the waste this generated, Connie made a change that stuck.  The LSC Store now gives away re-usable tote bags with each text book, supply, and merchandise purchase.  If students bring in their own bag, they receive $1 off their purchase.  Connie reports, “Cloth bags are about 40 percent more expensive than plastic, but we feel they are worth that extra expense”.  Since moving away from plastic, the LSC Store has given away nearly 10,000 reusable bags.  Those bags can be seen on student’s shoulders all year, and with various uses: lunch bags, gym bags, even diaper bags!











EZ Books @ the LSC Store

Additionally, the bags serve as a promotional tool.  They are adorned with the LSC EZ Books Reservation logo, which is another program the LSC Store recently launched.  Many students order books online.  Before EZ Books, the only way to receive those books was through the mail, creating additional emissions through the shipping process.  Now, EZ Books allows students to pick up reserved books at the EZ Books distribution window. The EZ books system also gives students first dibs on the used book supply, and students can grab their books in a free tote bag when they’re on campus.

Bag It, Duluth

A local group of passionate plastic bag crusaders, called Bag It, Duluth, is working to create an awareness and dialog about the use of plastic bags.  They’re urging businesses and consumers to think a bit differently about the plastic bag that is used once, sometimes for only a few minutes, then discarded in a landfill where it will sit for at least 1,000 years.  Worldwide, 1 trillion plastic bags are used annually.  Use less where you can, recycle where available (like here, at LSC!), and check out this light-hearted YouTube video, The Majestic Plastic Bag: A Mocumentary.


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LSC Runs on LED

LSC is now three years into an ongoing, multi-year energy saving plan, achieved  partially through lighting fixture and bulb upgrades.

In 2011, the Main Concourse was fitted with new energy saving lighting fixtures. This has allowed lower-watt bulbs to more efficiently cast light.  The concourse lights also utilize photocell technology, a high-efficiency function that allows natural lighting to determine whether the light stays on…or off. When sufficient daylight permits, a number of the lights in the concourse will switch off—in turn, further reducing our energy needs.  new library lights-smAdditionally, the library added a new row of ultra high efficiency T-5 fixtures to a space that was in  need of brighter, yet more efficient, lighting.  Finally, in some hallways where ballasts permitted, inefficient compact bulbs were replaced with more efficient lower watt bulbs.  Since the first year’s round of projects was completed, our energy consumption in those areas has reduced by almost 224,000 kWH per year, saving $13,000 annually! This project also utilized an almost $10,000 Minnesota Power rebate. To date, total payback from energy savings has nearly been reached!

LED parking lights300In 2013, a total parking lot lighting fixture upgrade cycle began.  Since then, 61 400-watt metal halide fixtures in LSC’s North and Lower Main parking lots have been upgraded to 116-watt LED, with photocontrol added for diurnal dimming depending on available daylight and parking lot use.  Rebates from this project were placed in an energy efficiency revolving fund, and that money will be reinvested in additional campus energy efficiency upgrades.  Anticipated payback for this project is about 10 years.  The campus’ West parking lot is next in line for LED upgrades.

Want more Information?

In The Dark About Picking A Light Bulb…”  for your home or office?  Check out this FAQ article from NPR.  You’ll even see a great watt comparison, from incandescent to CFL, to LED, they outline relative energy consumption, light output and life expectancy in “NPR’s Guide To Changing Light Bulbs.


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Energy Grant for Retrofits



In 2013, Lake Superior College was awarded a $30,000 conservation grant from Comfort Systems, Duluth for major energy efficiency upgrades at its main campus.  The 43,000 square foot main building now contains a hybrid boiler system, where one of the three existing standard boilers were upgraded to two natural gas fired, high efficiency, full condensing, modulating boilers.  According to Plant Maintenance Engineer, Jim Borg, the two new condensing boilers serve as primary building heat suppliers, while the two older boilers are now back-ups, triggered mainly during periods of peak demand and extreme cold temperatures.  High efficiency water heaters, which feed into the boiler system, were  installed as part of the project as well.  The HVAC system was also upgraded with five variable frequency drives on the pumps and air handling unit fans.

IMG_0240The 11,600 square foot Art Building’s steam heat system was also updated with two natural gas fired high efficiency hot water boilers.

Overall, the project will reduce 347,636 pounds of CO2 emissions and save almost $20,000 annually.  The project payback is just over 14 years.


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Miller Creek Bridges

2012-06-26_14-39-40_466-300pxFollowing the June 2012 record-breaking regional floods, all of the Miller Creek at LSC monitoring equipment was lost.  Additionally, two foot bridges crossing Miller Creek were destroyed and floated downstream.

