With eco-friendly buildings, energy and emissions, policies, and recycling programs, environmentally conscious, sustainable principles are integral to Grinnell life. Students, faculty, and staff can exchange and reuse items through Freecycle@Work and engage with a plethora of environmental organizations and committees to promote environmental responsibility and stewardship.

Green Building at Grinnell

Grinnell College recognizes the importance of constructing and renovating buildings in a manner that is environmentally responsible. Specifically, the college has adopted a green building policy that affirms: "Grinnell College recognizes that environmentally responsible design should minimize the environmental impact and lifetime operational costs of college owned buildings. Building designs that are environmentally responsible promote energy efficiency, land stewardship and resource conservation, which, in turn, preserve the natural resources of the Grinnell community and the surrounding region. Financially, building design that incorporates life cycle cost analysis is important to responsible long-term fiscal planning for the College. To the extent that their implementation is consistent with the mission of Grinnell College and incurs reasonable expenses, the set of building principles described below collectively provide the framework for all new major construction and major renovation of buildings on campus. Architects, contractors, engineers, landscape architects, and all others involved in building projects on Grinnell's campus are expected to follow these guidelines."

Green buildings on campus

Buildings with completed LEED certification, application pending, or future LEED buildings:

Environmental Education Center at CERA (LEED Gold Certified)

Energy efficient technologies utilized in the EEC include geothermal heating and cooling, daylighting and daylight censors, and occupancy censors.  Water conservation efforts include rainwater collection for toilet flushing and greenhouse irrigation as well as dual flush low flow toilets.  A 50KW wind turbine provides most of the electricity for the building as well.  Additional green attributes include local and recycled building materials, low VOC paints and native landscaping.

East Campus dorms (LEED Certified)

The East Campus dorms were built with Iowa limestone from Stone City, Iowa.  The most interesting energy conservation technology utilized was the installation of window censors.  These censors sense when a window is open and consequently turn heating and cooling off to the room.  Other attributes include daylighting, dual flow toilets, and water efficient landscaping.

Joe Rosenfield '27 Campus Center (LEED Certified)

Examples of energy efficient technologies utilized at the Rosenfield Center include daylighting controls, triple glazing of the "wave wall", white reflective roof, and a thermal energy wheel that recovers heat from exhausted air. 

Robert N. Noyce '49 Science Center Phase II (LEED Silver Certified)

Energy saving technologies used include heat reclamation, a white reflective roof, and variable frequency sash hoods with occupancy sensors.  A rainwater collection system also provides irrigation water for the greenhouse.

Athletics Phase II of the Charles Benson Bear '39 Athletic Center(LEED Silver Certified)

Phase II of the Athletics Center included an indoor pool and an indoor track facility.  Energy efficiencies include geothermal heating and cooling of the natatorium (pool building), carbon dioxide censors to correlate ventilation rates with actual occupancies, and heat recovery from exhaust air.  Rainwater collection from the roof of the indoor track is collected to supply all of the irrigation necessary for the football field as well as flush a number of toilets.

Grinnell College Preschool (LEED Certification Pending)

Construction included the third geothermal system on campus. Other highlights include a 3.36 KW solar array, daylighting censors, occupancy sensors controlling lighting and HVAC systems, in floor heating, efficient lighting, heat recovery from exhausted air, energy star appliances, and dual flush toilets.


Environmentalism at Grinnell

There are a number of campus environmental organizations, each with a slightly different approach in how they go about addressing issues of environmental responsibility. In addition, numerous campus departments focus on issues of environmental stewardship and serve to provide further opportunities to understand and appreciate our natural world.

Campus Environmental Organizations

SGA Student Environmental Committee
Free the Planet (FTP)

Additional Campus Environmental Resources

Grinnell Environmental Studies Concentration
Grinnell Center for Prairie Studies
Grinnell Campus Garden


Policies and Principles

Grinnell College Statement on Environmental Responsibility

Grinnell College believes that as a liberal arts institution with a strong social commitment, we have a duty to the environment, society, and future generations to be leaders in environmental stewardship, education, and policy. Grinnell College is therefore committed to incorporating environmental responsibility into policies, decisions, and daily life on campus.

