It was a great green year

shirt bags

Students (l-r) Casie Tindell, Bailey McIntosh and Carolyn Scarpelli "upcycle" used T-shirts into bags at the Sustainapalooza portion of Iowa State's annual Symposium on Sustainability Feb. 25 in the Memorial Union. Photo by Bob Elbert.

Unit leaders summarized achievements behind the university's gold rating last fall in a higher education sustainability tracking program and the Live Green! program honored three projects during the 2014 Symposium on Sustainability Feb. 25 in the Memorial Union. The annual event also included a sustainability fair, poster session and two evening lectures.

In October, Iowa State received a gold rating in the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System (STARS), administered by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education. The rating system recognizes a wide range of efforts in operations, teaching and research, and planning and administration. A few of those highlights were:

  • Students have been planning alternative (service-oriented) spring breaks for the last eight years; five such trips in five states are planned for next month.
  • Iowa State generates 6.4 tons of waste annually; less than one-fourth of which (22 percent) goes to a landfill.
  • Prepared (but unused) food from ISU Dining is distributed daily in Ames to the Food at First community meal program, Youth and Shelter Services or the Curt Forbes community correctional facility.
  • 99 percent of copy paper purchased for campus use contains recycled product, about 85 percent of furniture purchased has at least 20 percent recycled content
  • Every house or floor in the residence system has a recycling program and a sustainability coordinator

Presenters also gave a quick peek at sustainable projects being studied or in the works that could further green the campus. They included natural gas boilers that alone will reduce Iowa State's carbon footprint 12 percent, going paperless on more processes and communications, a bike share program and a system for cataloging student service hours for inclusion in their transcripts.

Award-worthy efforts

Live Green! Awards for Excellence in Sustainability were given to:

  • Greeks Go Green, a 2-year-old program in Iowa State's fraternities and sororities to organize and promote sustainable practices at each of the houses and on campus
  • ISU's Sustainable Agriculture Student Association, for its efforts to grow and provide fresh produce to Ames' Food at First free meal program, where members have volunteered since 2012
  • Landscape architecture student Qiyi Li, for her paper airplane art installation in the College of Design last semester, intended to increase public awareness of conservation practices

Four campus buildings also received recognition for energy conservation. Linden Hall (residence facility), Physics Hall (research/laboratory building) and Curtiss Hall (academic/administration building) had the smallest electrical footprint in FY13 within their building category (measured in Kwh/square foot). The Extension Youth 4-H Building was recognized for the greatest reduction in electrical consumption (31.5 percent) over three years (FY10 to FY13). The overall campus goal is a reduction of 15 percent based on a three-year average.

Director of sustainability Merry Rankin announced that the 2015 sustainability symposium would be held on Feb. 24.