Iowa State students attend nationwide sustainabilty conference

Elisse Lorenc

Five ISU representatives attended the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education conference in Denver to share ideas for a sustainable future at universities.

Allison Kraft, junior in environmental science and president of GreenHouse Group; Chandra Peterson, senior in political science and Green Umbrella Group member; Casey Fangmann, junior in electrical engineering and student intern; Mary-Beth Golemo, adviser for GHG; and Merry Rankin, ISU’s director of sustainability, attended the conference.

More than 2,000 people were in attendance at the Denver Convention Center, Golemo said.

“There would be session after session, or presentation after presentation during the day where you could read the description and the university that they came from. They would talk to you about things they’ve done on their campus as far as programs and activities, ways that they’re put sustainability into their curriculum, ways that they’re changing university policies to make sure that going green is definitely a part of the mission and the focus,” Golemo said.

AASHE focuses on incorporating sustainable practices with higher education, facilitating sustainability into the teaching, research, residencies and university policies while making the topic a focus on an international level.

“It was pretty much a big learning experience,” Kraft said. “We would just listen to what projects different schools were implementing and how they were doing it and problems that arose through them and how they got around.”

Luther College demonstrated its intentions toward a sustainable campus with worms in residence halls.

Other schools use worms to produce compost and keep them in social areas like bins and kitchenettes, Kraft said.

“The castings the worms produce are very good for soil,” she said.

A presentation from Yale University discussed Simple Act of Vital Effect, which takes any unwanted appliances or gently used items from students at the end of the year and donates them to Goodwill.

The University of Colorado at Boulder offers a program where students receive an energy audit for their house or apartment.

“They’re striving for homes and apartments to become more environmentally friendly and energy efficient,” Kraft said.

Several keynote speakers were also present.

“There were keynote addresses by some pretty well-known people in the world of sustainability, people that many folks in the audience would be interested in hearing, and if you didn’t know of them, you were very interested in the topic being presented,” Golemo said.

One speaker talked about a university in Costa Rica called “EARTH,” that implements its students with more sustainable practices.

Different companies were also present, ranging from a company that produces 100-percent recyclable T-shirts to student organizations to companies that sold bikes, encouraging more staff on campus to travel by bike.

“There were several booths that would talk about green cleaning products, furniture that you can purchase for a student room, patio material that’s made of all recycled materials,” Golemo said.

Both Kraft and Golemo plan to attend the conference next year, hopefully incorporating some new ideas along with what Iowa State is already contributing toward a sustainable future.

It was helpful to hear what other schools were doing and to see how Iowa State compares, Kraft said.

“It’s just such a wonderful networking and resource-sharing opportunity,” Golemo said. “We were blown away.”