Clean out your office over spring break; RecycleMania update

During this week of spring break, this a great time for staff and faculty on campus to clean out papers and files and recycle your office clutter.  This effort is part of our final ten day push in RecycleMania.  Learn more at 

After six weeks, the University of Iowa has a recycling rate of 28.5%, placing it 130 out of 263 competing colleges and universities.  Among eight competing Big Ten programs, the UI holds a lead over OSU, UW-Madison, and IU.  UM-Ann Arbor is one spot ahead of our campus, while Purdue University holds the Big Ten lead with a recycling rate of 38.2%.  The competition concludes March 30. 

 Campus progress during the first six weeks of RecycleMania has been impressive.  Compared to the same two months last year, February and March, we are on pace to send 15% less waste to the landfill.  An important component of this waste diversion success is the nearly 50,000lbs of organic waste that has been collected from Hillcrest, Burge, and the IMU, which increases our overall diversion rate by 4 percentage points.

Carry us forward in these last ten days of RecycleMania.  Enjoy more open space on your desk with a spring cleaning, and let’s climb the RecycleMania ranks!  Your efforts continue to be outstanding.

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Green your Valentine’s Day

Here’s some tips  from our sustainability colleagues at Iowa State on greening your Valentines Day:

Send a Paperless Card!
Don’t waste paper by sending a paper Valentine that will get lost in the shuffle, send an e-card! You can brighten your loved one’s day by dropping them an unexpected note online. There are also some e-cards, like the ones from the National Resources Defense Council that donate money to charities as well! Or pick a unique card that will keep on giving by selecting a card that can be planted!
Think Before You Buy Your Flowers
While it is tempting to go the traditional Valentine’s Day route of buying flowers, think sustainably! Make sure you look at where you are purchasing your flowers if you do buy them. If you receive a glorious bouquet, don’t toss it in the garbage! Try drying your flowers as a memento that will last much longer!
Escape the Crowds
Valentine’s Day is a busy day for dates at restaurants. Escape the crowd by making dinner at your own home. Put a little local love in your meal by incorporating local and seasonal produce!
Make Sure Your Sweet Tooth Keeps Sweet
Keep your feelings of love flowing by thinking about where the chocolate comes from that you want to buy. Many large companies focus on cocoa sustainability in the products they sell, so look to buy locally and see if any Ames’ stores have products that support cocoa sustainability!
Think Green and Save Some Green
Remember to be economically sustainable when making your Valentine’s Day plans. Be financially responsible and don’t stretch your budget on gifts that will be forgotten in a month. Plan an experience around campus.
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Our Energy Future/Forward on Climate Rally

What would Marty McFly say about the world we live in today?

In Back to the Future Part II (1989), the protagonist travels to 2015 to stop his son from getting involved with a rotten employer. Included in this depiction of 2015 are some extremely accurate technological and sociological similarities to the culture in which we now live: the omnipresence of cameras (although it is usually smartphones with cameras today), flat screen televisions mounted on the walls, the ability to watch (at least) six channels simultaneously, hands-free video games (hello, Microsoft Kinect), and more instances of plastic surgery. The film also has flying cars, hover skateboards, and Nike shoes that lace themselves, which we all know are not currently in existence in the real world.

Everyone loves technological advances, what about energy-related ones?

Solar, wind, and renewable energy seem pretty futuristic, especially in the face of fossil fuels that date back centuries, and that we know cause pollution and bad health. So why have we not embraced them as a culture? Scientists have made some pretty dramatic and amazing discoveries since Marty McFly made his debut, and one thing is certain: we have to take care of our planet; it is the only we one we have and we are slowly, but surely stripping it of all its resources.

One giant step in the direction of the future is President Obama announcing in his inaugural address that climate change will be a significant priority in his second term. There are some who promote, study, and endorse living a sustainable lifestyle who are planning to hold a rally, the Forward on Climate Rally, which is expected to be the largest climate rally in U.S. history.  They are planning on flooding Washington, D.C. to encourage the President to take a firmer stand for the climate by rejecting the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, which would carry the dirtiest oil on the planet from Canada to America’s Gulf Coast’s refineries and ports, and then most of it would most likely be exported overseas.


Many think that President Obama should say “no” to dirty fuel in lieu of sticking to his word and expanding the United States’ alternative energy efforts. This expansion could cut fossil fuel pollution, lessening smog and improving the health of American citizens, as well as provide jobs to thousands of Americans and perhaps save some families significant money. In fact, The Natural Resources Defense Council has created a plan that will allegedly do the aforementioned things.

The bottom line is, we need to make a future that our kids will be proud to inhabit and thrive in, and that begins now. Also, once we can get our renewable power, our clean energy, instead of the outdated and dirty fossil fuels at the forefront of importance in America, maybe we can cut back on pollution and the destruction of our only home.

Then, and only then, can scientists even think about looking into flying cars.

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Iowa City Encouraging Apartment/Condo Recycling

The University of Iowa has many resources on campus that encourage and help students live a more green and sustainable lifestyle. And with the beginning of RecycleMania  upon us, many students are wondering what all they can do to help the efforts. However, students who live off campus – which is the vast majority of students at over 70 percent – many students need more resources in order to recycle when they are not on campus.

