National Campus Sustainability Day draws businesses, students together


Photo: Ethan Crane / Iowa State Daily

Members of The Green Umbrella talk with students near their papercraft tree in front of Parks Library.  Iowa State hosted an awareness event for National Campus Sustainability Day on Wednesday, Oct. 24.

Michael Finn

A convention of local green-minded businesses and organizations gathered Wednesday outside Parks Library as part of the National Campus Sustainability Day.

Hosted by The Green Umbrella, a student-run organization that works to promote sustainability efforts around campus, the event featured displays from 27 Ames-based small businesses, nonprofit organizations, and student-run societies, all united and guided by a common interest in a sustainable future.

“You can see that these businesses whom you might not expect are making these changes, are making serious efforts to become leaders in sustainability,” said Rachelle Rowe, the Live Green! Campus and Community Engagement intern and co-director for the event. “We want students to know that it’s really easy to make sustainable changes in their lives.”

Students wandered from booth to booth, picking up souvenirs and brochures along the way. Free coffee mugs were given to people who visited all 27 displays. Before leaving, people signed a pledge of sustainability on “The Green Resolution Board,” writing things like, “I will ride my bike to class more often,” or “I will eat more veggies and less meat.”

Iowa State was one of 143 college campuses all over the country that participated in National Campus Sustainability Day, each campus offering its own unique take on the promotion of local sustainability efforts.

Some colleges narrowed their focus to a particular aspect of sustainability. Iowa State, being a school with deep roots in agriculture, emphasized the importance of sustainably grown food.

Student Organic Farm displayed freshly harvested organic veggies; food shelf program Food at First explained how it recycles and reuses leftover food from ISU Dining.

Natural foods grocery Wheatsfield Co-Op stood up for locally-grown food and fair-trade products, and ISU Dining’s green initiative program Farm to ISU persuaded people to “Buy Fresh, Buy Local.”

A wide array of like-minded businesses and organizations, some of which have just recently sprung up within the last year, draws attention to the fact that Ames and Iowa State are revving up their efforts to become leaders of the sustainability movement.

“Everyone is doing something both individually and collectively to assist with the efforts to make campus more sustainable,” said Merry Rankin, Director of Sustainability for Iowa State University. “We have a sustainable future in our eyesight. We want to make sure all the future generations of Iowa Staters will follow our lead.”

Greeks Go Green, a start-up organization created earlier this year, aims to tap into the vastly under-utilized Greekland population and earn their devotion to become more environmentally conscious.

Engineers for a Sustainable World presented their ambitious plans to make campus greener — the creation of a Smartphone app that locates the nearest recycling site, solar-powered streetlights, a “rain garden” for catching and trapping rainwater, and the construction of a bicycle that creates electricity as you ride.

For Indie record label Maximum Ames, a figurehead of the Ames local music scene, their U.S.-made vinyl records and recycled paper packaging was a point of pride, as well their musician’s latest albums.

Ames alternative music radio station KURE 88.5 FM conducted a live broadcast at the event, airing their traditional style of unconventional music.

Businesses and organizations enjoyed the spotlight, but most importantly, the event was meant to rouse students and Ames residents to become more sustainable in their daily lives.

“It’s about celebrating, increasing education, increasing awareness and increasing people’s motivation to get involved,” Rankin said.