This summer, something exciting is happening with environmentalism at St. Olaf. After a successful first year, SustainAbilities is set to expand in radically new ways that includes new academic components, a new Green Hall, and new programming in SustainAbilities itself. Only one year after the beginnings of SustainAbilities, it is set to grow.

Over the summer of 2013, three summer CURI (Collaborative Undergraduate Research and Inquiry) students were hired to look at SustainAbilities and the new Green Hall Program. Zoey Slater is a rising senior and her focus has been on marketing SustainAbilities to the campus. She’s created a marketing report to better help SustainAbilities Representatives market sustainable living. Emily Stets is a rising junior who is interested in connections between mental health and sustainability. Emily has been helping build the framework of many of the new programs. Will Lutterman is also a rising junior interested in connections between the environment, the economy, and everyday living. He’s looking to better increase collaboration between groups on campus.


These three students have been working on many different projects, however they can be generally grouped into a couple categories. First, they have been focused on revamping the SustainAbilities program. It includes creating new promotional materials, revamping the website, and determining how to market the program better. Secondly, they have looked at how to construct the Green Residence Hall program. They are building annotations for HIlleboe Hall, and these annotations will help students learn more about the place they live in. Annotations are little notes, or facts, about everyday items that can be put up to help students learn. Third, the summer researchers have looked at how to better integrate civic engagement in the sustainability programs on campus. Lastly, these students have been a part of a team to help build the Environmental Conversations program.

Green Hall: A Space for Discovery

Many of the changes to the SustainAbilities program have been subtle, such as the addition of new webpages or the creation of a newsletter, but the Green Hall program will dramatically impact the lives of participating students. Hilleboe Hall may not have been retrofitted or rebuilt, but the research has focused on how to create a green hall program that focuses exclusively on lifestyle changes. These cultural changes may be more difficult to accomplish, but they are more sustainable in the long-run, because students can carry the skills they learned out into other areas of their life after St. Olaf.

The Green Hall is different from SustainAbilities, because all students in the Green Hall program will be green room certified and attend four sustainability events each semester. These events will stretch the imaginations of students and let them discover new sustainable living skills. These events are designed to be fun and engaging. For example, one event features cooking a sustainable meal, while another includes a jog through the natural lands.


In addition to just teaching students more sustainable living skills, there will be increased collaboration in this area. The Green House is full of environmentally-interested students and is housed at Flaten House. Flaten House is the only honor house close to Hilleboe Hall. The house will help host events and increase participation in the program. They also will work to better market sustainability on campus.

The Green House isn’t the only other environmental group over by Hilleboe Hall. The new Environmental Conversation (EnCon) Program will call Kittelsby¬†Hall home. There will be events for interaction between Green Hall students and EnCon students, as well as joint field trips. SustainAbilities and the Green House hopes to foster a greater dialogue between all groups to create a better environmental community on campus.

Looking Ahead

There are many more changes coming to the program in addition to the new programs. The summer researchers are looking into bringing more interactive events to students, more effective social marketing, and building new training materials for staff. SustainAbilities is also adding new positions specifically dedicated to marketing and collaboration.

For more information, explore the revamped SustainAbilities webpage! There are new resources about sustainability on campus and sustainable living tips!


Photo Credit: Marie Fredrickson and the St. Olaf College Marketing and Communications Department