ST. CLOUD -- Experts will examine and present on the economic impact of climate change during this year's Winter Institute, hosted by St. Cloud State University.

The annual conference on economics, business conditions and economics education began Thursday evening at the Regency Plaza in downtown St. Cloud.

Among those invited to lead the conference is Jennifer McMillin, Director of Sustainability at Cleveland State University. McMillin, Thursday's keynote speaker, facilitates alternative transportation, waste reduction, composting and recycling programs on her Ohio campus.

McMillin, whose campus currently sources 58% of its energy from renewable sources, focused her talk on her background and work related to environmental responsibility in higher education.

"At CSU, we track our emissions, from transportation to electricity generation to heating and cooling," she explained. "We tell people where we're at and what our targets are, and how we're going to get there."

McMillin lived and studied in Australia for a decade. She says the country approaches water and waste consumption – and reduction – in much different ways than the United States.

" It's socially unacceptable to water your yard in Australia during the day. People think about it more than we do here. We just need to start thinking more about the decisions we make - instead of just doing things because they're profitable or easy. We need to account for more things than just the bottom line."

McMillin says college campuses are ideal spaces to teach and demonstrate environmentally-friendly policies and practices.

"We are modeling to students how to run an organization. If we show students how to do it right, we're giving them some of the tools to go on and apply that to their future lives and careers. So, I think it matters that we report what we're doing."

This is the 58th year for the Winter Institute. To see a complete list of events and speakers, visit their website.

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