2016 College Creek Clean-up Recap

Hello! Sindhuja back again with another blog about another great, green summer event that supported and connected to Iowa State University’s Live Green! Initiative as well as the City of Ames’ commitment to sustainability. 

One of the projects I got to take part in this summer was the 8th Annual College Creek Clean-up. Like all other projects we take on in The Office of Sustainability, this event was developed as an educational, engagement and empowerment experience for  ISU students, faculty, and staff and the Ames community!

The 8th Annual College Creek Clean-Up was held on Saturday, June 25. For those of you who may not be aware, College Creek is an attractive (but somewhat tucked away and elusive) stream that flows through the heart of Iowa State University’s campus and serves as a vital component of our campus ecosystem. You can also catch it flowing past the Lied Recreational Center, behind the nooks at the Memorial Union, and finally diving under Lincoln Way.

Notably, College Creek acts as a home for a variety of turtle species, tadpoles, fish, insects, birds and even a few mammals. All of them are counting on a clean creek to ensure that their ecosystem is thriving. Like many other waterways, though, College Creek acts as a catch-all point for hundreds of plastic bags, empty bottles and many other items that not only pollute the water, but also the surrounding habitat.

To combat this challenge, an intern in the Office of Sustainability had an idea for the first College Creek Clean-Up. It was so popular that volunteers asked about an event for the following year, and the Clean-Up has been happening annually ever since! 

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Over 50volunteers came ready to participate in this year’s event. Armed with trash pickers, gloves, insect repellant, sunscreen, and loads of trash bags, the dedicated volunteers spent hours cleaning up the creek.

Participants in ISU’s George Washington Scholars program were a particularly joyful group of this year’s volunteers! The George Washington Scholars program offers one hundred full-tuition scholarships to incoming multicultural first year students. It’s a great initiative that helps empower a great group of individuals carrying on the Cyclone legacy.

In total the volunteers from both the community and ISU averaged 125 work hours and collected over 300 pounds of garbage. They trekked through the water, cleaning 1.5 miles of the waterway.


Some interesting objects were found in the watery depths, including:

  • Bottles
  • Cans
  • Takeaway food containers
  • Lots of plastic bags.
  • A cell phone
  • A part of a bleacher seat
  • A car tire
  • A folding chair
  • Part of a railroad tie


The Live Green! team thanked for volunteers for their efforts with delicious refreshments from Fighting Burrito (which is a Platinum certified member of the City of Ames Smart Business Challenge), Cookies Etc. and Hy-Vee.

Additionally a number of local businesses provided door prizes, samples, and goodies to allow every volunteer to take home a little extra thank you. These businesses included Arcadia Café, Chocolaterie Stam, Dogtown University, Jax Outdoor Gear, and Worldly Goods.

In addition to thanking our wonderful local business partners, we would like to offer a special thanks to our campus partners who ensured that our volunteers had all the information, support and supplies they needed and that all logistics ran smoothly, including: College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Environmental Health and Safety, Facilities Planning and Management, and Student Activities Center and University Relations.

For more of an inside look at this year’s event and to be the first to know about our 9th Annual College Creek Cleanup in 2017, connect to our Facebook Page here!


Reuse, Re-purpose, Recycle Market Comes to Ames!

Hello –   My name is Sindhuja Ram and I am a proud member of the Live Green! Leadership Team at Iowa State University, and I’ve served as a Special Initiatives Intern over the summer and the fall 2016 semester. Even though this event happened during the summer, I’d encourage you to consider reused, re-purposed and recycled items as an option year round – especially now that the holiday season is upon us!

Do you ever find yourself searching for a unique buy, a vintage collection, a special assortment of goods, or a new-to-you-treasure?  Are you interested in learning about unique ways to use what you have instead of buying something new?  

Well look no further than the Reuse, Re-Purpose, Recycle Market! This brand new community event was envisioned by Worldly Goods, a local non-profit, fair trade store (and gold certified member of the City of Ames Smart Business Challenge), and it took place on Sunday August 28th  on Main Street in downtown Ames.

Thirty different vendors rented space on Main Street to display their up-cycled, recycled, and reused wares and wears. In this street market type atmosphere – speckled with tents housing sustainably-minded  treasures – the public was invited to purchase items supporting businesses and organizations that in turn support reuse, repurpose and recycling through their products and services. The event drew a diverse crowd throughout the six-hour event including residents from the City of Ames, many surrounding communities, and college students just returning to  Iowa State University for the Fall 2016 semester.

