Student organizations and community members promote sustainability on campus


Jack McClellan

Erik Evans (left) and Evan Baker (right) pictured with one other member of Iowa State’s Adventure programs while posing with a bike used to demonstrate their bike repair services.

Students, staff and community members alike gathered in front of Parks Library for the Campus Sustainability Month Celebration, raising awareness for how people can make a difference.

Haylie Moore, a sophomore in global resource systems and campus and community engagement intern for the Live Green! Initiative, said that the success of this year’s event shows how seriously much of the campus is taking the climate reality.

“I think it also kind of builds off our theme this year; the urgency is now, I mean, I feel like now, people hear so much about, like, climate change,” Moore said. “And just like how, for lack of a better phrase, like the world is just falling apart.”

Haley Wegener, a junior in political science and a campus and community engagement intern for the Live Green! Initiative, said that the turnout reflected how communities could come together to create a change.

“Yeah, I think people are definitely starting to realize how, like, urgent things actually are and, like, how people need to start stepping up and making a difference,” Wegener said. “And even though, like, one person isn’t going to make a huge difference, if we all have a collective effort, we can change things.”

Jonathan Main, a senior in environmental science and treasurer for Engineers for a Sustainable World, was there representing his club. Despite the club’s name, Engineers for a Sustainable World is open to all majors and works on sustainable projects to carry out on campus.

“One we’re working on right now we have our compost team that myself and Egan are on and we have a composting system we set up at Fredrickson court where residents are able to opt in, they are able to get a bucket from the hall desk,” Main said. “Then they’re able to drop off their food waste in one of five dumpsters that we have set up around Freddies.”

After students turn in their food waste, it goes through the composting process with food waste from the dining halls and other agricultural wastes from ISU Dairy Farm and some of the other research farms before being put to use in various soil amendments on campus.

“And that can reduce the amount of fertilizer that you might need to apply sometimes,” Main said. “So, it’s a really cool way of kind of closing the loop because instead of it being landfilled where it will just rot, it is actually being used to make campus that much nicer.”

Gabe Johnson and Haleigh Summers, graduate students in natural resource ecology and management, represented the Sustainable Agriculture graduate program at the celebration.

“And we’re, this year, kind of advertising our program, answering questions about what the program looks like for undergrads and people who might be interested in that program,” Summers said. “We also do a lot of volunteering with Food at First. So, we have some brochures on them.”

Hailie Moore (center left) and Haley Wegener (center right) pictured standing with two other volunteers for the Campus Sustainability Month Celebration.

Erik Evans, a senior in marketing, and Evan Baker, a sophomore in environmental science, were at the celebration to promote Iowa State’s Adventure Programs.

“And one of the things we’re currently working on is bringing back the bike program, which is a great way to be sustainable, especially here on campus,” Baker said. “So, just by having that resource, it’s really useful since a lot of people bike around here.”

The Adventure Program includes activities like rock climbing, equipment rentals and even workshops to help students develop skills around outdoor activities.

“It’s a program that’s coming back now too, so we’re just trying to get out and inform people that it’s a program that we used to have, like, two years ago,’ Evans said. “We’re bringing it back and put out new announcements, trying to get people back on bikes and show our program that we can repair people’s bikes and get it back running.”

Several members of the Hindu Yuva student organization were present at the celebration to share their cultural connection to sustainability. Rakesh Maddineni, a research assistant in the department of electrical and computer engineering, said that Hinduism places a large importance on coexisting with nature.

“I feel like we are taking so much from nature, and you’re not giving it time to heal, or you’re not giving back enough,” Maddineni said. “So, I hope, listening to these, people will put conscious effort in that and maybe put more effort into helping nature to grow by itself because we should coexist; we cannot exist without nature, and It cannot exist without us.”

Steve Kohtz, the recycling and special events coordinator for Facilities Planning and Management, was at the celebration to spread awareness of Iowa State’s recycling program.

“I’m helping people understand how to boss their toss,” Kohtz said. “This year’s campaign is boss your toss; the idea is you’re in charge of which way you throw your waste, if you throw it to the landfill or if you throw it to the recycling.”

Kohtz said there are a lot of misperceptions about how recycling works at Iowa State; many people are confused about which plastics are recyclable and whether or not recycled waste is even really recycled at Iowa State.

“Our landfill is filling up way too fast,” Kohtz said. “They dug the last hole at the county landfill, and it’s supposed to take about 20 years to fill, but the last hole they dug seven years ago is full, so hopefully, we’re changing our ways, but that’s the consumer world we live in.”

Kohtz said one important thing to note is that recyclables stained with grease or other wastes can not be recycled and will contaminate entire bins’ worth of recyclable materials.

“Plastics are easiest,” Kohtz said. “If you can twist the top and twist the top off, the lid and the plastic container can go on recycling. There are other plastics that go in too, but the easiest to remember is if it twists off, it’s the best and most coveted of plastics that we can recycle.”

Spencer Giddings, a senior in environmental science, and Maithilee Bahirat, a sophomore in environmental science, were at the event representing Student Government and promoting some of the programs funded through the Green Initiatives Fund.

“We’re working with the Green Initiatives Fund, which is basically funding for student organizations, campus organizations, clubs on campus to get funding for sustainability projects,” Giddings said. “So, if they have a project that we’re working on and relates to sustainability, they can apply for funding from the Green Initiatives fund.”