New "green" living-learning community hosts first sustainability race


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As much of the University of Iowa and Iowa City community enjoyed a day off from their daily work and school grind, a focused group of area students took part in a first-ever sustainability race Monday.

Two teams of four students each, stemming mainly from the UI’s Green Adventures Living-Learning-Community, biked, canoed, and ran their way through the Amazing Sustainability Race on Labor Day afternoon. The joint effort between various UI offices and organizations, is a spin off from the popular CBS television show “The Amazing Race.”

The more than five-hour excursion included several checkpoints at which UI freshmen performed team-building tasks relating to the outdoors and sustainability over an eight-mile course.

“The checkpoints serve as introductions to great people and places in the community that may otherwise not be on a student’s radar, especially as a new member of the UI and Iowa City community,” said Eric Holthaus, UI Facilities Management recycling coordinator.

The students mulched crops in the UI student garden, speed-assembled tents at Iowa City’s City Park, and sorted waste at Hillcrest.

The different activities represent many of the UI’s seven sustainability targets to be met on or before Dec. 31, 2020, including decreasing waste production, reducing the carbon impact of transportation, and increasing student opportunities to learn and practice principles of sustainability.

Dave Patton, assistant director of the Touch the Earth Outdoor Rental Center, said the cost was covered in part by University Housing, Recreational Services, and Touch the Earth. The city of Iowa City also provided recycling bins for sorting the waste, while UI Facilities Management was responsible for the gardening tools.

“It was like The Hunger Games, but obviously not as deadly,” participant Emily Scaletta said. “I loved it.”

Stephanie Schulz enjoyed the composting leg of the race.

“My parents make me weed the garden at home, and I hate it, but doing it here was really awesome,” she said. “It was this whole atmosphere.”

Patton said he has done similar customized events for student groups on campus, such as the UI swimming and diving and field hockey teams.

“The end goal for me was that we were safe, had fun, and learned,” he said.

Patton said he thinks it’s important to make an impact on first-year students right off the bat to get them involved in outdoor programs.

“We thought integrating sustainability into this race was a fun idea that could be made possible with the sustainability experts on campus and the great resources provided by Touch the Earth,” Holthaus said.

Tyler Sullivan, a UI senior and Touch the Earth employee, said he appreciated the positive attitudes throughout the whole race.

“The competitive thing is just another way to have fun, just another way to challenge yourself and enjoy it more,” he said.

Holthaus said he hopes the event can become either an annual thing or addition to the On Iowa program and will attract more students in the future.

“Our environment is finite, and many of our natural resources and dwindling fast,” he said. “As an institute of higher education, the University of Iowa recognizes this urgent problem and is serving to educate the critical thinkers and problem solvers that will lead us to a more sustainable future.”

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