Eighteen official community volunteers and volunteers from AmeriCorps NCCC helped the event come together, and the Market was truly a success for its first year!

Sustainability highlights of the event included:

  • Reused, re-purposed, recycled items finding new homes
  • Trash sorting stations throughout the event that allowed attendees to repurpose the waste they generated at the event through recycling and composting
  • The overall boost in awareness of repurposing options and opportunities available in our community

As a local non-profit, fair trade store, Worldly Goods follows a mission focused on inspiring and supporting  social justice, sustainable livelihoods, and environmental resiliency by providing a marketplace for artisans of the world to earn a living wage, support their families, and develop their communities. This mission is further reflected in their daily work practice to reuse, repurpose, and recycle whatever and whenever possible.

Visit Worldly Goods for more information about their initiatives and commitment to engaging and empowering our community and communities around the world in discovering and committing to small steps that collectively ripple toward ensuring a greener and more sustainable future!


Stay connected to Live Green! and the many stellar sustainability events happening in our community by following our Facebook page here. And be sure to check out our Pinterest for some creative ideas to your Reused, Repurposed, and Recycled items!

2016 National Campus Sustainability Day

Paige: Hi, I’m Paige Vanderleest.

Molly: and I’m Molly Breen!

Paige: We’re the 2016-2017 Live Green! Campus and Community Engagement Interns!

Molly: We’re so excited to be on the team this year helping ISU work towards it’s sustainable future.

Paige: Yes, we’ve already had a great three months and our first event is already in the books!

Molly: We had such a blast planning National Campus Sustainability Day. Read below to see what it was all about!

2016 Iowa State University National Campus Sustainability Day

On Thursday, October 20th excitement was in the air as local businesses and student organizations began to set up bright and inviting displays. The Ames and ISU communities were coming together in celebration of National Campus Sustainability Day and our collective commitment to a sustainable future.

Curiosity began to spark in the students passing by. Their regular walks to classes, study sessions and on-campus jobs were brightened by the positive energy that the event brought to campus.


A National Celebration

Every October, National Campus Sustainability Day is held as a part of National Campus Sustainability Month. The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, AASHE, holds NCSM in order to celebrate, promote and educate students about sustainability both on their campuses and in their communities.

2016 was Iowa State University’s 6th annual National Campus Sustainability Day. The Green Umbrella student organization, in part with the Live Green! Initiative and the Office of Sustainability, sponsors this annual event. This year, the event’s theme was Small Steps for Big Change, which encourages the idea that small actions create a ripple effect and result in substantial impact and change.

Iowa State participated in National Campus Sustainability month with over 68 other colleges and universities. To learn more about the celebration on a national level, please follow this link to AASHE’s website.

ISU’s National Campus Sustainability Day Continues to Grow

The event has historically grown bigger and bigger every year. Each celebration hits a new record of student and community engagement.

 This year’s event brought together a record-breaking 50 clubs, organizations, and businesses who all showcased their sustainable causes and commitments. In order to participate in the event, organizations were asked to illustrate their connection to one of the three facets of sustainability: social, environmental or economic, as they are discussed in our May, 18 2015 blog post. There was a wide array of connections to sustainability showcased by participating organizations making the event diverse and dynamic.

An estimated 1,000+ students, faculty and staff attended this year’s celebration! In addition to learning about current sustainability issues and opportunities, attendees were able to enjoy cookies, coffee and hot chocolate.

A wonderful perk and popular favorite of this event is the opportunity for a free-bike tune-up from ISU’s Outdoor Recreation program. This year, ISU Long Boarding Club added a new, very well-received feature – providing free long boarding tune-ups.! Together, Outdoor Recreation and Long Boarding Club were able to collectively provide over 100 tune-ups!

To ensure committed engagement of attendees and participating organizations,, attendees were offered the opportunity to earn sustainably-minded prizes by engaging with organizations. The process involved attendees obtaining a prize card with 25 circles each representing engaging with one organization. The more organizations attendees talked to, the more prizes they were able to earn!

Prizes included:

  • Visit 5+ organizations= Live Green! button or sticker
  • Visit 10+ organizations = Live Green! sewing kit or car charger
  • Visit 15+ organizations = Live Green! reusable coffee mug
  • Visit 20+ organizations= receive everything
  • Visit 25+ organizations= drawing from door prizes

In addition, to be eligible for any prizes, attendees had to also sign the event pledge wall leaving their personal commitment to sustainability. These pledges included a lot of key takeaways from the event such as: being a more conscious consumer, biking to class, and choosing reuse over disposable.

