Students, faculty, staff discuss improving sustainability on campus

Elisse Lorenc

Students, faculty and staff gathered for the third annual Symposium on Sustainability on Monday and Tuesday at the Memorial Union.

Students had the opportunity to learn about the Live Green! Initiative Iowa State participates in, and discussed new approaches to improving sustainability on campus next year.

Students who attended grouped together and discussed different ideas for more sustainable practices to be used on campus.

“[Students] targeted two different categories mainly under the [subject of] energy and that was, ‘How does [ISU] reduce the current consumption of electricity’?” said Matthew Santee, director of sustainability for the Government of the Student Body.

Students wanted to implement motion sensors, a certification process going through each individual building on campus, making any possible changes to a building such as LED lighting, Santee said.

“[Students] also wanted to integrate new sustainable energy sources, if that’s solar panels, geothermal energy, we wanted to integrate those on campus.”

Other than implementing sustainable energy sources on campus, the students also wanted to incorporate clean energy use in student projects.

“Often times in our classes, we’ve talked about sustainability but we don’t get to go out there and actually enact it, we don’t get to participate in these projects,” Santee said.

Students decided on a green program for the College of Design, primarily focusing on redistribution of textbooks and materials instead of recycling them.

Increasing the availability of locally grown foods and compost was suggested by students, including moving the Ames Farmers’ Market to Central Campus.

After students and faculty had their own discussions, they were given time to share their ideas, recognizing efforts and goals for a more sustainable campus.

The faculty came up with a variety of ideas, including how to get other faculties together, low cost or free opportunities to save energy, transferring strategies to other colleges and, the future of Iowa State.

“Some of the top ideas that really came in here was to increase the bus riding incentive, incentives for biking and walking to campus, potentially looking at a rebate on parking fees for alternative means of transportation use, the idea to start increasing metering, and evaluation of data that we get around campus,” said Kerry Dixon-Fox, planning coordinator for the Sustainability Symposium and architect for Facilities Planning and Management.

A simple, yet effective, idea that came to mind for faculty was to thank students for doing the green thing.

“Many times we just forget to say thank you and that can be an easy thing to start changing culture,” Fox said.

One strategy that can be passed on to other colleges was the idea of keeping sustainability as a topic for meetings.

The faculty hopes to see a big culture change at Iowa State in the next 10 years, professors want to see sustainable practices used every day by students and faculty alike.

At the poster presentation, various green organizations gathered to voice their ideas and networked with other groups and programs on campus and in the Ames community.

Energy savings at the office, emphasized the idea that anyone can save a significant amount of energy and money at the office.

“The purpose of this was to let people know individually they can do something to save energy at Iowa State,” said Robert Currie, assistant director of facilities planning and management. “It can be as simple as turn off the lights when you leave for the day, turn off the computer, reduce the number of coffee pots in an office complex.”

Laura Moreland from Iowa State’s Printing and Copy Services, stressed the potential reuse of paper.

“There’s a lot of misconceptions about printing and paper not being green, when actually paper can be recycled seven times before the fibers become too small; and here at the ISU Printing and Copy Services — which is the university printing on campus — 85 percent of our papers are recycled paper or certified through the forest certifications,” Moreland said.

ISU Printing and Copy Services also uses soy ink for their printing instead of typical inks.

The University Compost Facility produces compost from Iowa State’s waste continuously, providing a good fertilizer for the campus’s soils and landbeds.

“The soils in Iowa are junk soils, there’s a lot of clay, so this makes for a good soil bed,” said Mark Huss, engineer in facilities, planning and management. “It’s really something that’s important, especially for construction projects.”

Design Across Boundaries, a student group, has been working on projects in Haiti since the earthquakes in January.

“We hooked up with an ISU student who is Haitian, and he had already been doing work at his home community there and his plans were to build a youth community center,” said Kristen O’Brien, a member of Design Across Boundaries and senior in architecture. “So for the past year we’ve been helping him design this youth community center.”

Leaders for a Sustainable Community, a relatively new student group on campus, works to further educate students about the sustainable initiatives already taking place on campus.

“Our whole goal is to promote a sustainable community through the Ames, [ISU] community and also through the area in Ames in general,” said Colby Martin, junior in environmental science. “We have a lecture series [and] we’re doing a panel on recycling so we can have the community, anybody come; [ISU] students come out and ask questions about what’s going on in the community or the college.”

The group will be giving tours on campus to highlight the green initiatives already in action, such as the LEED certified buildings located across campus.

Entech does an outreach to students about environmentally friendly technologies.

“We take technologies that are known, like a solar water heater or an electric motorcycle, and we learn about them and do a demonstration project and take them out and try to increase excitement and knowledge on the topic,” said Jacob Karasch, president of Entech.

GreenHouse Group was also present, displaying all their recycling initiatives in the residence halls, collecting a total of more than 44 tons of recyclables in 2010.

The Department of Residence teamed up with GreenHouse Group at the poster recession, discussing what they’ve accomplished such as donating old mattresses to a company in Ohio that recycle and reuse the material inside the old mattresses.

After the poster recession, Jerome Ringo, keynote speaker and senior executive for Green Port, spoke to the crowd.

“One of the challenges is that we continue to move forward in a world where we do not have full engagement of everyone in this whole world of sustainability,” Ringo said. “That is why it’s so critically important that universities like Iowa State embrace the idea of sustainability from every level, whether it’d be from the administration, the faculty, the staff and the students.”

Staff and students united Tuesday to award and recognize particular groups and individuals who strive to make a green difference.

“I’m so fortunate in that I get to work with such a great team, folks that are willing to step up and say, ‘You know, let’s give it a try,’ or, ‘If we can’t do it this way, let’s find another way that we can and look at how we can do this together.’ It was an inspiring event, it continues to inspire me and make me enthusiastic about moving forward,” said Merry Rankin, director of sustainability.

President Gregory Geoffroy closed the symposium.

“This is an extremely important effort, it’s something that should never end and only accelerate as time goes on,” Geoffroy said. “I encourage [Iowa State] to keep thinking big, keep thinking sustainable and green.”