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When Derek Larson, professor of environmental studies and history, talks about today’s sustainability efforts at Saint John’s University, his sentences are peppered with phrases that would have no doubt perplexed the school’s founders. Solar farms, greenhouse gas inventories and the President’s Climate Commitment are all terms that wouldn't have carried much meaning with the early group of monks, farmers and students.

Yet the deeper ideas of stewardship that propel today’s initiatives would most certainly have resonated. “We wouldn’t say Benedictines were environmentalists, because that would be anachronistic,” Larson says. “But we also know that the Rule of Saint Benedict says that monks should revere all tools of the monastery as sacred tools of the altar. Creation is sacred, and therefore we have an obligation to care for it.”


Saint John’s takes its larger responsibility to the natural world seriously. Through its buildings and programs, through national leadership and on-the-ground student initiatives, Saint John’s continues to push forward to create a community that lives more lightly on the planet — and that is ready to bring the best of its environmental work to the rest of the world.

SEEDS OF SUSTAINABILITY There’s no question that the elements of environmental stewardship and sustainability are etched deep into the DNA of the Benedictine philosophy and early life at Saint John’s, even if the terminology didn’t yet exist. Monks have planted trees, nurtured them for decades, and ultimately built their own coffins from the trees sown by previous generations of monks. Much of the furniture in the buildings was built from wood logged from the campus forest. And up until the 1950s, monks did the farming that

Saint John's Magazine Fall 2016  

Saint John's Magazine is published in the fall and winter for alumni, parents, friends and the Saint John's University campus community.

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