Student Projects

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Campus Sustainability Projects:

How has UMD integrated sustainability across campus? What areas are we doing well in? What do we need to work on?


  • Greenhouse Gas Inventory for UMD, last updated for 2016 by Linda Peterson
  • UMD Solar Summit: Students’ role in the future of solar at UMD.
    • In April of 2016, UMD hosted a Solar Summit to discuss the future of solar at the university. Students and faculty came together to share solar research and results regarding solar feasibility.
    • Students were given an opportunity to vote on how much they would like to see invested in solar energy and where they would like it placed. The Solar Poll results show that students highly support adding solar energy to campus, and want to see it installed on campus (not remotely located).
  • How can UMD students help community businesses be more sustainable? Duluth Shines! is a project-based learning and collaboration between UMD engineering students, and local utilities, nonprofits, and area businesses that aims to give engineering students experience in real world problem solving around sustainability. The effort has resulted in a successful model for community engagement as well. Semester-long projects pair student groups in civil and mechanical engineering classes with local businesses and organizations interested in conducting feasibility studies that range from increasing energy efficiency to implementing renewable energy technologies. Each project involved meetings with business owners, site visits, and energy assessments conducted by the local electric utility, activities that required the students to hone both their professional and technical skills. 
    • Lincoln Park Shines: Spring 2015 presentations, which linked student engineering groups with local businesses to evaluate ways to save energy, minimize water use, and in some cases, evaluate renewable energy options at their sites.  Businesses included Duluth Grill, Park State Bank, Lake Superior Brewing, Bent Paddle Brewery, and Frost River.  In addition, one team worked on a proposed community solar garden project.  Lincoln Park Shines was made possible by a partnership between Civil Engineering (Sustainable Design & Construction. Dr. Mary Christiansen) and Mechanical Engineering (Sustainable Energy Systems, Dr. Alison Hoxie) and their students, along with Ecolibrium3, Lincoln Park Businesses, Minnesota Power and Comfort Systems.
    • UMD Shines: Spring 2016 student final posters, which linked student engineering groups with projects across campus including: solar thermal at Ianni Hall, solar-PV location recommendations for UMD, irrigation of athletic fields, Dining Hall energy/water metering, redesign of Ordean Court, energy retrofits at a student rental building, and a resort energy remodel.  These projects were made possible by a partnership between Civil Engineering course (Sustainable Design & Construction. Dr. Mary Christiansen) and Mechanical Engineering (Sustainable Energy Systems, Dr. Alison Hoxie) and their students,along with Ecolibrium3 and many UMD staff who contributed time for success in UMD Student Life, UMD Facilities Management, and UMD Housing and Residence Life.
    • Duluth Shines: Spring 2017 This semester, projects paired Engineering teams and community businesses/organizations with journalism students in a Digital Storytelling class.  The stories can be viewed online here:  Touch of PlaschDuluth Pottery #1Duluth Pottery #2BendTecIanni Residence Hall at UMDCanal BarkDuluth Fire Halll #4Essentia Health.
  • What is the feasibility of a solar air heating at the Natural Resources Research Institute, by Carsten Knutsen
  • What lighting upgrades and thermal conservation could be implemented at the Natural Resources Research Institute, by Matt Detjen
  • Can UMD create biodiesel from leftover/used cooking oil from Dining Services?  What type can be created, is it feasible, and what would it cost?   Research conducted in Spring 2014 by Terry Anderson, Mike Baumann, Alex Fisher, Jesse Hunter and Eric Serantoni.
  • Attempt to reduce energy consumption in one resident hall to lead as an example for others.
    • This project was presented at the 2015 Association for the Advancement of Sustainability  in Higher Education conference.
  • Estimate energy-saving opportunities for staff/faculty Break Rooms at Chester Park
  • What are the seasonal trends in energy use for campus?  Which season can we most save energy and greenhouse gas emissions? How will climate change impact our campus energy use, carbon emissions, and energy costs?
    • Barring changes in campus efficiency, what impact will changes in climate have on our emissions
