Sustainapalooza: Greening Your Mark

Jace Dostal

The fourth annual Sustainapalooza, a celebration of all things green, will be held from 5 to 8 p.m. Tuesday in the Great Hall of the Memorial Union.

The event, which won the 2013 Student Organization Event of the Year award, is hosted by The Green Umbrella, the Office of Sustainability and the Council on Sustainability, and coincides with the annual sustainability symposium.

“I think [Sustainapalooza] really helps connect everyone individually to sustainability and allows people to find their niche that resonates with them,” said Merry Rankin, director of sustainability. “It allows individuals to find their own pathway and what is important to them.”

Sustainapalooza was created as a way to provide students with a more hands-on learning experience during the sustainability symposium, Rankin said.

“We really try to exemplify the interdisciplinary nature of sustainability, said Jordan Muell, co-president of The Green Umbrella. “You can define sustainability in a lot of different ways, but one way I would define it is acting in a way now that does not compromise our ability to flourish or succeed in the future.”

The event will feature research posters created by students, a bicycle powered ice cream maker, four “Green It Yourself” centers where visitors can learn about and create products from recycled materials and learn about outdoor survival schools.

Megan Koppenhafer, director of events for The Green Umbrella, said students can learn about the three aspects of sustainability: economic, social and environmental sustainability at the “Green It Yourself” centers.

The four centers will provide visitors the chance to make hats out of old T-shirts for donation to the University of Iowa Hospitals, folders and bookmarks that will be donated to the Raising Readers in Story County, lip balm and lip balm containers for 25 cents per person and pine cone air fresheners.

Students can also learn about nutrition and healthy snacks from ISU Dining’s dietician Lisa Nolting and outdoor survival from Jax Outdoor Gear.

“The idea with the ‘Green It Yourself’ centers is that we still maintain what I call the three E’s of an event … that you should provide education, you should provide engagement and you should provide empowerment,” Rankin said.

Rankin views the centers as a way to not only show visitors how to live a greener life, but she says they also show that it is easy to live a greener life.

“One element of the event is a green wall that we build that is on one hand an artistic piece to showcase some information about sustainability, but also we’ll have people walk through and write down something that they’ve done in the past year to be more green,” Muell said. “They’ll also write a pledge of what they want to do better to be more sustainable.” 

Muell said the wall is a way that they get people to think about their own habits and to relate to people’s everyday lives.

“Maybe a given individual does not change their lifestyle significantly after attending one of our events, but it’s at least on their mind, and that thought might come back to them when they least expect it,” Muell said.

Like a traditional award show, visitors can walk down Sustainapalooza’s own version of the red carpet, a recycled strip of green AstroTurf, and get their picture taken in front of the wall of Sustainapalooza sponsors.

“It’s kind of one of my favorite stories about Sustainapalooza,” Koppenhafer said. “[Facilities, planning and management] went and dug [the carpet] out of the trash. It’s something that we’re excited to bring out every year. It’s kind of the entrance to our event.”

The carpet serves as a reminder that anything can be repurposed creatively, Muell said.

At the end of the day, after all the fun is over, the ice cream is eaten and the “green carpet” has been rolled up and stored away until next year, Koppenhafer hopes the event goers will walk away with the knowledge that living sustainably does not have to be expensive.

“It doesn’t have to cost a lot of money to go green … you don’t have to spend more money on a light bulb that lasts longer,” Koppenhafer said. “But if it [can be] as simple as taking your recycling out, [it can be] as simple as being the recycling chair on your floor if that’s all you can contribute.”