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      Going green in the Heartland

      The future of sustainable energy may be right here in the Heartland.

      At Maharishi University in Fairfield, about 90 students are enrolled as sustainable living majors. They create and use different types of equipment that contribue to a "green", environmentally friendly lifestyle.

      Lonnie Gamble is a professor in the program, which he sees as cutting edge.

      "The program is really designed to give students the skills to help design, build and maintain sustainable communities," Gamble said. "As such, it involves re-thinking every aspect of human endeavor in terms of sustainability. And a big part of that is energy, because energy is involved in everything that we do."

      The students work in groups to create and utilize their projects. Jimmy Leritz and his group took leftover vegetable oil from local restaurants and converted it to deisel fuel, that they use to fuel their schoolbus and the students' own vehicles.

      "This is so inspiring," Leritz said. "To run an engine off of veggie oil, it really shows what we can do with the future of green energy."

      Robert Belding-Miller and his group built a wind tower as a source of energy.

      "We're trying to make this building entirely sustainable, so that's a really good wind generator that will generate enough energy to power several classrooms here," Belding-Miller said.

      Yet another group project was the construction of an "information wall", consisting of two differently colored lightbulbs to alert the building's visitors to the current status of energy supply.

      "We have a yellow light for our solar system," student Josh Wilson said. "As long as that light is on, we can use energy as much as we need to, to turn on our lights and to power our presentations. We're excited that we have this system, because we're able to show that even in an existing, old building, that there are things you can do to lower your energy usage."

      The focus on renewable energy is only just beginning, but the projects created by these students are the first steps toward a sustainable lifestyle.

      "The work that these students are doing here at the sustainable living program is part of an effort that I think every human on the planet is going to be involved with," Gamble said. ""These guys are really on the leading edge of it. It's very rewarding for me to work with young people in this way."

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