Thanks to LSC’s Emergency Response Trailing Center (ERTC) student volunteers, Sustainability Council members, and the expertise of Larry Sampson of the Superior Hiking Trail Association, the two LSC Interpretive Trail foot bridges were replaced.  upper bridge 2 9-2012-200px

Monitoring equipment was replaced in 2014, and stream data can be found at  The upper bridge was re-located to a site slightly upstream from the original location.  The new trail map, created by Civil Tech student Rene Fall, includes the half-mile loop path and can be found here.

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Campus Stormwater Management

Stormwater Sensitive Infrastructure

In 2012, LSC’s newest parking lot fix incorporated some major underground stormwater management structures.  These structures will slow the flow of water and settle almost 50% of sediment that would otherwise reach Miller Creek through a direct pipe outfall.  Reduced sediment to the creek means less chance of increasing stream temperatures of this trout stream.  DSC_2066-400Read more about the design in the LSC Wave article by Mat Gilderman.  The parking lot also features energy efficient LED lighting controlled by photoeye technology.

Raingardens, Wildflowers, and Native Grasses

wgarden_200The first raingarden constructed at LSC was a cooperative effort between the college and the South St. Louis County Soil and Water Conservation District.  The garden was funded by a $11,000 Clean Water Partnership grant. In 2006, this garden was installed to capture the runoff from the large west parking lot.  Because of the volume reaching this garden, it was constructed with a primary entrance point, the forbay, which temporarily holds and settles water and sand.  Water then flows into the main water treatment area which is planted with native vegetation.  Because of the specific design of this garden, some periodic sand removal from the forbay is required to keep it functioning properly.

Visit the SWCD site for more information on Miller Creek restoration projects, including the “Jumbo Gully” project near campus in 2011.

rain garden sigsn300The main entrance raingarden was constructed in 2007 with the Student Services Building addition.  The raingarden was installed to capture hillside runoff from the north side of the building through an under-building tunnel.



H-terrace200In 2011, LSC’s newest Health and Science Building was constructed uphill from the north side of the main building.  The H-Building sits atop a 150 foot vertical decline to Miller Creek.  Bio-swales were incorporated into the south facing slope and native grasses are planted to promote infiltration of at least 90% of roof and pavement runoff from an average rainfall event.  During initial site preparation, over 1,750 tons of rock were blasted and excavated, and some of the rubble was used in the construction of the terraces.  These swales have also proven to be great bedding habitat for deer and their fawns!

SS Legacy first summer 200In 2012, after years of planning, the Student Senate Legacy Project kicked-off with a turf kill and initial seeding of about 3,000 square feet of native grasses and wild flowers on the front lawn.  The Senate has been working with Boreal Natives, a local division of Prairie Restorations, which specializes in native plant community restoration.  They’ve been actively involved in site preparation, planting, and maintenance since the project started.  While not a typical rain garden, this area does include a stormwater pipe outlet and wet drainage area.  The planting included two different seed mixes; wetland and dry prairie.  The grasses will take at least two growing seasons to fully establish, so look for first signs of color and diversity in 2014.  The Legacy Project will change and expand each year to include seating areas, walking paths, fruit trees and “adoptable” garden plots in summer 2014!

S project area before200One of LSC’s most visible wildflower area conversions was seeded fall 2013.  The campus’ Student Services Building (S-Building) entrance space was converted from typical turf to a low-growing northern climate short grass and wildflower seed mix.  This space includes roughly 3,000 combined square feet. The seed mix consists of blue dwarf coneflowers, blue flax, and baby blue eyes along with california poppys,  calendula and more.  This has been a tricky maintenance area for years, with narrow sidewalks, large snow removal equipment and poor soil, the grass on either side of the sidewalk has had a difficult time thriving.  This is the first step in finding a solution  that will suit everyone’s needs.

S-bldg b-a

Landscape Planning Process

In 2013, LSC’s Campus Sustainability Council formed a Landscape Planning Work Group.  The group’s first task was to develop a landscape planning map.  With input from the campus community, our maintenance department and community members, the group will create an annual maintenance plan as well as short- and long-tem planting plans.  With well-designed plans, we will mitigate erosion on tricky slopes, reduce stormwater inflow and improve the quality of water flowing to Miller Creek.  Additionally, we’ll reduce the need to mow a typical turf grass lawn-scape, and create some areas of interest to invite greater utilization of our outdoor spaces both for education and leisure.

The view from our front lawn includes the St. Louis River estuary and Lake Superior; through Miller Creek, we have a direct connection to both, so we can’t help but be inspired to be great stewards of this land!

pretty place


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