Iowa State students advocate for sustainability after attending conference

Elisse Lorenc

Two students advocated what they learned at a sustainability conference to the ISU community Monday night.

After attending the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, a sustainability conference held this year in Denver, students Chandra Peterson and Casey Fangmann decided to hold a forum about what they learned.

The students discussed their input and their perspectives on what Iowa State should do to be more green. 

“One university actually used their work-study program to incorporate sustainability and allowing students to do sustainability work through their work study. The university had found that a lot of their students in their work-study program didn’t really have enough to do to keep them busy, so they used this opportunity to use those students who wanted to participate,” said Fangmann, member of The GreenHouse Group and The Green Umbrella and junior in electrical engineering.

“It gave the university a great way to utilize the people that were already active within their system to work on sustainability for them.”

Several universities had an entire office of sustainability as opposed to having only a director, like at Iowa State, Fangmann said.

“It gave a great opportunity to focus on a lot more areas that just expanded the resources that they had and were able to use in pursuing different kinds of sustainable projects,” Fangmann said. 

Fangmann also mentioned sustainability learning communities as an outlet to get people involved with different projects about sustainable issues, to help educate and to get students engaged.

One method in particular stuck out to Peterson, president of The Green Umbrella and senior in political science.

The sustainability fee was an idea presented by students to implement at universities. The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign was one of the schools present at the conference that incorporates the fee. 

They started with charging students $5 the first three years the fee started and received a 77 percent approval from students this past year, when the fee increased to $14.  

If Iowa State were to take this initiative, one option Peterson advocated was the opt-out option, where students who lacked any desire to pay the sustainability fee can opt-out if they so choose.

The fee, if incorporated, could be used toward promoting further use of wind energy, increasing recycling on campus and starting free stores, where students can donate items and others can collect items such as warm clothing for international students who weren’t prepared for the cold weather.

“It would be very complex, it would take a lot of work and since it directly deals with money, students don’t want to pay more fees, so it’s kind of a uphill battle if it was something that Iowa State would ever decide to look into,” Peterson said.

Fangmann and Peterson attended the conference and now they want to take the next step, incorporating more student involvement.

“I think it’s important to find different, creative ways to get people involved; you can’t just work at it. You’ll get so many more people involved, make it more relatable, if you can do a program that affects 50 students. It’s a lot better than just putting up a wind turbine and saying, ‘Hey, we’re sustainable,'” Fangmann said.

“The most effective way to get a student is to make it really visual. You can put things in pamphlets but the more visual, the better.”

Peterson wants students to gain new innovative ideas from Monday’s event.

“I hope that students are passionate enough about them that they cling onto them and push them because it’s really cool to be like, ‘Oh, that’s an awesome idea,’ but to use that and take them where they need to go,” Peterson said. 

Peterson wanted to encourage the students to do the little things on campus to make a difference, whether it be to make the effort to recycle or take shorter showers.

“There’s so much we can do. ISU is going the right way and we need to keep going. If we don’t keep pushing, bad things will happen. We can’t stop now,” Peterson said.