Sustainable Landscaping Master Plan 

The Sustainable Landscaping Master Plan comprehensively addresses the sustainability of Macalester College’s campus grounds while maintaining a beautiful landscape. This plan, created with input from students, faculty, administrators, and campus landscape management staff, is intended as a dynamic document that will provide direction into the future. 

For more information regarding various sustainable landscaping projects, click the following links: 

Macalester Green Roof Project History 

Macalester currently has two green roofs, one above the fishbowl connecting the Turck and Doty residential halls, and one on the Kagin rooftop. The two Macalester Green Roofs began as student projects organized by MacCARES

The green roof on the fishbowl was completed on April 14, 2006. It was led by the MacCARES green roof task force made up on Alese Colehour ’09 and Ellie Rogers ’09 in association with Green Roof Blocks, Aloha Landscaping, Rosenquist Construction, and Facilities Management. The green roof on Kagin was completed in 2007 by students Alese Colehour, Timothy Den Herder-Thomas, Angelina Lopez, and Ellen Rogers, with faculty advisement from Dr. Jerald Dosch and Dr. Dan Hornbach. 

These projects are a part of MacCARES’ greater goal to reduce carbon emissions, in line with Macalester’s Carbon-Neutrality Goal

Benefits of Green Roofs 

Ecological Benefits 
  • Mitigates urban heat island effect 
  • Natural habitat for animals and plants 
  • Reduction of dust and smog levels 
  • Reduction of runoff
Economic Benefits 
  • Vegetative surface reduces heating and cooling consumption 
  • Reduction in consumption means reduced energy costs
  • Protection of the roofs’ structural elements from wind, rain, sun, and temperature fluctuations 
  • Extend the lifetime of roofs by 30 years by enhancing the roof membrane durability
  • Increased property value through enhanced visual appeal
  • Lower stormwater and utility fees, tax credits, grant subsidy programs 
Aesthetic and Psychological Benefits 
  • Simple enjoyment of nature and the outdoors 
  • Fosters a sense of community by engaging in this project together
  • Blends buildings into a more natural environment 
  • Promotes an understanding that building sustainable futures is becoming the very fabric in which we live

How to Get Involved 

If you want to get involved with more sustainability events on campus, including the green roof, please contact the Sustainability Office in Kagin, or email them at

MacCARES (Macalester Consservation and Renewable Energy Society) is heavily involved with on-campus student sustainability projects. If you are interested in joining them, or contributing ideas, please email them

Macalester Prairie Restoration Project 

When Minnesota became a state in 1858, nearly 1/3 of its land was diverse grassland. Today, less than 1 percent of Minnesota’s original prairie remains. The Macalester Prairie helps us reconnect with the past, containing over 80 species of grasses and flowers that would have been familiar to everyone in that era. 

Project History 

Macalester College helps to protect the genetic plant diversity of these plants by converting an area where turf grass had difficulty growing into a dynamic prairie landscape. With funding from Facilities Management, members of the College prepared the site and planted native grass and prairie flower seeds in November 2004. Prairie dropseed, prairie smoke, and alumroot, which are all low growing plants, were added the following year as an edge for the sidewalks bordering the prairie. 

To get involved, or learn more about prairie restoration and native plants, contact

PlanTs You Can See

Upland areas closest to the sidewalk: Grasses that dominate this area include little bluestem, sideoats grama and prairie dropseed. Flowers here include butterfly flower, phlox, prairie clovers, goldenrods, and asters. 

Low area in the center: This section is dominated by big bluestem grass and many varieties of sedges. Blazing star, New England aster, cardinal flower, and great blue lobelia are just some of the brilliant flowers you will find here. 

Benefits of Prairie Landscape 

Reduced Costs 

  • Native plants are adapted to poorer soil types and do not require fertilizers 
  • Plants need watering only until established 
  • Mowing is done annually or replaced entirely by hand clipping and raking. This reduces gasoline consumption and associated exhaust pollution 
  • Pesticides are not required as plants are naturally immune to major disease and insect damage. 

Protects Site

  • Reduces soil erosion as expansive roots bind soil.
  • Improves soil quality through the natural decay of plant roots. 
  • Helps add air to soil which promotes drainage. 
  • Reduces run-of from rain or snow-melt events into storm sewer and our lakes, rivers, and streams. 
  • Lessens the spread of non-native invasive plants and imported animals.
  • Maintains a natural balance as plants are adapted to their habitat. 