The event would not be possible without the support of our donors. They were instrumental in providing both refreshments and door prizes for the event. Thanks to Aveda Salon & Spa, Café Diem, Chocolaterie Stam, Stomping Grounds Café, Olde Main, HyVee, Starbucks, and The Loft Ames.

The event was a great opportunity to connect the campus community to sustainable organizations on and off-campus and to celebrate sustainability together as a community. The event was both the start and a continuation of a sustainable ripple effect in Ames and beyond!

To see our event in action, visit our Facebook Photo Album.

If you would like to participate in future events, either by volunteering or tabling on behalf of an organization, please contact us – Molly at , mkbreen@iastate.edu, or Paige at, paigev@iastate.edu, for more information!

5 Reasons to Check Out the Ames Farmers’ Markets

Hi, everyone! My name is Laurelin, and I’m an intern in the Office of Sustainability! I’m back with a brand new blog post about local foods in Ames – check out my top five reasons to visit the Farmers’ Markets!

Over the past year, I’ve been battling against the greatest challenge of my college career: learning how to cook. I moved into an apartment as a senior, and ever since I’ve struggled to prepare my meals. Today – approximately 1,000 meals later – I’m can pretty much fend for myself in the kitchen. But my biggest problem is that I never really feel inspired to cook.

So this fall I resolved to go to the farmers’ markets and add some variety into my weekly meals! Here in Ames, we have not one but two farmers’ markets to choose from! Both markets have a six-month season, running from early May through late October. The Ames Main Street Farmers’ Market is held every Saturday from 8am to 12:30pm in downtown Ames, and the North Grand Farmers’ Market is held each Wednesday from 3-6pm and Saturday from 8am-12:30pm in the parking lot north of JCPenneys at North Grand Mall.

From a sustainability standpoint, farmers’ markets support the environment, the economy, and the community! Farmers’ markets protect the environment by minimizing the distance food travels from farm to fork, support the economy by creating a marketplace for local goods, and promote stronger community ties through vendor-visitor interactions!

When I arrived at the farmers’ markets, I was amazed by the selection of fresh, local produce (which is definitely one of perks of going to school in Iowa)! I was also surprised that the farmers’ markets had a lot more to offer than food! There was a wide variety of handmade goods, like upcycled aprons, jewelry, and soap, and there was also free entertainment! Local bands were playing covers of well known hits, and face painting was offered for children!

After strolling up and down the market several times, I left with a bag full of fresh produce and new ideas for my next meal swirling around in my head! I’m definitely going to start attending the farmers markets’ more frequently, and here are my top five reasons why you should check out your local farmers’ market, too!


1. Connect with the community

Farmers’ markets are a great way to connect with your community! Becoming more engaged can be as simple as asking the vendors about their favorite items, striking up a conversation with a fellow food truck enthusiast, or stopping to say hello to the performing musicians! During my time at the farmers’ market, I had a long conversation with a vendor about the different ways to produce organic honey. I learned a lot, got a free sample, and connected with someone I might never have met otherwise!

2. Learn where your food comes from

Farmers’ markets make it easy to learn where your food comes from! When I’m shopping for groceries at large supermarket chains, I find it difficult to figure out where the food I’m purchasing comes from.  But when I’m at the farmers’ market, I can get answers to my questions by asking the vendors directly about their products and production!


3. Get inspired to use new ingredients

Strolling around the farmers’ market can give you new inspiration for your meals! When I came across an ingredient I was unfamiliar with at the farmers’ market, I asked the vendor for more information about it. Not only did the vendor identify the mystery vegetable (kohlrabi), she also told me how it could be prepared and what other foods could be paired with it! Now that I’m empowered to learn about new foods, I can share my knowledge (and experimental dishes) with others!


4. Grab meals on the go

Farmers’ markets are a prime gathering place for food trucks! In addition to getting ingredients for future meals, I also love to pick up food on the go at the farmers’ market. I’ve made it my goal to try as many different food trucks as possible before I graduate, which helps support Ames businesses and lets me live out my dreams as a (local) foodie!