    • Barring changes in campus efficiency AND fuel prices, what impact will climate change have on our power bill?
  • What are opportunities in IT to save energy, both in terms of computer/server systems and equipment, along with individual computer use and behaviors?
    • What else could be done?
  • Evaluate repositioning of the Bagley Outdoor Classroom solar array?
    • What is the ideal angle of panels for increasing solar energy output? If the angle of the 6kW array adjusted, how much would it cost? What would the payback be?
  • Lead an “Energy Walk” through campus: after hours or on weekend, look for energy saving opportunities and record them both indoors and outdoors (lighting, computers, appliances, temperatures, etc.)
  • Evaluate light pollution from UMD campus, including an evaluation of the potential changes to immediately reduce our contribution to light pollution.
  • Research whether or not stickers or placards on light switches change behavior?
    • Observation stations: Dorms? Classrooms? Labs? Bathrooms?
  • Fume hood audit/survey (In conjunction with EHSO).
    • Recent report on fume hood energy use by Evan Engman.  Working with Andy Kimball in EHSO, Evan conducted a fume hood survey: which ones are not ventilated enough? Ventilated too much?  Which are not being used but sucking energy? Can any of these be scheduled? What are paths for saving energy?
  • Start a “Shut the sash” campaign to promote energy savings in for laboratory buildings
    • How much energy could UMD save if everyone closed fume hoods when not working under them?  What are the best motivators to encouraging this behavior?  What other ways can labs save energy (turn off ovens, other equipment, use timers, etc.)
  • Refrigerators on campus
    • Research the adoption of the energy star mini–fridge policy in the dorms.  Would it save money over time? What are the barriers?
    • Which refrigerators on campus could they be upgraded? How much energy would it save? Where could they be replaced or combined/reduced?
      • Think: Laboratories, departmental fridges, mini–fridges in offices, etc.
      • Note: EHS has baseline data, but student help needed to continue
  • Create a green computing page- working with UMD ITSS, gather green initiatives by Information Technology Systems and Services and student, staff, and faculty choices for computing, printing, purchasing, etc. on campus.
  • Conduct an energy audit of a building to look for energy–saving ideas:
    • Lights in unoccupied spaces (offices, classrooms, bathrooms, etc.) Are computer labs left on? How many mini–fridges could be eliminated? Are fume hoods left open? How many coffee pots are really needed in a department? How many printers/copiers could be turned off at end of the day? Etc.
    • Where is lighting excessive/not needed? What areas would benefit from various lighting sensors or timers?
    • What does an average dorm room energy demand look like? How many plug–in appliances and chargers? What wattages?
    • What does an average office/classroom energy demand look like? How many plug–in appliances and chargers? What wattages?
    • What are ways we can encourage UMD students, faculty, staff to conserve energy at work/school/housing?
    • What are the reminders, prompts, or incentives needed for energy conservation? What should a campus–wide campaign look like?
  • How could we improve management of phantom power loss on campus (components drawing energy when not in use)?
  • Create an audit and remediation plan of a building (example: Robert W. Bridges Facilities and Grounds building, as it is metered separate from other campus buildings. There are 10 computer workstations, 15–20 portable radios, and many appliances, etc) Does installation of Smartstrip and/ or programmable outlet surge protectors on electronics reduce electricity use?
  • Analyze costs of purchasing renewable energy/offsets – for campus electricity use or natural gas consumption.
  • Should UMD expand solar photovoltaic energy systems at UMD?   How much could this impact/reduce our campus carbon emissions? What would be the return on investment for UMD?
  • How much energy do vending machines consume across campus? Can this be reduced or mitigated?
  • Conduct building customer surveys of older buildings on campus (Humanities, Cina, Heller). Which areas too hot or cold? Do temperature controls work?
  • How much energy could be saved by replacing old windows in the Research Lab Building (the Large Lakes Observatory)?  Also consider how would the historical status of the building would effect the payback of this project.
  • Evaluate the performance and payback of existing solar photovoltaic installations at UMD.
  • 2017 Economic Analysis of the UMD SUN Delegation’s Solar Pavilion Design (IE 5352 Advanced Engineering Economics class)  