Increased Beauty 

  • Provides a diversity of landscape textures and colors throughout the year 
  • Attracts butterflies and birds for viewing enjoyment. 

Creates Habitat 

  • Significantly increases biodiversity over a typical lawn and garden monoculture. 
  • Acts as a repository for genetic plant materials to assist with mitigation of effects of global climate change. 
  • Helps bridge the distance between natural areas allowing birds and butterflies to migrate more easily. 
  • Provides excellent habitat for butterflies, birds, and other animals. 

Improved Health 

  • Reduced airborne dusts and pollens stirred up by lawn mowing equipment as well as gasoline exhaust itself 
  • Decreases sound pollution from lawn mowers and leaf blowers. 
  • Eliminates lawn grasses which can cause problems with allergy sufferers. 

Other benefits 

  • Maintain a connection to natural heritage. 
  • Nurtures psychological ‘need’ for humans to be surrounded by nature. 
  • Diverse plants of a prairie provide many medicinal, culinary, and dye-making qualities. 

How to Get Involved 

Internships: GrassRoots Restoration LLC sponsors a Macalester College internship each summer to get involved with the maintenance and nurturing of the Macalester Prairie, the rain garden, and the green roofs. The intern gains valuable natural resource experience while learning about the plants of the prairie. Interns also assist with installation of other natives landscapes in the metro area. 

Volunteering: In the late spring and early fall, volunteers are needed assist with prescribed burns and burn preparation of the prairie. This includes cutting last year’s vegetation to ensure that prescribed burns are safe and effective. 

To help the prairie become established, volunteers may remove weeds by hand or clippers. Each summer, additional species of grass and flowers are planted on the Macalester prairie. 

Native Plant Resources 

An Overview of Stormwater Management on the Macalester Campus 

What is Stormwater and Why Should we Care? 

According to the EPA, stormwater runoff is generated when precipitation from rain and snowmelt events flows over land or impervious surface sand does not percolate into the ground. Stormwater runoff is a general pollutant. 

Stormwater Runoff Control at Macalester 

Macalester’s urban environment allows us the opportunity to pursue a variety of Best Management Practices. These all link back to the 2011 Sustainable Landscape Master Plan, in which we made the goal of reducing the pollution, quantity, and sped at which water runs off the campus by infiltrating the first inch of precipitation on campus. 

Specific Initiatives include: 

Janet Wallace Parking Lot Renovation 

In 2011, Macalester completed a $130,000 renovation of the Janet Wallace parking lot, funded in part fy a $50,000 grant from the Capitol Region Watershed. A plant basin was built between the parking lot and Macalester Street, which, prior to the renovation, often experienced flooding during storms. The parking lot is now designed to direct stormwater into this basin, which is filled with a specially engineered sand that filters out harmful phosphorous from the water as it is absorbed into the earth. Once absorbed, this water is then used by the plants and trees in the basin, thus creating a self-sustaining, stormwater reduction ecosystem. 

Turf Conversion 

While the installation of plant life across campus may seem like an aesthetic choice, it actually serves the more primary purpose of reducing our stormwater run off. Replacing turf areas with plants increases both the amount of precipitation that can be absorbed as well as the biodiversity of the area, while also reducing the amount of water used and the greenhouse gas emissions associated with maintaining the area. 

Porous Pavers 

Permeable pavement walkways, such as the porous pavers which have been installed in front of Markim Hall and along the walkways leading from the Janet Wallace Fine Arts Center, are an environmentally superior alternative to concrete and asphalt walkways. As its name suggests, permeable pavement allow a percent of precipitation to filter into the ground rather than run off, thus reducing erosion, flooding, and the sweeping of chemicals into our waterways. As precipitation filters through the pavement into the ground, it passes through a series of minerals, such as rocks and sand, which remove pollutants from the water before it is deposited back into the earth. 

Landscaping Practices 

Maintaining lush green lawns often comes at a price, including a high water demand the potential to damage the soil in the area, which can result in the reduced absorption of stormwater. To counter this, Macalester’s grounds crew has adopted several new landscaping policies, such as maintaining sharp lawnmower blades and mowing at a higher height, which focus on improving soil health, which in turn allows the soil to absorb larger amounts of precipitation. 

Other Resources