There is great news for those off-campus students as well as families living in apartments and condominiums in Iowa City. The Iowa City Landfill and Recycling Center has completed a pilot project which involved five different apartment complexes and condominium associations with multi-family homes over an eight-month period.

As a result of this pilot program, 39 percent of all trash produced was recycled, and all five of the complexes involved continued to recycle at their own expense. In addition, a “Best Management Practices Manual” that offers suggestions and recommendations for apartment and condominium recycling has been written in order to inform and educate tenants, landlords, managers, and owners associations of the feasibility of recycling services in Iowa City, so that the numbers of buildings recycling can continue to increase.


Furthur information about this can be found here:

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Al Gore Talks About Climate Change on “Daily Show”

Al Gore, former Vice President of the United States and “poster boy for sounding the alarm of global warming” according to Jon Stewart, appeared on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart Wednesday, January 30 and discussed many things, among them climate change.

Always one to make viewers think, Jon Stewart asked the former Democratic Presidential Candidate whether or not, in the face of disasters such as Superstorm Sandy that devastated New York City in late 2012, Gore felt the need to say “I told you so.” After a brief chuckle, Gore lamented that he “wished the scientists had been wrong.”

Gore knows that they were not wrong.
“We are doing it,” Gore explained to Stewart. “Putting 90 million tons of this global warming pollution into the atmosphere every day.” He cited this and other reasons as the reason for “longer droughts, deeper floods, stronger storms, riding of sea level.”

The initiative is out there, the majority of the population just has to continue to get on board. Every little bit helps.

“There are reasons for optimism,” Gore stated firmly, “but we gotta get busy solving this.”

And that is where we come in!

Contact the UI Office of Sustainability for any way you can volunteer, do your part, or get involved!

(Posting for Brianna, our intern from Cornell College)

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President Barack Obama Talks Climate Change Goals in Inaugural Address

During his Inaugural Address Tuesday, January 22, 2013 for his second term, President Obama put climate goals center stage.

The President made the policy vow of taking steps to combat climate change the most eye-catching of the second Inaugural Address, dedicating eight entire sentences to it, more than any other topic he discussed, according to The New York Times.

It should also be noted that during the President’s campaign last year, climate change was not a main topic of discussion, and has often been mentioned with any importance or vigor before his speech Tuesday.

However, the fact that President Obama is also looking to use the power of his office more effectively this term, rather than try to compromise with an obstinate Congress is a step in the right direction to get great things accomplished.

“We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that failure to do so would betray our children and future generations,” President Obama said in his Inaugural Address on Tuesday. “Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires, and crippling drought, and more powerful storms.”

Well said, Mr. President. Well said.

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Winter Bicycling Tips

You can still keep riding you bike though the winter! Here are a few tips from Michael Chamberlain, owner of the The Broken Spoke, via the Think Bicycles blog:

Chamberlain gives some tips on tires, fenders, cleaning and clothing for winter riding.  He says you need to just have the right attitude riding in the colder months- just keep doing it!

Finally, no amount of gear will do you any good if you don’t have a can-do attitude! My biggest tip for people is to just keep riding everyday into the colder months. By doing this, you’ll have a day to day experience of what works & what doesn’t as the temperatures gradually decrease. Figure out what was too hot or too cold today & adjust accordingly for tomorrow. It is amazingly easy to ride in the winter if you prepare and adjust and don’t stop riding when the weather gets cold!

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Iowa City Summer of Solutions reps attend Grand Aspirations Gathering

Sharing this blog post from Tom Frakes of Iowa City Summer of Solutions, a great organization that has done so much for the Iowa City community. Tom shares his experiences at the Grand Aspirations 2012 August Gathering in Hartford, Conn. This year’s gathering brought together roughly 60 individuals from SoS programs nationwide as well as leadership from Grand Aspirations and other allied organizations.

These individuals came together from a variety of ages, backgrounds and beliefs in order to build community, share best practices and debrief both challenging and empowering experiences our programs encountered through their work this summer.

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Chris Page: Twenty Candles

Uppasanti Pagoda in Naypyidaw, Myanmar

A blog post from Chris Page, a recent graduate of the University of Iowa. He updates us on his excursion through Asia and his insight into sustainability:

One hundred and twelve pounds of carbon dioxide is what you would emit each year if you lit your home with five candles, four hours a day. Providing 91,500 lumens of light for the year, you wouldn’t be able to read a book or run a business with that little amount of light. Over several years of use, there is a good chance they would start a fire, or give you lung cancer from the benzene, soot and other carcinogens that they emit into the air.

In August, I began work with Proximity Designs in Myanmar to sell d.light solar lanterns to rural households in the country’s Ayerawady Delta and Dry Zone. Before I moved, the carbon emissions, health hazards and lighting capability associated with candles would have seemed trivial. But for the 95 percent of rural villagers in Myanmar without access to electricity, candles and diesel lamps are the only source of light at night. For them, a solar lantern can mean they can shop for farming tools in the evening, or that their children can pursue an education. In short, solar energy has the potential to transform the rural countryside in Myanmar.

