Community Commitment
April 19, 2021

YMCA camp takes holistic approach to environmental learning

Xcel Energy’s Renewable*Connect adds to this real-life sustainability experience.

In the summer, the 400 beautiful acres of Camp St. Croix have all the components of outdoor splendor. Lush grassy knolls, thickly wooded areas, a sandy beach along the easy flow of its namesake river which divides Minnesota and Wisconsin just east of the Twin Cities. Yet within this remarkable area boasting nearly 100 years of treasured memories for thousands of campers, there is also a clear calling for a green, sustainable future.


Recently installed solar panel is part of sustainability efforts.

“The ultimate purpose of the camp experience is to learn more about sustainability, as it impacts our everyday lives,” says Executive Director Michel Tigan. While that may sound like a pleasant talking point for a promotional brochure or website, the YMCA Camp St. Croix team is devoted to creatively teaching sustainability through outdoor education, overnight and day camping experiences, and a host of other activities.

And it’s a serious commitment.

Taking the long view

This effort started years ago as camp leadership began to examine the property’s carbon footprint. As a board member, local Xcel Energy General Manager of Customer and Community Service Manager, Brian Elwood brought knowledge and guidance to the planning.

Brian helped bring attention to Renewable*Connect, an Xcel Energy program that provides renewable power resources without investing in utility-grade wind and solar equipment.

While Xcel Energy generates 62% of its Upper Midwest electric energy from carbon-free sources, including renewable energy sources like wind, water and solar, many residential and commercial customers wanted more. So Renewable*Connect was created.

Tigan continues, “We recognized that Renewable*Connect could help offset our carbon use and exemplify our sustainability teachings across the camp. Thanks in large part to Renewable*Connect, our energy use is 100% renewable across our 73 buildings.”


Backside of new solar panel offers small pollinator habitat.

Local solar insight

The camp has a small solar ground array and rooftop solar on a newer building. Tigan says, “we were able to implement on-site solar panels which are connected to meters linked to a downloadable app so that campers can monitor daily energy generation. This regular observance offers truly teachable moments as clouds, the time of year (position of the sun in the sky) and other factors affect solar power generation levels.”

Tigan states, “As we look ahead, we are determined to follow best practices regarding environmentally sound construction and lifetime energy use -- always trying to practice the sustainability we teach.

Other sustainability themes in the works for Camp St. Croix:

  • Low-emissions transportation - Electrifying the camp’s vehicle fleet
  • Food growth and supply chain - The camp’s farm grew nearly 5,000 pounds of food which it made available to local kids via backpack programs and to help local food shelves provide fresh produce.
  • Food supply - egg and meat chickens on the camp farm
  • Rainwater collection as it relates to water use, run-off to the river, and sustainability
  • Pollinator efforts – honeybee hives are being introduced to the grounds in 2021
  • Leave no trace – examining all the actions and items that make up your carbon footprint

When you enroll in Renewable*Connect, your home or business can allocate the amount of renewable energy it uses each month. Learn more here.