5. Enjoy the outdoors

With a full schedule of classes, clubs and organizations, and two part time jobs, I spend a lot of my time in a classroom, an office, or at my desk. The farmers’ markets give me a reason to spend an hour or two outside every weekend, and when the weather is nice, the combination of fresh air, sunshine, and the hustle and bustle of the market really do lift my spirits and help me unwind from the long week!

Although the farmers’ market season is coming to an end, you can embrace your inner local foodie all year round! Check out local businesses around the community, and keep searching out new experiences! I’m sure that your stomach will thank you for it!

Written by Laurelin Haas, Live Green! Special Initiatives Intern
Featured Image: extension.iastate.edu

RAMPing Up Sustainability: “Greening” the July Move Out Season

Hello, everyone! My name is Laurelin, and I’m a Special Initiatives intern in the Office of Sustainability! I’m back today with a wrap-up post on the Rummage RAMPage, a city-wide rummage sale that helped divert household items from the landfill while raising money for local nonprofits! Check out the rest of the post to learn more about the event!

The end of July can be a stressful time for renters – especially in a college town. Students who have stuck around for the summer have a few weeks to move to different living spaces for the upcoming school year. Ames streets are filled with moving trucks stacked high with boxes, and unwanted furniture is left behind on the curb.

During these weeks, the Ames Resource Recovery Plant (RRP) often sees an influx of couches, wooden furniture, clothing, and more as renters attempt to meet their move out requirements. The Ames RRP is a waste-to-energy facility that receives garbage from Ames and surrounding communities, and the burnable portion of the refuse is used as renewable and local fuel to generate electricity. Unfortunately many move out items, such as large furniture, are classified as non-burnable material that is not beneficial to the Resource Recovery System and is sent to the landfill.

I experienced the hustle and bustle of July move-out season for myself this past year. Because I was working in Ames I lived in university housing over the summer, and at the end of July I was preparing to move out of my old apartment into a new space for the fall semester.

Looking around my apartment, I faced a dilemma: What should I do with my old household items that I wanted to throw away but were too large for my trashcan? I wanted to move out sustainably, but didn’t know how to put my old electronics and furniture to good use in the community.


The showroom of the Rummage RAMPage was located in the Ames Intermodal Facility

Luckily, the City of Ames had a solution – the 2016 Rummage RAMPage was held in the Ames Intermodal Facility parking ramp from July 29th to August 2nd, and the five-day event gave everyone in the Ames community a chance to reduce the amount of material sent to the landfill by partnering reusable household goods with new owners!

The Intermodal Facility was transformed into a showroom with separate sections for couches and chairs, dining sets, exercise equipment, cabinets and storage, and small household items. Once items were purchased, they were set aside in a separate area.

Throughout the event, volunteers kept the event running smoothly by manning a cash register, pricing items, and loading items in and out of the showroom.

As a community member, the donation process was simple. Donors could either drop off their items in person at the Intermodal Facility or pay a small fee to have volunteers pick up their items from their curb. And visitors purchasing items were able to conveniently park next to the showroom and load their new items into their vehicle.

The items that were accepted at the Rummage RAMPage included furniture, small electronics, flat screen televisions, housewares, kitchenware, and non-perishable food. All items were “priced to move,” at $1, $5, $10, and $20, and the proceeds were divided up among the non-profit volunteer groups that donated their time to the event.

By the end of the week, the Rummage RAMPage had managed to:

  • Divert 22 tons of furniture and housewares out of the landfill
  • Raise almost $6,000 for local non-profit agencies

I spent some time working at the Rummage RAMPage on the very first day it was held, and I was absolutely taken aback by the community’s outpouring of support for the event. As I moved couches, tables, exercise equipment, entertainment systems, and even the occasional child’s viola into the showroom, I couldn’t believe how many people were willing to donate their items to a good cause!

The level of excitement continued to grow throughout the week as the sales began. Items brought in were quickly turned over to new owners – and some items didn’t even make it to the showroom floor before they found a new home!

It was a lot of fun to walk through the showroom each day and check out the new arrivals. There were so many hidden treasures that caught my eye, including a bright pink exercise bike and a homemade ice cream maker. And towards the end of the event I purchased a used door mat for my apartment that’s sensible and matches my decor!

