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Tucked into the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, St. John’s College Santa Fe sits 7,300 feet above sea level on 250 acres in the most beautiful part of Santa Fe, New Mexico, the country’s oldest capital city. Surrounded by hiking trails and a majestic landscape, the Santa Fe campus brings Rocky Mountain living quite literally to our doorsteps. We are also a high desert community and are therefore acutely aware of how precious our desert resources are and we use them with great efficiency and care. We do this through our long-standing water conservation, green building, and dryland permaculture practices, and through our soon-to-launch multimillion dollar, donor-funded solar energy projects.
By winter, 2023, the Santa Fe campus will operate on 100 percent solar energy thanks to a donor-funded, multimillion dollar solar project that begins construction in summer, 2022. Upon completion, two of the college’s largest parking lots will be covered by ground-mounted solar roofs that will provide enough energy to power the entire campus. In addition, there will be 20 electric vehicle-charging stations in four different parking lots, all powered by the new solar roofs, and five electric charging benches in the college’s two main plazas (or, as we call them, Placitas), where students and employees can charge their phones, laptops, and more while enjoying shade from the benches’ overhead solar roofs. Once launched, our 100% solar initiative will mean that the campus is close to carbon-free alongside a savings of $50,000 year in energy costs. This initiative was made possible thanks to the Class of 2019’s senior gift, which funded an energy audit of the campus, paving the way for the final donor-funded project.
In addition to our solar initiatives, the college has updated 100 percent of our interior and exterior lighting across campus to light-emitting diode (LED) technology and replaced the lighting and wiring at Evans Science Laboratory, Peterson Student Center, Santa Fe Hall, and the Fine Arts buildings. These efforts have resulted in an annual electricity savings of more than 358,000 kilowatt hours (kWh) alongside savings of $55,000 per year. These efforts, combined with our 100 percent solar initiative, will save 1.2 million kWh of electricity annually, significantly reduce C02, sulfur dioxide, and nitric oxide emissions, and save $105,000 per year.
By 2027, the campus will move to an all-electric vehicle fleet, which will garner its power from our electric charging stations—which will garner their power from our solar roofs.
Built in the desert of New Mexico, our Santa Fe campus has always been conservation-minded regarding water use. When the Peterson Student Center, Weigle Hall, and Winiarski Halls were built, they were created with rain and snow catchment systems leading into underground cisterns which have a collective storage capacity of 23,000 gallons of water. From here, pumps pull water back up into highly efficient drip irrigation systems that feed the desert xeriscaping around Fishpond Hill, between the Fine Arts Building and Levan Hall, between the Fine Arts Building and Peterson Hall, and around the Winiarski buildings.
Looking ahead, the renovation of Peterson Hall will add new water harvesting opportunities that will significantly expand our water and snow catchment capacity and the reach of our permaculture practices. Goals also include water catchment and reuse for Lowers, the Student Activity Center, and Meem Library.
Permaculture is an agricultural practice that aims to grow an agricultural ecosystem in a sustainable way. At St. John’s College in Santa Fe, we practice dryland permaculture, a type of permaculture suited for desert environments. Our permaculture design parameters include the following criteria:
The acronym LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, and it signifies the most widely used green building rating system in the world. The Santa Fe campus currently has two LEED-certified buildings: Winiarski is a Platinum-certified building, which is the highest-level LEED certification that a building can be awarded; Levan Hall is a Gold-certified building, which is the second highest-level LEED certification that a building can be awarded
Sage Dining is the college’s food service provider. Every day, Sage collects the college’s green food waste (no meat or animal byproducts) for pick-up by Reunity Resources, a local regenerative community farm and soil/compost yard, to compost kitchen waste created during food preparation. As a Reunity Resources partner, the college contributes to a thriving community nonprofit providing fresh produce to the needy, Summer Farm Camps, and professional training. Plans are currently underway to extend this initiative by partnering with student clubs and other members of the campus community. This program composts many pounds of food waste per year.
On the recycling front, the St. John’s community recycles about 25% of its non-food waste and strives for higher rates. Recyling bins are in all main buildings on campus. Dormitories have recycling bins if and when a Resident Assistant agrees to take responsibility for overseeing the bins.
The Greenhouse Club consists of members of the St. John’s College sphere who wish to engage in activities related to environmentalism, political action, and education on the local ecosystem, the ongoing climate crisis, and skills related to gardening. Our vision is to create a community at SJC committed to strengthening our connection with the natural world, highlighting our intricate connections to local flora, and fauna, and educating others on the ongoing climate crisis.
Our pillars form the acronym E.N.T.S:
Every year, the Master Gardeners of Santa Fe County bring their Native Plants class to study the many mature plant specimens on our campus. Through a grant from New Mexico State University, many of these specimens have identification labels that correspond with a map for self-guided tours of our campus plant species. In the future, we may develop it into a digital walking tour.
The college also works with the City of Santa Fe, Santa Fe County, and the Forest Service and volunteers to maintain multiple trails that begin on our campus. These trails are used by more than 100 visitors each day.