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SES celebrates Earth Day with a national green building certification

This Earth Day was a special one for students at the School of Environmental Studies (SES) as it marked the completion of five-year process to become a LEED certified green building. What started out as a vision from four SES alums is now a reality thanks to senior Anna Amadeo and 2018 grad Griffin Peck, along with over 40 other students, who took the cause to the finish line.

During the April 22 Earth Day celebration at SES, Steph Leonard of the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) formally presented the LEED v4.1 O+M gold certification to the school, praising the efforts of everyone involved. LEED, or Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design, is a green building certification program that recognizes best-in-class green building design and maintenance strategies and practices. This specific certification is internationally recognized and designates SES as a leader in efforts to ensure their existing building operations and maintenance practices are environmentally focused.

“It was an amazing adventure over the past five years,” said SES instructor Jane Tunseth. “It was inspiring to work with so many students and professionals as we all worked together to investigate and analyze SES as a green building. Getting the LEED certification is a testament to our commitment to sustainability.”

Throughout the five years, students worked closely with the USGBC, community partners and local engineering and architectural firms to ensure the integrity of the complex project. The data collection, analysis and policy writing and reporting was all led and completed by students, making this the first student-led project in Minnesota to receive a LEED certification. 

“This certification allowed us to enact a few new policies that change the way we buy and get rid of things, but by in large we have long been a school focused on green practices,” Amadeo said. “But this is a great way for us to show our commitment to being a sustainable learning community now and in the future.”

The USGBC requires certifications to be renewed every three years, and Amadeo said a succession plan is already in place at SES. And in 2021 students have the goal of turning their gold certification into platinum.