The Renewable Energy Fund (REFund) is a student-administered grant program that has funded a long list of projects designed to enhance sustainability and increase energy efficiency on campus. Northland College students contribute to this program through student fees and with their ideas and hard work.

Here are four recent REFund projects—eco-reps program, recycling bins, reusable dinnerware, and hydroponic towers—funded and are waiting for them to be implemented.


Major: Sustainable Community Development

Project: Addition of an eco-reps program

Why: Many college campuses have eco-reps programs that are predominantly based in residence halls. An eco-reps program at Northland College can foster stronger relationships between various groups on campus by integrating sustainable priorities and practices at a more intrapersonal, day-to-day level. Northland College’s eco-reps aim to motivate the campus community to engage in positive behavior, as the vehicle for change regarding all tiers of sustainability. A significant goal is to inspire all students to step up to the challenge and develop as leaders in their residence halls, friend groups, athletic teams, clubs and organizations, and in the classroom. Within the eco-reps, students will be able to begin as eco-reps volunteers, gradually taking on more responsibilities until they are running the program. The leaders will work as a team to dream up, develop, and implement thoughtful campus events and programs that promote sustainability behavior, organizing eco-rep volunteers and meetings and providing inspiration and leadership to the group.

The benefits: Although Conserve-athon tackles sustainability behavior, the eco-reps program provides a consistent presence of leaders and volunteers that are putting on events and initiatives throughout the academic year. The program, in essence, will fill a gap that is not addressed by Environmental Council or Conserve-athon, hopefully improving the three tiers of sustainability for the entire campus community.

The best part about ReFund: The exceptional opportunity as an undergraduate to attain grant writing experience that translates directly into concrete, tangible, and positive change on campus.


Major: Natural Resources

Project: Adding more recycling bins in the Ponzio to promote more recycling and sending less trash to the landfill.

Why: Recycling is a big part of trying to make society more sustainable. Recycling should be a big part of everyone’s life to try to best minimize their impact on landfills and the environment. I love watching people be able to help in their own personal way, such as recycling.

The benefits: Making recycling bins easy and convenient for people increases the likelihood of everyone making a difference and recycling. The less money that is spent on paying to dispose of trash, the more money that can go to other places.

The best part about REFund: Turning something you are passionate about into an attainable project to implement! It is wonderful to see people turn their dreams into realities right here on campus for everyone to benefit.


Major: Engineering

Project: To incorporate reusable dinnerware at events associated with the College, where we could loan out reusable plates and utensils. This would help keep waste to a minimum and hopefully have a positive impact on the environment due to having less waste that is thrown into the landfills at the end of these events.

Why: This provides a more sustainable approach to large events, and having dinnerware that is much lighter and portable than Chartwells’ porcelain plates would provide a much better option than reverting to paper plates and plastic utensils.

The benefits: It will save us money in the long term as we will not have to purchase large quantities of disposable dinnerware.

The best part about REFund: It is all paid for by the students and mostly run by the students who want to implicate their ideas and projects to help make this school better for other students.


2001 Northland College graduate
Director of Chartwell’s Food Service

Project: To install two zip grow towers—vertical hydroponic growers on campus to grow greens, herbs, and other items for use in the cafeteria and possibly other events on campus.

Why: As the director of the food service on campus I am always looking for ways to add more local foods on campus and how better than to grow more items ourselves and with these towers we can provide fresh items thru the winter months when we don’t have much available.

The benefits: By providing more local foods during the winter months, teaching people about hydroponic growing, and allowing more people to take part in the growing process. It would be great to see others helping with loading, maintaining, and harvesting of the products that are produced on these towers.

The best part about REFund: It allows you to dream big—come up with a project idea and see what others think and then hopefully see it come true and live on for many years.

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