The Green Umbrella President, Megan, as well as Live Green! interns Kathryn and Sindhuja also volunteered during the event! Check out their stories and most memorable moments below:

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Megan Kathryn Sindhuja
The Rummage RAMPage was a truly unique experience. Part of what made the event so incredibly unique is that each day I got to watch items that would have sat in someone’s garage or gone to the landfill become re-purposed into something much more useful. A group of us got creative and would talk to visitors about how they could fix up different items in order to make them more functional or beautiful. People thought we were a little ridiculous, but it was fun and several folks liked our creativity enough to try it for themselves! It was amazing to see how many community members donated their items instead of selling them for few extra dollars or simply throwing them away. It was a wonderful to watch the selflessness of the donors and see the joy on visitors’ faces as they were able to afford and purchase lightly used furniture and other household items. I worked one of the last days of the Rummage RAMPage, and I was completely surprised that items were being donated and sold almost until the last minute of the event. Each person who attended the event expressed how much they enjoyed it and encouraged us to host the event again! One of the most powerful parts of volunteering at Rummage RAMPage was seeing all the happy faces of the visitors after finding and purchasing a hidden treasure. The event felt a little chaotic at times, especially during the peak hours of the RAMPage over the weekend. But the wonderful efforts of volunteers helped to keep the event running smoothly. Members from various service groups did everything from pricing donations to loading up buyers’ cars. The event was truly a great showcase of the community coming together!

Event planners are already working on Rummage RAMPage 2017 beginning at the end of July and extending into early August, so if you missed the event this year there will be many opportunities in the future to participate!

Hold onto your old couches, bed frames, tables, electronics, lamps, microwaves and more and donate them to next year’s Rummage RAMPage event! And who knows? You might even find new-to-you treasures to take back home!

Written by Laurelin Haas, Live Green! Special Initiatives Intern

Check out more pictures of the event at our Live Green! Facebook album.

Learn more about the event at KCCI.com!


I Pledge to be Sustainable

Madi: Hello everyone!  Laurelin and I are back with one final blog post for you all!

Laurelin: The year has sadly come to an end and while I won’t miss the stress of finals and classes, I’m definitely going to miss working as a Live Green! intern.

Madi: To wrap things up and bring the blog full circle, Laurelin and I wanted our final post to be a reflection on what we learned about sustainability.

Laurelin: We also wanted to highlight the many ways ISU students have pledged to live sustainably throughout the school year.

Madi: So we hope you enjoy this quick post, and thank you so much for your interest in ISU Live Green! and sustainability!

Sustainability Pledges

At each of our events this year, we asked all of our attendees to demonstrate their commitment to sustainability through some sort of prompt and pledge wall. This activity empowers students, staff, and faculty members to think critically about sustainability and how they can make an impact on the environment through changes (large or small) in their lifestyle!

At National Campus Sustainability Day in the fall and Earth Day in the spring, attendees wrote their pledges on our trifold chalkboard.

At Sustainapalooza, attendees wrote their pledge on a large pledge wall!  This past year, we challenged attendees to think critically about the different facets of sustainability. We created large graphics and prompts for five topics related to sustainable lifestyles: water conservation, energy conservation, economic sustainability, social sustainability, and waste reduction.


The pledges from Sustainapalooza were very unique and diverse. To showcase the wide range of pledges, we’ve created infographics containing all of the different ways Sustainapalooza participants will live more sustainably.

How will you conserve water?

Water Conservation Wordle

How will you conserve energy?


How will you practice economic sustainability?

Economic Sustainablity Wordle

How will you give back to your community?

Community:Hand Wordle

How will you reduce your waste?


Madi: Reflecting back on this past year, it astounds me how much I’ve grown through this internship. My knowledge, appreciation, and passion for sustainability have all increased.

Working for the Office of Sustainability taught me a lot about myself and that I can always strive to be more sustainable.  I am also now convinced that I need to invest in a Bokashi composter.

Working as a Live Green! Campus and Community Engagement intern not only taught me how to be more sustainable, it also taught me how to inspire my friends, family and colleagues to live more sustainably and how important it is to promote more sustainable lifestyles everyday.

“We don’t have to engage in grand, heroic actions to participate in the process of change. Small acts, when multiplied by millions of people, can transform the world.”

– Howard Zinn

Thank you for reading our posts. I’ve loved and enjoyed writing them for you all to read!

Laurelin: From tiny houses to Valentine’s Day chocolates, I’ve had a really fun time writing and researching the Live Green! posts throughout the year! Although I have an environmental studies background, I was surprised to find that I learned new things every day as a Live Green! intern.

