Weeks 3 & 4: University of Iowa Office of Sustainability

February 4th, 2013

Brianna Meeks ’13 Bowman Fellow in Sustainability

The end of Block 5 marks the end of my internship as a Cornell Fellow in sustainability. My fellowship at the University of Iowa Office of Sustainability was an informative and interesting look into a particular industry. I learned many things during my internship, and I look forward to applying them practically in my everyday life. I have subconsciously always known that sustainability is important, but now I know just how vital and compelling the subject matter is.
My study and work in sustainability struck interesting thoughts for me. Why have we not made sustainability a larger social movement in this country? Why has it not “caught on” in popularity, and why was it not mentioned during the 2012 Presidential Election?
The answers to these questions are probably wide-reaching and numerous, but the fact still remains that in the face of overwhelming scientific evidence, there are many who still do not even believe that climate change is happening. There are corporations and companies, as well as private citizens who do their part to lead greener lives, but a large part of our failure to comply is our culture of convenience. It is easier to leave everything plugged into the wall for when you need to use it, rather than unplugging electronics that are not currently in use; it is more convenient to not sort through garbage for recyclables; coal is a cheaper and well-known way to produce energy, so we stick with it.
The Office of Sustainability at the University of Iowa is full of dedicated and passionate employees, all working toward their goal of a greener campus by 2020. They understand that it must be a unified effort by faculty, staff, and students in order to be successful at accomplishing their goals. The 2020 initiative is detailed and multifaceted, but includes the following:
1. Use less energy in 2020 than was used did in 2010. This will require a 20% decrease in usage.
2. Achieve 40% renewable energy consumption. The University of Iowa was begun to use oat holes to burn with coal, along with seed corn, recycled paper pellets (with adhesives and cardboard and things that cannot be recycled and used again), woodchips and more, thus using less coal. A gradual planned transition from fossil fuels like coal to renewables using the aforementioned methods is planned.
3. Reduce waste, enhance green purchasing, capture more food waste for composting, and educate and communicate. In regard to food waste, I wrote an article about a machine called a food pulper, which almost completely eliminates waste. It turns food into mush, presses water out of the food to filter and use for dishwashing, and then the food mush is used as compost for campus grounds.
4. Achieve 10% reduction in per capita emissions of fossil fuel-derived Carbon dioxide that is generated by University-related transportation and travel. A way to achieve this is through “Bus on the go” (BONGO) whose routes and current locations are available via internet, smart phone, or tablet. This bus is free and also open to the public.
5. Support growth in educational and on-campus opportunities, which the University of Iowa has begun to do by having more majors, minors, and certificates for sustainability-related coursework.
6. Become a leader in academic research in water sustainability by 2020, since water is a rapidly depleting resource in out world.
7. Build international and national partnerships to advance academic and operational initiatives.
With these goals and the University of Iowa in mind, Cornell College should follow suit by making a specific plan with specific goals in an effort to better our only home and only planet, Earth, whose resources we continue to strip and whose water and air we continue to heavily pollute.
The opportunities to help and get involved are readily available on Cornell’s campus. The Environmental Club on Cornell’s campus is dedicated to helping raise initiatives on campus in an effort to move towards greater sustainability. We also have energy management, recycling, and other sustainability initiatives. The building of Russell Hall and renovations to Cole Library and Pfeiffer Hall were completed meeting standards of a program called Leadership in Energy and Environmental (LEED) which I also learned about during my fellowship.

I will be working with the Environmental Club on campus (and perhaps even become a member) to look at Cornell’s current sustainability efforts, and perhaps even come up with a plan of my own for them.

All in all I am very proud to be able to say that I am a Cornell Fellow.

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