16 easy ways to help the environment while living at Graceland

16 easy ways to help the environment while living at Graceland


by: Jenna Cox '17

As a senior at Graceland, and a temporary resident of Lamoni, it struck me the other day that I’ve lived here for three and a half years and don’t know where we get our electricity and water from. It occurred to me that the majority of Graceland students probably don’t know, either. These are important things to know, regardless of where you live, and they are especially useful bits of knowledge when it comes to being mindful of our energy use and how it affects our environment. I went on a little hunt for this information, and here it is in a nutshell, along with a few tips on how to make good choices with the environment in mind!

Where does our electricity come from in Lamoni?

Lamoni Municipal Utilities (LMU) generates power right here in town, but since the electricity needs of the town have grown over the years, LMU also purchases power from Central Iowa Power Cooperative (CIPCO), which is Iowa’s largest cooperative energy provider. Coal is traditionally used to generate power, which is a non-renewable fossil fuel and is harmful to the atmosphere when burned. Luckily, CIPCO is dedicated to minimizing their carbon footprint, and 60 percent of their electricity is generated using carbon-free sources such as solar, hydro, wind, natural gas and even nuclear power. There is even a solar site found in Osceola, just 30 miles north of Graceland. This is awesome, but it is always a great idea to conserve the use of electricity wherever we can, because 40 percent of the energy we are provided is still being generated in a way that harms our atmosphere.

Where does our water come from in Lamoni?

LMU has a water treatment plant on the edge of town, which treats water from three local reservoirs: Home Pond (human constructed), Lake LaShane and North Woods Lake (also human constructed). Currently, about 260,000 gallons of water are used in Lamoni daily. I wonder how much of that is consumed by Graceland? Considering how many students we have, I am guessing it is a lot, and I bet a lot of energy goes into making that water safe for our consumption and sending it out all around town.

What does it even mean to “save energy?”

When we reduce our usage of electricity or energy-consuming activities, we aren’t exactly “saving” any energy, but we are using it more efficiently and responsibly, which reduces our electricity bills and our carbon footprint. It’s a win-win! Carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4) are major greenhouse gases we produce when burning fossil fuels like coal. Methane is very effective at trapping radiation in our atmosphere, which is what is contributing to the overall warming of our planet and causing harmful climate changes all over the world, even in the Midwest. CO2 is the most prevalent greenhouse gas we produce, but methane’s impact on climate change is 25 times greater. Coal produces both of those gases when it is burned to generate our electricity, so the less energy we use, the better!

How can you help right here at Graceland?

  1. When it doubt, turn it out!

    Turn out any lights you’ve got on when you leave the room. It’s as easy as flipping a switch, literally!
  2. Go the extra mile with energy conservation and unplug any lamps, chargers or electronics that aren’t in use.

    “Phantom power” or “idle current” still uses up energy whenever cords are plugged into a socket, regardless of whether the appliance is turned on or being used. I unplug my lamps and power strip before I go to bed, it only takes a second!
  3. On that same note, try not to charge your phone or laptop overnight.

    It doesn’t take the whole night for them to charge, and all the remaining time they spend plugged in while you sleep is just pulling that phantom power and wasting energy.
  4. Wash your clothes on cold.

    The majority of the energy used by commercial washers actually comes from heating the water, and unless your clothes are super dirty or smelly, the tap water will do the job swimmingly.
  5. Make sure to only wash full loads of laundry.

    Washing a single pair of pants isn’t environmentally or economically friendly. Detergent is expensive stuff!
  6. Dry your clothes on the low setting.

    As a Tess Morgan resident, the dryers on our halls always get super hot, so you are actually able to dry an entire load of laundry on the low-heat setting in about 40 minutes. The clothes dry much faster than the 60 minutes that the machine gives, so set your timer and get them out sooner to save time and energy!
  7. Better yet, hang or lay your clothes out to air-dry.

    There are collapsible laundry racks available for pretty cheap ($10-20 at Walmart), or you could have some fun and string up traditional clothes lines across your dorm room. It would feel kind of like living in a Brooklyn apartment alleyway from the 1940s. Iconic, neat and green; how could it get any better? Your air-dried clothes will retain their color longer, too. Bam. Now it can’t get any better.
  8. Bundle up, buttercup!

    We all know the Iowa winters are horrible, and that steam heat is sooo cozy. Choose to put on another layer or cuddle up in a blanket before caving into the thermostat (which I will say is definitely acceptable on those days and nights that drop into the twenties, teens, or negatives. Yikes.)
  9. Keep your showers between 5-15 minutes, and not super hot.

    Really hot showers can be invigorating, but they’re energy costly and actually pretty tough on your skin and hair. Each minute you spend in the shower uses anywhere from 3-10 gallons of water (depending on the water pressure), so every minute literally counts!
  10. Use fewer paper towels in the restroom.

    Go for one or two, not a whole handful. Unless you can get away with none!
  11. Recycle your paper, cardboard, plastic and aluminum waste on campus.

    There are places to do so in nearly every building! Watch out for the special bins next time you go to class, and seek them out before settling for a garbage bin.
  12. Use a reusable water bottle.

    If you must get a disposable one, make a point to recycle it!
  13. Pick up litter you see around campus.

    I see it on my walks to class every day, which sucks. There are multiple trash cans in every building on campus and along every major sidewalk. If you are walking to class and see a piece of trash, pick it up, and I guarantee you’ll find a proper place to dispose of it within four minutes, because that’s about how long it takes to get to anywhere on our little campus!
  14. Go to the Lamoni Thrift Center on Linden Street.

    Donate any stuff you don’t need anymore, too. They have so many clothes, trinkets and other useful things, all for super cheap, and it’s great to re-use viable items instead of letting them go into the landfill located too far outside of town.
  15. Carpool on your way to Bethany, Osceola, Des Moines, Kansas City or wherever else you need to be.

    If you have a car and you’re making a trip out of town, ask others on your hall if they’d like to join you. If you’re going on a “House” function, consolidate people into vehicles (P.S. Don’t forget to chip in a little for your driver, bless all the upperclassmen who helped me around as a freshman and sophomore!) Carpooling saves gas, which is a huge contributor to damaging our atmosphere. It also saves money, and trips, so it’s a great thing to do all around.
  16. If you have time, eat in the Commons instead of the Swarm Inn.

    The Swarm is tasty and convenient, but almost everything is packaged in plastic or paper that can’t be recycled, so you create a lot more non-biodegradable waste when you eat there. If you do eat in the Swarm, you can reduce the amount of waste you produce by bringing your own reusable utensils, your own reusable cup, or skipping the paper bag and plastic lid and straw for your drink. That’s three fewer pieces of trash you’re contributing to a landfill!

I know the idea of “helping the environment” seems really daunting, but if you do even a couple of these mindful energy-conserving practices every day, you can make a big difference. Just think about how many gallons of water you are conserving by knocking down your daily shower by five minutes. That’s anywhere from 15-50 gallons less, seven days a week. You alone could conserve 105-350 gallons of water in one week. Imagine if everyone on your hall did that for a whole semester, or everyone on campus. The impact of a small gesture can be huge, especially if we all commit to making even the smallest changes to our daily routines with the environment in mind. It’s really awesome. So go out there and make a change, Graceland! The future looks good! 

 

Information adapted from:

http://www.onlinecollegecourses.com/2010/05/09/50-great-green-tips-for-dorm-life/
http://www.cipco.net/content/about-cipco
http://www.leadonlamoni.com/lamoni-municipal-utilities/
https://www.epa.gov/ghgemissions/overview-greenhouse-gases
http://www.cipco.net/content/generation-transmission