My hands-on experiences with the Zero Waste Week Challenge and planning all of the different sustainability events also helped connect what I’m learning in the classroom to my everyday life.

Sustainability is a huge, broad topic that can seem a little intimidating at first – with environmental, economic, and social problems around the globe, how can one person make a difference?

As a Campus and Community Engagement intern, I think my biggest takeaway is this: No one has to solve all the world’s problems alone – if everyone starts with one thing, we can collectively work towards a more sustainable future.

FINAL Start with 1

Like Madi mentioned earlier, thank you for reading all of our posts and following the blog throughout the year! It’s been a pleasure to write for Live Green! and I look forward to keeping up with the blog in the future!

Written by: Laurelin Haas and Madi VanGundy, Campus and Community Engagement Interns

Photos by: Grace Lee

Celebrating Earth Month at Iowa State

Our wonderful Honors student, Lauren Young, is back writing a blog on her Earth Month experience! In celebration of the many sustainable activities that go on in the Ames community throughout the month of April, Live Green! creates a comprehensive calendar that highlights events at ISU and in Ames, and The Green Umbrella holds a week of fun activities throughout Earth Week! Now without further ado, here’s Lauren!

Hello, it’s me again! My name is Lauren Young, and I’m currently an undergraduate doing research with the Office of Sustainability. As you might know, the April 22nd was Earth Day but you might be surprised to learn that the entire month of April was Earth Month!

Over the past month, I tried to attend a multitude of events around the Ames area relating to sustainability in celebration of Earth Month. Since sustainability is made up of three main facets – environmental, economic, and social sustainability – the events varied from Greek community philanthropies to a speech by Bill Nye (I know, exciting right?!).

1. Social Sustainability Within the Greek Community

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As a member of the the Greek community I had the opportunity to attend numerous philanthropic events put on by Greek chapters this month.

The first was Alpha Chi Omega’s Quesadillas, which benefitted the Assault Care Center Extending Shelter and Support (ACCESS) and promoted sexual assault awareness. The quesadillas were terrific, there were chips and guacamole, and the meal was topped off with Insomnia Cookies! What more can a girl ask for?

My own chapter also put on a philanthropy event earlier this month, Pi Phi Taco Time. We served extra-large walking tacos, and the money raised benefits Read>Lead>Achieve, an organization that promotes literacy. We also held a book drive in which people could donate books for children in need and be entered in the a raffle for prizes.

The last Greek philanthropy I attended was Mac Attack, put on by Delta Delta Delta sorority and Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity. The event included delicious macaroni and cheese bowls and a complete topping bar (swoon). The proceeds went to the St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital. Each of these events cost $5 a ticket, and they were a great way to purchase delicious food while also giving back to some amazing causes (benefitting social sustainability) and supporting my fellow members of the Greek community here at Iowa State.

2. ISU’s Upcycled Fashion Wins Best in Show

I also had the opportunity to attend this year’s Iowa State Fashion Show. As a fashion lover, this was extremely exciting for me and I had a wonderful time. From the people backstage, to the designers and even the models, everything was organized by ISU students. The stage decorations were gorgeous, and I loved all of the runway garments.

At the end of the program, awards were given to the designers, including an award for Best in Show. The Best in Show award was given to a young woman who created looks inspired by and created with recycled office supplies. It was awesome to see such beautiful garments made from upcycled materials like post-it notes. And best of all, the designs were eco-friendly!

3. A Call to Action from Bill Nye

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One of my favorite events from Earth Month was attending a lecture by Bill Nye. It was a bit of a drive since he was speaking at Drake University in Des Moines, but the lecture was definitely worth it, and I reduced my carbon footprint by carpooling with friends! (Yay, sustainability!)

The lecture took place in Drake’s basketball stadium, and the venue was absolutely packed. I ended up standing on a railing because all the seats were taken. Bill Nye’s lecture covered a variety of topics. He began with his family history and his father’s fascination with sundials, then he spoke about his work on the Mars rovers, and finally he addressed climate change.

Nye recently released a book about climate change, and during his lecture he really stressed that we, as young college students, have the responsibility to make a difference. Halfway through the program, Neil Degrasse Tyson called Nye and we got the hear their conversation over the microphone. My inner nerd has never fangirled so hard.

Nye then took questions from the audience, which included an intense discussion about terraforming other planets and also Bill wonderfully explaining to an adorable young child why he believes in infinity. It was an amazing experience and eye-opening overall and I hope he comes to speak at Iowa State in the future.