Adopted Policies

Grinnell has adopted a number of policies that more specifically define the college's commitment to environmental responsibility. Notable policies include:


Single Stream Recycling

Through the City of Grinnell, the college can now collect most standard recyclables as a single stream.  The following can now be disposed of collectively in the same recycling bin.

  • Hard Plastic Containers labeled #1 through #7
  • Aluminum and tin cans
  • Glass bottles and containers
  • Newspapers
  • Magazines
  • Cardboard
  • Mixed Paper

The following should not be included and if deposited in the bin will cause the entire bin to be treated as trash:

  • Paper towels and tissue
  • Plastic bags and packaging
  • Wax coated cardboard and paper drink containers
  • Paper, plastic, and styrofoam serving items

Shredding must also be kept separate and placed next to the recycling bin.  It will be recycled, but cannot be included in the single stream collection.

Electronic waste

Small electronic items, such as cell phones, cameras, chargers, and mp3 players, can be campus mailed to Chris Bair at Facilities Management.  Large items such as computers, TV's, DVD players, and stereos, should be taken to the Facilities Management Building or call Chris Bair for a pickup.

Ink Cartridges

Used ink cartridges can be sent via campus mail to Chris Bair at Facilities Management. If your department generates a number of cartridges per year, it may be worth consolidating them and using them as a fundraiser for your department. 

Batteries, CD's, and Packing Peanuts/Pillows

All batteries, used CD's, and packing peanuts can be campus mailed to Chris Bair at Facilities Management. 

If you have any questions, please contact Chris Bair at x4311 or baircr[at]grinnell[dot]edu

Energy and Emissions

Energy Consumption on Campus

Most campus buildings are served by central heating and cooling plants.  The boiler plant generates steam from the combustion of natural gas and delivers it throughout campus for heating, domestic hot water, and dehumidification purposes.  The chiller plant delivers chilled water throughout campus for air conditioning purposes.  In FY2011, the campus consumed 1.6 million therms of natural gas and 22.5 million kilowatt hours of electricity.

Renewable Energy on Campus


The campus currently has three geothermal systems in place at CERA, the Natatorium, and the Preschool.  The CERA installation was the first campus geothermal system and utilized wells deep underneath the parking lot to heat and cool the Environmental Education Center.  The second and largest geothermal installation was for the natatorium (indoor pool building). Geothermal wells are used to heat and cool the natatorium building.  Facilities Management is currently looking into the possibility of incorporating a geothermal system in the the central steam and chilled water systems.


Grinnell College's interest in wind turbines began as a class project by Mia Devine in 1996. Following Mia’s efforts, a wind feasibility committee was created and the college began to earnestly look into the possibility of utilizing wind power. These early efforts yielded the installation of a 50 kw wind turbine at CERA in January of 2007. Studies continued to look at the feasibility of a much larger installation to provide renewable power directly to campus. In February, 2012, the board of trustees approved such an installation pending financing. The current project specifics are as follows:

• Three 1.6MW turbines would be installed roughly 3 miles NE of campus

• The estimated production from these turbines would be 19.3 million kwh

• This electricity would be placed on the college owned electricity grid, with as little as possible flowing back on the public grid

• In order to consume excess electricity, an electric boiler will be added to the boiler plant. When wind generation exceeds campus consumption, the excess will be sent to the boiler and will displace steam generated from the natural gas boilers

• This will reduce the college’s carbon footprint by an estimated 15,600 tons annually

• Estimated project cost is $11.7 million with a payback estimated at 16 years

• The current timeline is estimating a start up in 2014

Solar Hot Water

A solar hot water system was installed on Ecohouse during the summer of 2010. 

FY 2011 Emissions

Grinnell College has signed the American College and Universities Presidential Climate Commitment.  The next steps include a complete emissions inventory due in January of 2013 and a Climate Action Plan due in January of 2014.  Below is a graph of the emissions inventory for FY 2011 in lbs of CO2.  The total for FY 2011 was 69,607,896. Note that these totals lack an estimate for air travel.

