Fresh perspectives

The problem: No business wants to waste resources, and the people watching the bottom line understand that conservation can translate into major cost savings. Finding time to focus on solutions, though, can be difficult.

U of M solution: Each summer, interns from the University of Minnesota’s Technical Assistance Program (MnTAP) are matched with local companies and municipalities that want assistance preventing pollution, reducing energy consumption, and using resources more efficiently. Most of the interns are students from the University of Minnesota’s Twin Cities and Duluth campuses. Many are majoring in chemical engineering, mechanical engineering, and environmental health.

One example: At Xcel Energy, interns explored new ways to reduce water consumption at two of the company’s power plants. Cheryl Erler, ’82 B.S., ’87 M.S., an environmental analyst at Xcel, says the work done by interns in 2015 and 2016 is saving the company an estimated $69,000 per year.

How gifts help: For a cost-sharing fee of about $3,000, which is considered a donation to the University, each business gets a smart, motivated intern who is eager to apply his or her academic knowledge to solving real-world problems. Gifts from other organizations and trade associations also help fund the program.

Bottom line: “These internships are a win for everyone who’s involved,” says Nathan Landwehr, internship program coordinator (pictured here). “The MnTAP program gets information that we can replicate at similar businesses. Clients conserve resources and realize cost savings. Interns get an opportunity to accomplish something they can be proud of and put on a resume. And conserving resources and preventing pollution benefits all of us.”

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