The lights, which are as affordable as $10 per light, pay for themselves within a few months of savings from not buying diesel and candles. Built to last, they can survive a fall from a coconut tree, or a dip in the river. And perhaps most significant, they produce the same amount of light as twenty taper candles, all the while emitting no indoor air pollution or carbon dioxide.

Myanmar’s carbon emissions are negligible as a result of 40 years of military rule that stifled economic growth. People here deserve the same quality of life that Americans enjoy, and should not feel guilty for emitting carbon emissions to light their homes. But for most of the villagers with whom I interact, preventing carbon emissions is a major selling point. When they buy the solar lamps, they feel part of something bigger – something global. With the hard work of the Office of Sustainability and other environmentalists’ work throughout Iowa, I feel grateful that they are.

Chris Page, a 2011 graduate of the University of Iowa, welcomes all visitors passing through Asia. For more information on Myanmar, visit his blog at

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Sustainability Certificate: what it means to University of Iowa students (Pt. 2)

For the Earth Month Sustainability Festival in April, a Career Preparedness Abstract Competition was held asking students to answer one of two questions:”What the Sustainability Certificate means to me” or “What does Sustainability education and research at Iowa mean to me.” Here are the top two submissions:

Chelsea Krist, Josh Meier and Becky Kohles, winners of the sustainability abstract contest.

Josh Meier clinched first place and $500 dollars with the gripping way he writes about his grandparents, the land they have owned for 70 years, and how his certificate will be used to change old habits from abundance to balance.

“I see it in my grandfathers aging eyes as he looks across the land. Where for seven decades he offered his heart and soul. Here my father’s bare feet ran through the fields. Here, mine did the same. We’d  been entrusted as caretakers. Yet there’s a hint of uncertainty in his gaze.

“You can’t feed the world on organics…” he rationalizes. I wonder if he believes that. In some ways he must, but the tone belies his pride. Those eyes reveal a swirling conundrum in wake of presumed obligation, digested propaganda and seasons of pressure to obtain bumper yields.  It’s been hard on the farmers.

 It’s been harder on the land.

“It’s not so different than the way things used to be,” counters grandma, referring to the Depression- era practices they were both raised on: Don’t be wasteful. Look out for one another. Work hard to do what’s right. Grandma remembers when you could fill a jug and drink water from the stream. Somehow, over her lifetime we’d lost that. Somewhere it seems we’ve lost our way.

But if we’ve lost our way, we still haven’t lost hope.  For beneath that golden dome that’s long stood sentinel over this countryside, a revival is born.  In the name of Sustainability, the University of Iowa is training leaders of tomorrow with values from long ago. Teaching us to value balance over abundance. Advocating equal social, economic and environmental consideration. Seeking clean energy and reducing consumption. Conserving resources for tomorrow, and inspiring the individual responsibility necessary for global change.

If there’s solace to offer my grandparents, it’s that we will take it from here. The University of Iowa is educating people who are going to change the world, including those of us who plan to start right here at home.”

Second place was awarded to Chelsea Krist with her entry titled “Sustainability, the Spoken Word” and for her efforts, Chelsea won $250. She graduated this May with a degree in geography and a minor in anthropology.

Sustainability, the Spoken Word

We look for open doors in life, and go outside.

Sustainability surrounds me.

To the student, an education centered on studies of sustainability plants

knowledge that fixes The Three Spheres as one,

a circle that surrounds me.

Environmental stewardship, economic sensibility, societal prosperity:

these once bifurcated bubbles are bonded by the dynamic winds of change,

the breeze of sustainability inside the student’s breadth;

a current that surrounds me.

It blows to sew the thoughts of systems; cycling,

resurfacing seeds of antiquity we may have dropped along the way.

Perhaps they were gifts of our grandmothers; there saved, they endure,

awareness that surrounds me.

 The student prone to possibility is directed by The compass,

it points to past from present ‘till tomorrow, encompasses. 

Germination is ever, in sight and in lightening, restoring.

By(e) the bated path of a life-linear, the student trues their tendency;

a movement that surrounds me.

 The ends of the line, topline and bottom-lines, are brought together.

Tethered to around and around and around, and a round begins to resonate,

echoing the cyclical nature of nature-all things, reinforcing.

Sustainability, in occupation of the student’s consciousness, cultivates story-

telling of purpose, perception, preservation and perseverance in

alliteration that surrounds me.

Mindful of sustenance, we plant stories, plant place.

Where we are permanent students, minds-full, sustainability is and it becomes-

a permaculture that surrounds me.

In native tongue, the story’s told tall; tales of action and brilliant novation.

Through crafting compassion from inside and out, our crusades close the loop.

Knotted by opportunity, we are tied to grand ambition: grandchildren, biodiversity,

a presence that surrounds me.

 The students who pre-pone proactivity, re-defy language in a celebration of learning,

they prove,

that sustainability surrounds me.

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