  • What would it cost to offset UMD’s air travel emissions? (athletics, administration, faculty, and study abroad)
  • What is the true cost of parking at UMD?  If environmental and maintenance/grounds costs and considerations were considered, what would a parking spot truly be worth at UMD?
  • How many single–car commuters come to campus every day? How far do they drive? What is the carbon footprint of staff/faculty/student commuters?
  • How much carbon could be offset by staff/faculty carpooling to meetings and Twin Cities trips?
  • Why do students/staff choose the bus? How can we increase ridership?
  • Why do people bike to campus? Are more bike racks needed? Is there enough Bike parking? Is it in the right places? (where are bikes chained to trees, poles, etc?) What are the biggest barriers to getting to UMD by bike, or around in the neighborhoods?
  • See the report on Sustainable Transportation from a 2009 Anthropology Senior Seminar

Waste & Recycling

  • Recycling as a Resource at the Natural Resources Research Institute, by Eleva Potter
  • Composting: What signs/language/interventions improve the rate (and quality) of composting on campus? Could a campus “swap–shop” be established? What are the barriers/benefits? Could departments use Freecycle to get rid of unwanted items?
  • Research recycling behaviors in Housing and on the campus:  a 2014 LiNCS Intern Presentation by Addy Scrimgeour and Abby Lattu.
  • How many tons of waste is diverted from the landfill due to compost collection on campus?  (including organics recycling, SAP composting, and UMD Grounds composting)
  • What might reduce waste during student “Move Out” weekend in dorms?
  • How can we increase proper recycling of batteries, printer cartridges, and other e-waste? (Work with Andrew Kimball in the Environmental Health and Safety Office; location of drop offs, signs, advertising) What kinds of hazardous wastes are generated on campus? How are they handled? Could any of these sources be reduced or eliminated?
  • Trash audits: What percentage of trash is recyclable, compostable, or hazardous waste? Which areas of campus are in need of additional recycling bins? Where are there too many? Where could they be placed?What signage would help clarify how to and what can be recycled?  
  • What are impacts of the free newspapers around campus: Reader, Statesman, Zenith Weekly, Transistor, along with other paper information (i.e. postings on walls)? What would be the impact of switching to more electronic versions. Do these items contribute to trash volumes and/or custodial demands in classrooms, halls, etc.?
  • What is the best method for hand drying. Consider aspects of the UMD budget, the environment, and occupant health.  Method analysis should include paper towels, paper towels that are composted, air dryers (different types), cloth towels, etc.
  • What might reduce bottled water purchases in store or vending machine? Does a sign indicating the nearest water fountain (free!) reduce purchases? (Partner with Student Life/vending managers to get accurate data?) Is there an intervention that would make less people chose to add a plastic lid and plastic straw to their beverage cup? Does where they are placed or informational signs change behavior?
  • 2017 Waste Reduction and Recycling survey from students Kasey Smith & Makenzie Lamphere


Study bird/building collisions on campus, come up with artistic or new ways to prevent bird strikes, and/or guidelines for future campus buildings. 


  • How much paper does a department use? How can it be reduced? What work can be shifted to an electronic format?
  • What percent of campus paper is made from recycled material?
  • Do offices purchase paper with recycled content?  What is the environmental impact of requiring >50% recycled content?
  • How much paper could be saved in a department by switching default printer settings to double–sided?
  • Would students a double-sided print option, even if it doesn’t save them money? (most of the cost of printing is in ink, not paper) If someone has a printer at their desk vs. down the hall, does it affect how many pages they print?


What are the choices/recommendations for eating green or healthy meals on campus? Does going ‘trayless’ in the cafeteria save on food waste? How much? Are students willing to do this? What are the barriers to trying one–day–a–week (“Trayless Tuesdays”) What are the efforts at UMD regarding food waste reduction and composting?

      See some of the research on 
Composting Feasibility Report
     (completed 2011)


What are the benefits of purchasing used products such as furniture, clothing, etc.? Financial? Environmental Impact? What products can be purchased in campus offices or in the dorms that are: made from recycled content, recyclable, long–lasting, save energy, fair–trade, etc?
Where can products be purchased in the Duluth–Superior community that are: made from recycled content, regionally produced, recyclable, long–lasting, fair–trade, etc? 

UMD Office of Sustainability is always looking for great projects that could help make our campus sustainable. If you have any great research ideas send it to us. 


Analyze water usage in campus buildings

Review winter de–icing products or snow-removal practices. Are we dealing with the winter weather responsibly? Rain Garden ecosystem evaluations. Many people wash hands while leaving water running (vs. shutting off while soaping up.)  How can we encourage water conservation in bathrooms? Campus water consumption:

  • How much bottled water is consumed on campus each year? What would help reduce bottled water purchases?
  • How does the UMD Rain Garden protect water quality?  View the video produced about the Rain Garden (filmed by ChemE Intro to Environmental Engineering students.)
  • Do campus water fountains need to be chilled?
  • Analyze water bottle savings or guage student reception of the Hydration Station Locations
  • How can we increase access to drinking water in the UMD Residence Halls?

What is the energy cost of water use in the Duluth area? How much energy can be saved through water conservation in a typical UMD bathroom?  


  • How could we improve the sustainability of our campus landscape?
  • Identify potential areas of sod that could be converted to more natural, sustainable plantings (native plants, edibles, mulched/rocked, shrubs/trees, etc.)
  • Evaluate the Costs and Benefits of converting areas to more sustainable landscape
  • How would costs/labor increase? What would reductions of mowing/herbicide/fertilizer use save?
  • What would it take for UMD to become a certified “Tree Campus”
  • How can UMD students help Cities become more sustainable?  (See Green Step Cities story on UMD Interns focused on MN Green Step Cities)
  • What is the real worth of a parking space at UMD (taking into account snow removal, maintenance, and environmental issues like stormwater runoff regulations)
  • What would be the economic, environmental, and social considerations of building a parking ramp at UMD?
  • How can we connect alumni with sustainability at UMD: projects and funding?
  • Create database of all sustainability-focused classes on campus. (STARS related)

Campus Sustainability Surveys

GIS in Sustainability

Campus Sustainability Outreach

Campus Sustainability Assessment

How has UMD integrated sustainability across campus? What areas are we doing well in? What do we need to work on?