Symposium celebrates 15 years of greening campus

Man at display table speaks with group of students

Recycling coordinator Steve Kohtz (left) demonstrates the finer points of recycling with visitors to the 2023 Sustainapalooza in the Memorial Union. Submitted photo.

Merry Rankin, working away at her desk last week, was surrounded by a "Clothes Donations Here" box, another box for "Green Promises" postcards, bags of clothing to swap, posters to hang and much more for the 2024 Symposium on Sustainability and its affiliated Sustainapalooza.

This year's symposium -- starting at 7 p.m. Monday, Feb. 26, in the Sun Room of the Memorial Union, all free and open to the public -- carries the theme, "Past, Present and Future Commitment Toward a Sustainable Future: Celebrating 15 Years of Living Cardinal, Gold and Green!"

Rankin, the university's director of sustainability, said the symposium will be chance to reflect on progress made since former President Gregory Geoffroy launched the university's "Live Green!" initiative in 2008.

Looking back, "I think we've accomplished a lot," Rankin said.

Then she started a list:

  • Academic programs such as the climate science major.
  • Research projects including studies at Alliant Energy's new solar farm south of Ames.
  • Strategic plan visions of innovative solutions for environmental sustainability.
  • Eliminating coal-fired boilers at the power plant.
  • A full-time recycling coordinator on campus and solar-powered trash and recycling compactors all over campus.
  • Two electric CyRide buses.
  • 25 LEED-certified, green-designed buildings on campus, including two platinum-rated buildings (the State Gymnasium expansion and renovation and King Pavilion at the College of Design).

Rankin also noted she used to be able to count the number of reusable bottles students carried on their backpacks when she walked across campus. "Now I can't keep track," she said.

Symposium details

The symposium will celebrate all that progress and the work ahead. Highlights include a keynote address by Christine Ervin, who's known as a "proven champion for green markets" and was the first president and CEO of the U.S. Green Building Council and a former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Energy. There will be presentations of Live Green! Awards for Excellence in Sustainability. And there will be art exhibits, poster presentations and table displays.

The next day -- 5 to 8 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 27, in the Durham Great Hall -- will be the affiliated Sustainapalooza coordinated by Grayson Adickes and Saumya Balaji, campus and community engagement interns for the office of sustainability.

Under the theme "Our Green Promise, Our Sustainable Future," the event will feature a clothing swap; a repair café to fix clothing, jewelry, accessories and small electronics rather than throwing them away; "green-it-yourself" projects to make and take; local foods; and green-living giveaways.

"This is a campus community celebration of what we have accomplished in the last 15 years," said Rankin, her office lit by the green glow of a tinted lamp. "A campus community made it happen. A campus community backed it. Now a campus community is looking ahead."