From its founding in 1856, the Benedictine principles of stewardship and stability have intimately connected the Saint John’s community to its land and surrounding neighbors.
For the first hundred years, Saint John’s lived out its mission as self-sufficiently as possible. Building materials, food, and fuel all came from the immediate forests, fields, and lakes; the motto being "let the community provide for itself."
As the needs of the community grew and developed, Saint John’s moved away from a focus on self-subsistence and drew on the Benedictine principle of stewardship to care more intentionally for its 2,700 acres of pristine woods, prairies, lakes and streams.
In 1997, this longstanding tradition of stewardship led the monks to designate the lands of Saint John’s Abbey as a natural arboretum, offering a unique environment for students to explore, conduct research, and learn about environmental education and land stewardship.
As environmental issues have grown more pressing, the Saint John’s community has once again returned to its tradition in stewardship and education by establishing the Environmental Studies major in 2003, becoming a charter signatory of the ACUPCC in 2007 and founding the Office of Sustainability in 2009. With its goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2035, Saint John’s is taking innovative steps to ensure that it can pass on to future generations of Johnnies what it has so graciously received.