Learning how to be “SustainAble” at Sustainapalooza


Nate Camm/Iowa State Daily

Dr. Ray Meylor of Cherry Glen Learning Farm speaks to a student about watershed mitigation farms at Sustainapalooza on Feb. 20. 

Paige Anson

A buzz of music, talking and laughter and the smells of fresh foods mixed with the flowery fragrances of a volunteer’s essential oils, used in a “Green It Yourself” (GIY) station, filled the air in the Memorial Union Tuesday night as Sustainapalooza took off in full-swing.

Starting at 5 p.m., Sustainapalooza took over the Great Hall, Oak Room, South Ballroom and Sun Room and served as a three-hour activities-based feature event within this year’s ninth annual Symposium on Sustainability celebration. The event was coordinated by the Live Green! initiative in ISU’s Department of Sustainability and the campus sustainability club The Green Umbrella (TGU).

The event was planned around the theme of enabling the community to increase their understanding of how individuals can be more “SustainAble” in their lifestyles.

“Everything in this room is meant to enAble people to [be SustainAble],” Sustainability Director at ISU, Merry Rankin, said.

Accompanying the sounds and smells at the event were activities that promoted this “SustainAble” theme, such as: eating free, locally sourced foods, participating in a clothing swap or the GIY stations, the eco-friendly giveaways, viewing sustainably inspired art, projects, businesses, photography and posters, and strutting one’s “stuff” on a “Green Carpet” of recycled astroturf.

In the giveaways, reusable stainless steel straws and straw cleaners, bamboo two-in-one fork/spoons and reusable hand towels in baggies were passed out, encouraging the theme by promoting less waste of plastic and paper products.

Also promoting sustainability at the event was the launch of a “EcoChallenge” phone-application based challenged.

“EcoChallenge is a [phone] app where you register with your name and email. It gives you suggestions for what you can do to be more sustainable, and it gets you in the mindset of sustainability,” said Paige Myers, Sustainapalooza event coordinator and campus and community engagement intern with Live Green!

This challenge prompts participants to act on their environmental impacts by logging their actions and reducing the actions they find the least sustainable, Myers said.

The top five most sustainable participants in the EcoChallenge, accounted for by points, after 10 days will be awarded a prize basket, and other participants below the top five also have a chance to win other prizes drawn randomly throughout the challenge, Myers said.

Also helping Sustainapalooza attendees to measure their environmental sustainability were laptops with programs that enabled people to check their ecological footprints, or environmental impacts, based off of their reported lifestyles.

“If you don’t know what [your ecological footprint is] you can’t know how you need to decrease [it]. [Along with the footprint calculation] we are offering simple ways to reduce one’s ecological footprint,” Alyssa Sporrer, a Live Green! volunteer at the eco-footprint activity tables, said.

With a shared purpose to promote the “SustainAble” theme, the GIY stations’ tutorials at the event offered sustainable alternatives to modern products.

Wheatsfield Co-op Grocery’s GIY table, which created natural cleaning solutions to combat use of harmful chemical solutions, and Iowa State’s Student Wellness Department’s GIY tables on making healthy microwave meals with real vegetables as well as customized popcorn bags (opposing buying individual packages) are three examples of such stations.

“[The GIYs] really introduce people to environmental friendly ideas, [and Sustainapalooza altogether] is an opportunity for like-minded people to get together,” said Melissa Lanphere, an ISU alumna and Wheatsfield volunteer.

As for why Student Wellness supports these tutorials, they find that environmental wellness it is one of their eight top “awarenesses of wellness,” said Jade Gibson, a peer wellness educator volunteer at the station.

“We are promoting healthy and fun recipes [students can make on their own],” Gibson said. “We chose popcorn because you can make it in a dorm, or in a microwave…and you can buy it in bulk.”

Buying in bulk can be cheaper than buying individually packaged products and reduces plastic-bag use, supporting economic and environmental sustainability, Gibson said.

Around 22 clubs were present at Sustainapalooza, among businesses and other organizations according to Myers, many of which could be seen in the South Ballroom and throughout the Great Hall.

Each promoted a message of the night’s theme in social, economic or environmental terms.

Taylor Mullen, the outreach director from the Wind Energy Student Organization promoted the economic and environmental benefits of wind energy in Iowa from the club’s poster in the South Ballroom.

Ashley Maurer, a director with “OVERFLOW” a non-profit thrift store in Ames, promoted reuse of old materials, crafting old to make new to avoid unnecessary waste, from her booth outside of the clothing swap station in the Oak Room.

“Our mission is to creatively recycle and sell affordable goods to help people, locally and globally … There is no reason to throw something away when it can help somebody and be rescued,” Maurer said.

As for those that worked to bring the many individuals like Maurer and Mullen to the event, they were elated that the day had finally arrived for plans to come to fruition.

“I am overjoyed … All of these little details that were obscure in planning before are a reality now,” Myers, said.

Sharing in Myers’ joy was Rankin, who emphasized how proud she was of the amazing individuals who made the event possible.

“It’s moving, the passion that goes into this. We have so many volunteers that are making this happen, which is fabulous,” Rankin said.

In her emphasis on the hard-work done by the volunteers and event planners, Rankin described one issue they had to problem-solve with their planned activity in the Sun Room.

“[Due to icy weather] the [relaxation] Labyrinth wasn’t able to come, so the team jumped into gear and they did a really good job [in creating an alternative relaxing space],” Rankin said.

As for how the efforts of volunteers and planners translated to audiences, the reception was a positive one.

Attendee Dani Woestman, a sustainability-minded ISU alumna who came to the event with her husband and child, after being notified of it by her sister, current-student Courtney Barr, loved the attention to information and alternative sustainable lifestyle options at the event.

“I think it is important to show people they have other options,” Woestman said.

She particularly enjoyed the sustainable cleaning product demonstration as well as the clothing swap at the event, Woestman said.

The final event for the Symposium on Sustainability is on Feb. 26, concluding the celebration with the documentary “The Age of Consequences” at 7 p.m. in the Memorial Union’s Great Hall.