Electricity45,032,81264.7%Natural Gas19,321,29027.8%


2,563,9503.7%Solid Waste2,078,9383.0%

Gasoline purchased by college


Diesel purchased by college

29,3850.0%Total lbs. CO269,607,896 













What Can You Do to Save Energy and Natural Resources on Campus?

o Always turn off your lights whenever you leave your room.
o Utilize natural light whenever possible. Open your blinds.
o Use only Compact Fluorescent Light (CFL) bulbs in all your lights. They use 75% less energy than incandescent (normal bulbs) and last 10 times longer.
o Turn off lights in bathrooms, lounges, and other common areas. Tell others to do the same.

o Turn your computer off when you aren't using it.
o Set your computer and monitor to go into sleep / stand by when they're inactive for too long. A computer in sleep mode uses about 5% the energy of one running a "screen saver". Learn more about \Computer Power Management.
o Look for the Energy Star label when purchasing a new computer or any other electronic device. Consider buying a flat screen monitor or a laptop model. See www.Energystar.gov for more information.

o Turn off TVs, radios and stereos when you aren't using them. o Coordinate with your roommates to avoid bringing unneeded appliances. If you do bring a refrigerator, set the temperature between 36 and 42 degrees. Empty out your refrigerator and unplug it when you go on break.
o When purchasing a new appliance, look for the Energy Star label. See www.Energystar.gov for more information.
o If lounge TVs are left on, please turn them off!
o Only wash and dry full loads of laundry.

Phantom Loads
o Many appliances consume electricity even when turned off. The easiest way to avoid these "phantom loads" is to have all electrical cords plugged into a power strip and turn the strip off when not using any of them.
o Phone chargers, laptop cords, printers, etc. all draw power when unused. Please unplug them or use a power strip as mentioned above.

o Take five minute showers.
o Turn the water off when you are brushing your teeth or shaving.
o Wash only full loads of laundry.
o In residence halls with dual flush toilets, use the appropriate flush.


Adjusting Heating and Cooling in Dorm Rooms

Heating is enabled in the residence halls after October 15th and the outdoor temperature is below 58 degrees.  There are currently 5 different methods for adjusting heating and/or cooling in Grinnell's residence halls. In order to conserve energy it is always best to try to adjust the temperature before opening a window.  Follow the links below to learn which one is appropriate for your room.

North Campus:

East Campus:

South Campus:



Have an item you don’t want? Freecycle it!

Freecycle@Work is a free application run by Intuit QuickBase that allows organizations to exchange items internally. It is a great way for departments and the College to save money on items that might be sitting in storage, or for individuals to find a home for unwanted items no longer wanted or needed.

How do I use Freecycle@Work?

  1. Visit freecycle.quickbase.com and sign up for an account. Bookmark the page for easy reference!
  2. You must sign up with an @grinnell.edu email address. Other addresses will not take you to the correct application.
  3. Freecycle@Work can be used for both company-owned and personal items, however company-owned items must remain among Grinnell College departments. Company-to-personal ownership is strongly discouraged.
  4. All items must be free. (It is after all, freecycle). Do not post items for sale or advertise sales on this application.
  5. For a quick tutorial on how to post an item, watch this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v8dwDr__NFE&feature=player_embedded#!
  6. You may also post items your office wants to see if someone has it to spare before you order. Need legal size paper? Maybe someone ordered a box when they meant to order only one ream.

Tips to get the most out of Freecycle@Work:

  1. Tell all your friends and colleagues about Freecycle@Work!  This is a grassroots community, and the more people sign up, the greater chance your items will find a home. 
  2. Plan ahead by listing on Freecycle@Work early to avoid having to move items to storage.
  3. Once you’ve given something away please update the listing so others know.
  4. Take care to mark things appropriately if they are company owned.

Remember, Freecycle@Work is an independent, third-party application and is NOT connected to your Grinnell.edu username and login in any way. You will need to keep track of your password separately, though Freecycle can help you reset it if needed.


Local environmental groups work together in the newly-formed Coalition for Environmental Activists.

Interested in sustainability at Grinnell? Two students are making it easier to find ways to make a difference.