Live Green! celebrates its 10 year anniversary


Katlyn Campbell/Iowa State Daily

Students participate in National Campus Sustainability Day outside Parks Library on Oct. 26.

Paige Anson

As the spring semester comes to a close, two interns in the Office of Sustainability are confirming plans for their department’s biggest celebration yet.

For the 10-year anniversary of the Live Green! initiative, the department has decided to have its first ever year-long celebration with monthly sustainability events planned by the office’s Strategic Initiatives interns Molly Breen and Madeleine Blandin.

The celebration is called “10 Years of Living Green,” titled after the Sustainability Department’s alternative name of the Live Green! initiative.

“We are going to have an event for every month during the 2018-19 school year…Each is themed to focus on a certain part of sustainability,” Blandin said.

A double major in marketing and event management, Blandin has been working with Breen since early in the semester to plan these events.

“[Our goals are] to engage students with the history of the department and [to] inform them of where the [Live Green!] initiative is going to go,” Breen said.

Breen, a junior majoring in finance, has been involved with Live Green! for two years and has been planning the celebration since planning began at the end of the 2017 fall semester.

Some events currently planned for the celebration include: “Moving Green” with group yoga instruction in August, “Dining Green” in September where the Iowa State community can meet local farmers and eat Insomnia cookies and “Embracing Green”, with coffee and conversations in Parks Library.

“I’m excited because [the celebration] will incorporate a whole bunch of different people. The events are open to everyone,” Breen said.

Sustainability Director Merry Rankin, who has presided over the planning of the celebration, shares in that feeling of excitement, she said.

“It’s really hard to put into words…so much has happened in 10 years and yet it feels like just yesterday…It’s humbling and I’m just so thankful for the opportunities I’ve had [and] for all of the folks that have inspired me and for all that has been accomplished,” Rankin said.

Rankin is the first and only director the office has seen. Her role began with working to improve sustainability and efficiency efforts on campus, and has since grown to reach sustainability efforts in the city of Ames.

“My position, when I first came, wasn’t a shared position with the city of Ames. The position has changed in that it has a connection with the City of Ames now. We do a lot of partnering components: like the Smart Business Challenge and Rummage Rampage,” Rankin said.

Since its beginning in 2008, the Live Green Initiative at Iowa State has incorporated and helped promote economically, socially and environmentally sustainable practices on campus, like a car sharing program, solar powered trash cans, LEED-certified energy efficient buildings, efficient road plans and sustainability events like Sustainapalooza and their Earth Day celebrations, Rankin said.

“We’ve [also] done a lot related to reducing paper use on campus…[and] over 95 percent of the custodial team is using green certified cleaning products…When I first started [as director] we had one LEED certified building,” Rankin said.

Now, Iowa State has 15 LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, certified buildings on campus and counting, Rankin said.

“Two are platinum, the highest rank that can be given to a sustainably designed [LEED certified] building,” Rankin said.

The initiative has also helped initiate and promote the growth of sustainably oriented classes, programs and clubs, Rankin said.

“We have an interdisciplinary sustainability minor that was not offered ten years ago. We have a number of degree programs that weren’t here, and we have learning communities…alternative break programs and volunteer opportunities that we didn’t have before. The Green Umbrella wasn’t here when I got here,” Rankin said.

In planning this celebration, hopes are high in the department that along with celebrating sustainability each event will inspire someone to start thinking more about what sustainability is and how they can be more sustainable, Breen said.

“My hope is to touch more areas of campus [with this event], to engage more students that aren’t familiar with sustainability and with students that don’t even know what Live Green! is…our hope is to educate a lot,” Breen said.

As for how the event is funded, most events are planned around volunteer-based activities, although some funding does come through donations and the Sustainability Department, Breen said.

Challenges to planning a year-long celebration for these interns have consisted primarily of pinning down details early and planning events to be engaging, Blandin said.

“[We face the same] challenges as any student-run event on campus; showing people how they can interact at the event and how they can be involved,” Blandin said.

“Knowing how to outreach effectively, [instilling] that sense of connection and relevance in the initiatives and goals that we have [is a also a challenge],” Rankin said.

Regardless of difficulty, the three share in their value of getting to plan such a large-sale celebration.

“I have really enjoyed talking to different parts of campus and meeting people I’ve never met before,” Breen said.

Blandin shares a similar excitement, and appreciates the skills she has been learning in her major area of event planning, she said.

Rankin is proud of the work that Breen and Blandin have done, and looks forward to seeing the events through with her interns, she said.