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Ryan Johnson, Published August 25 2012

New MSUM coordinator works to green up campus

MOORHEAD – Minnesota State University Moorhead’s recently hired sustainability coordinator has ambitious goals for the new position, and said he would like to have plans in place by spring to add renewable energy such as wind or solar power to campus.

But Joe Herbst said he has another important task in his new role: making it easy for students and the campus community to become more environmentally friendly.

“Being green doesn’t have to be a lot of work, and it can be fun,” he said. “The big goal here is that it’s just incorporated into the culture at MSUM.”

Herbst, who came to campus in June, had his first chance to interact with students Wednesday during move-in day.

A “Kung Fu Box-O-Rama” event showed students how to properly recycle cardboard boxes. Herbst said it may seem like common sense, but throwing a box into the recycling Dumpster that has trash inside or isn’t folded down could contaminate everything – meaning all the boxes end up in the landfill, not a recycling facility.

Participating students recycled 7,000 pounds of cardboard during the event and each received a stainless steel water bottle he said could be used throughout the year, another way of reducing waste and the need to recycle plastic water bottles.

Herbst will head up the new MSUM Office of Campus Sustainability, which he said is a way of collecting all of the existing and new efforts of being green and putting everything under an “institutional umbrella” as the campus works to reduce its environmental footprint.

MSUM’s new sustainability coordinator position pays a salary of $38,747 to $43,726.

Herbst said the university already has a good track record in being green. But those successes aren’t visible now, and he said he will work to publicize efforts already under way on campus to live, work and study in a green manner.

It’s a mission that personally interests Herbst, 34, who grew up in West Fargo. He said he first began thinking about the environment as a kid when he spent time camping and canoeing in Moorhead.

But he never thought about it as a career option until Moorhead put up its wind turbine nearly a decade ago.

“It hit me like a ton of bricks,” he said.

Herbst soon enrolled at the University of Wyoming and earned a double major in political science, and environment and natural resources.

He then started graduate studies at North Dakota State University, where he has completed all of his courses.

Herbst needs to complete a thesis on eco-socialization to earn a masters’ – work he will finish at MSUM by researching college students to see how they develop their environmentally friendly habits.

“Educational theory tends to suggest that by the time you reach your early 20s, you’ve pretty much learned most of that,” he said. “So I kind of see this as the last chance to introduce this into someone’s perspective.”

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Readers can reach Forum reporter Ryan Johnson at (701) 241-5587