Kuntz: To sustain a community


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Last week, University of Iowa officials launched the Sustainable Citizen Program, which will attempt to join the efforts of students and community members to make the area more environmentally friendly and sustainable.

Though the university has strong sustainability efforts, reducing waste, cutting costs, and caring about the environment are not goals that stop at the borders of campus. In Iowa City, the entire community will benefit from learning about and joining the effort to become a more sustainable environment.

The new initiative will help to make the sometimes complex idea of sustainability have greater effect on individuals. This will be accomplished by educating and encouraging civic action. 

 Some of the ways in which this university is seeing benefits from student-started sustainability initiatives include tray-less dining, which was strongly advocated by members of the UI Student Government, and Game Day recycling, which was initiated by a UI alumni.

Tray-less dining has only started on this campus this semester, but other colleges have documented anywhere from 25 to 30 percent reduction in waste per student after going tray-less.

The benefits from Game Day recycling were immediately obvious at the first game; volunteers were able to increase recycling from a previously recorded 25 percent to 40 percent.

With driven students and interested community members, initiatives such as these could benefit the larger Iowa City community. 

“We feel that the sustainability knowledge in action is what makes a sustainable citizen,” said Craig Just, a UI assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering and the director of the Sustainable Citizen Program. “The Sustainable Citizen Program launched this week in Los Angeles, and it was very well received.”

One important aspect of this program is the Circle Groups, which each have a specific goal designed to promote active involvement in sustainability.

These groups may have a community coordinator or a student leader, but the leader does not need to be an expert in sustainability. One positive goal of the program is to encourage even those who are not necessarily focused on sustainability to learn more and find ways to make the community more sustainable.

Though the project is still in the very earliest stages, the goals are clear: to increase awareness, gain knowledge and skills, and to help the community become oriented toward action. 

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