UI celebrates Earth month


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After an event-filled Earth Month, students, staff, and faculty met Tuesday to celebrate ongoing sustainability efforts at the University of Iowa.

The event highlighted different events put on by the UI Office of Sustainability and other campus environmental-advocacy organizations during April, as well as updates on different ongoing sustainability programs on campus.

Nearly 15 events were held including a bike tune-up day, the tail-end of RecycleMania, and a student garden open-house on campus.

RecycleMania is an eight-week program that helps college campuses to promote sustainability and reducing the carbon footprint among students. This year, the UI ranked fifth in the Big Ten and had more than 1,000 participants.

“We did a lot better than last year, and we did a lot better than two years ago,” said UI Sustainability Coordinator Eric Holthaus said. “What we accomplished during RecycleMania, we’re certainly be proud of it. Even though we didn’t rise from second to first, we accomplished a lot.”

Office of Sustainability Director Liz Christiansen said she has gotten to watch the university grow its sustainability initiatives since she arrived in 2008.

“I could not have possibly imagined the progress that we’ve made and the different areas that we’re working in,” she said. “We’re making great progress in the areas of energy reduction. I think we’re building this culture of sustainability.”

Doug Litwiller, Facilities Management’s associate director of energy conservation, more commonly known as “Professor Therm,” talked about a few buildings on campus that will receive lighting renovations for better sustainability. Phillips Hall, MacLean Hall, the Biology Building, and others will all get LED lighting systems for higher efficiency.

The event also honored graduating UI seniors who completed the certificate program in sustainability. Christiansen said many students who graduate with the certificate have gone on to work in the field.

“It’s so gratifying to see students who have gotten the certificate of sustainability now working in sustainability and helping make change happen,” she said.

UI senior Sarah Nagengast, a co-president of the UI Environmental Coalition, said she wants to see more engagement from UI students in helping to reduce, reuse, and recycle, but she sees a knowledge gap.

“You have to realize what consequences your actions have,” she said. “Once you figure out what those are, and what bigger impact you have, it’s kind of hard to ignore it.”

She would like to see the university implement a core-course requirement in sustainability so that students know when they come to campus “what you’re expected to do as a Hawkeye” in terms of sustainability.

Iowa City recycling coordinator Jennifer Jordan said she is thrilled to see so much excitement on campus for protecting the Earth, but she wants to see it as a topic of conversation amongst everyone.

“… reframing the whole conversation, not so it’s an environmental issue, so it’s the issue that we’re all talking about,” she said. “We only have one world, and if we’re not taking care of it, then everything else doesn’t matter.”

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