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Sustainability goals set

BY CATHRYN SLOANE | NOVEMBER 01, 2010 7:15 AM

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The University of Iowa became the first university in its Environmental Protection Agency region to sign an agreement on sustainability with the organization.

UI officials unveiled seven goals for increasing sustainability on Oct. 29, and President Sally Mason signed the Sustainability Partnership Program agreement with the EPA.

“It’s easy to claim to be green by making a few token gestures,” Mason said. “The more difficult, and I think far better thing, is to lead the commitment to sustainability. That’s the path we chose to follow.”

Mason signed the agreement with Karl Brooks, EPA Region 7 administrator, who oversees his agency’s operations in Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, and Nebraska. The EPA will contribute technical expertise in addition to guiding the UI in accomplishing its seven sustainable goals in regards to water and energy conservation over the next decade, Brooks said.

The goals the university has set include decreasing waste production, reducing carbon impact of transportation, increasing opportunities for students to learn about sustainability, encouraging interdisciplinary research in sustainability, and continuing to develop partnerships, according to a pamphlet handed out at the press conference.

EPA officials said they look forward to the advances in sustainability the partnership will create. UI officials initiated the agreement.

“The partnership enhances our mutual efforts to complimentary address climate change, to improve air quality, to improve chemical safety and handling, as well as to protect America’s great rivers, one of which flows right outside our door here,” Brooks said, gesturing toward the big glass windows next to him, which showcased the Iowa River.

The goals will encourage material management, conserve scarce resources, and prevent pollution in general, he said.

Liz Christiansen, the director of the UI Office of Sustainability, said she thinks the most important goals are to consume less energy on campus in 2020 than the university community consumes now and to pursue a renewable-energy supply.

“It’s all about energy,” she said. “When we want to reduce our carbon footprint, we’ve got to start with energy, and we’ve got to start with energy conservation.”

According to a report card from the Sustainable Endowments Institute, the UI receives lower scores than Iowa State University, the only other school the organization ranked in Iowa. The UI received a C-minus overall; ISU received a B. The UI also scored lower than ISU in every category except Investment Priorities — the only category in which the UI ranked higher than a C.

Mason said a lot of the overall initiative is tied to the 2008 flood.

“In spite of that disaster and in part, because of it, the university has already made important strides in sustainability,” she said.

Some of these strides include the Iowa Flood Center installing devices on bridges to monitor local water flow, a living-learning community created for students interested in sustainability, and a sustainability certificate being established for students, Mason said.

“We’re only just getting started in our efforts to make the University of Iowa one of the greenest campuses anywhere,” she said.


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