Sustainability Interns: A Summer Well Spent

Posted on August 24th, 2021 by

Blog Post by Kendra Held

Photos by Audrey Ochtrup-DeKeyrel

This summer many sustainability interns have been working on campus in new roles. Collin Carlson and Kendra Held have been working with Kari Wallin in Physical Plant/Facilities to compile Gustavus’ first AASHE STARS evaluation, support student waste sorting through compost mini-bin distribution and a zero-waste training, as well as establish a Gusties on the Go program that includes e-bikes. Audrey Ochtrup-DeKeyrel, Emily Gerencer, and Josie Kleckner are all working at Big Hill Farm, tending all sorts of beautiful plants and harvesting vegetables like peas and cucumbers.

In the first weeks of summer, sections of prairie near Beck Hall were burned. Burning is a method of maintaining the long-term health of prairie ecosystems because it removes dead organic material and invasive species while releasing nutrients into the soil. This happens every few years at Gustavus and is pictured here.

This summer has been very busy and fruitful for Big Hill Farm Interns Josie Kleckner, Audrey Ochtrup-DeKeyrel, and Emily Gerencer. This season marks one of the biggest plantings ever done at Big Hill Farm, with all ¼ acre in use, with three large beds, a raised herb garden, and four small single beds. Alongside managing their own crops, BHF interns also work weekly at local CSA farm Little Big Sky Farm, owned by Dan and Jenny Kaepernick in exchange for mentorship and resources. The interns have loved getting to know Dan, Jenny, their family, and what operating a small-scale vegetable farm looks like!

This summer’s harvests began mid-July, starting with spinach, snap peas, and cucumbers, and has grown to include bell and jalapeno peppers, squash, basil, microgreens, and three different varieties of tomatoes! Harvests average between 100-200lbs weekly and are featured in a myriad of Dining Hall recipes and stations. The interns are grateful to their supervisor, Jeff Jeremiason, for his support, as well as Dining Hall administrators Shari Jacobsen, Kevin Birr, Steve Kjellgren, and, lastly, Mary Anne and Marilyn in the salad bar for their patience and excitement at each weekly harvest. Looking forward to the fall, interns will continue to harvest, with the help of student organization members through volunteer hours, and can’t wait to open up their pumpkin patch.

Collin Carlson has been diligently meeting with stakeholders around campus in order to collect data for his beloved spreadsheets. Staff across campus have done a fantastic job engaging with sustainability staff to gather and share data. The next step in the process is to summarize this information and compile it into a report. No small feat when there are thousands of entries to work with! Thankfully Collin is up to the task.

Sustainability staff and interns had the opportunity to try out the e-bikes in June. These new resources will help students travel to the grocery store and other shops in town. They can provide a boost up the infamously steep hill and serve as an efficient and low energy means of transportation. As of fall 2021, the Gusties on the Go Bike Share Program will have four traditional bikes and six e-bikes. In order to use the e-bikes students will be required to attend and complete a 1-hour in-person training. The signup sheet can be found on the sustainability webpage. To sign up, please email

In July, Kari Wallin and Kendra Held dove into the world of screenwriting, filming, directing, and video editing. Although they consider themselves amateurs, they are excited to debut a new zero-waste training for students. This training will take roughly 20 minutes to complete and is endorsed by the President’s Environmental Sustainability Council. Stay tuned for the whole training to enjoy Collin Carlson’s phenomenal acting skills in the last video.

The rollout of compost mini-bins is in full swing. With the help of the Big Hill Farm interns and sustainability interns, 950 compost mini-bins were assembled and distributed to residential halls prior to the start of the fall semester. A trial run for College View began in late June, with over 60% of residents participating. These mini-bins were purchased by Student Senate to encourage students to sort accurately and reduce the waste we send to landfills.

To celebrate the work that has been done so far this summer, interns and Johnson Center staff enjoyed an afternoon on lake Washington in mid-July. (photos below)


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