4. Showcasing Diversity at the ISU Cyclone Market

On a beautiful Saturday morning, I headed over to the Cyclone Market. This was an outdoor event held in the Jack Trice Stadium parking lot. Organizations set up tables to promote their cause, and some sold food and gifts to fundraise.

I personally though that Team PrISUm’s solar powered car was really cool. There were also cute little succulent plants for sale that caught my eye. I bought a heavenly mango smoothie for $1 from one of the multicultural organizations, and it was a perfect icy treat as the day started to heat up. The spring football game followed Cyclone Market, and I managed to get seats in the very front row – where I also got a wicked sunburn.

5. Celebrating Earth Day on the ISU Campus

On April 22nd, the Green Umbrella student organization and the Office of Sustainability hosted Earth Day at ISU! Held on a Friday this year, the event was located on the south library lawn.

The venue was full of campus and community organizations that support sustainability and eco-friendly living. There was a small pledge wall where students were prompted to share how they are friendly to the Earth. There was also a stationary bike that produced enough energy to power a computer, high tech solar panels, and a wind turbine! Unfortunately I could not stay at the event for very long (since I had to hurry off to class) but it was still fun to walk around even for a little while.

I celebrated Earth Day in my own way later that afternoon by enjoying the outdoors and having some zen time laying in my hammock.

6. Exercising for a Cause with Happy Strong Healthy Magazine

The last event I was able to attend during Earth Month was a 5K put on by Happy Strong Healthy magazine, which is a new campus organization. The magazine features lots of articles on mental, physical, and emotional health in a college setting.

When I first signed up for the 5K I fully intend to run the race, but when I got there I found some friends and we decided to just walk together. It was a beautiful spring day and the 5K took us on a great route on and off campus. I got to spend some time talking with friends while meeting my daily step goal on my FitBit. It was a great way to end the month!

Photo 5

Overall, going to all of these events was immensely rewarding. It forced me to really get out of my comfort zone and appreciate what goes on in and around our community every April. Instead of just sitting inside studying or watching Netflix, I got to explore campus, learn about the environment, meet new people, experience new adventures, and give back to the community – all while being sustainable!

It was a very successful Earth Month, and my experiences are just the tip of the iceberg. There’s an incredible diversity of sustainable events and opportunities here at Iowa State University if you just start looking!

I’m so happy to have been given the chance to work on this project. I have learned so much about sustainability and have gotten some wonderful and unique research experience. It has been rewarding to do something that positively impacts ISU and I am very grateful to have been given this opportunity. I hope getting to see some of my experiences through this blog have inspired others. So long!

Author: Lauren Young
Editor: Laurelin Haas
Featured Image: Grace Lee

2016 Zero Waste Week Challenge

Do you know how much waste the average person produces in a day?  The answer is 4.3 pounds.  Over a year, that adds up to about 1,600 pounds of waste!

The good news is you can easily reduce that number by becoming more aware of what you’re throwing away.  By being a little more conscientious of your trash output, you can change your old habits and live more sustainably.

Take the Zero Waste Week Challenge from April 18th to April 22nd and commit to producing as little waste as possible for an entire week!


  1. Sign up for the challenge on this Google Form
  2. Collect any waste that you do not recycle or compost in a 1 gallon bag
  3. From April 18th to the 22nd, carry around the bag with you at all times
  4. Submit your results to be entered in to win the grand prize

A. Post a picture of your final Zero Waste Week bag on the Earth Week Facebook            page to be entered in 1 time
B. Bring your bag to Earth Day (April 22nd from 11am-2pm on the South Library            Lawn) to be entered in 5 times
C. Complete both and be entered in to win 6 times

The grand prizes include a gift card to Cafe Baudelaire and Dog Town. Two winners will be chosen on April 25th!

Tips and Tricks

The Week Before

  • Avoid grocery shopping waste: Bring reusable totes, cloth bags (for bulk aisles), and jars (for wet items like cheese and deli foods) to the store

During the Week

  • Avoid carrying apple cores and other smelly food waste around with you all day – pre-cut your fruit at home and take it with you on the go in tupperware
  • Avoid excess packaging at all cost – it’ll fill up your bag faster than you realize
  • Paper towels and disposable cleaning supplies are ultimately trash – they’ll fill up your bag as well (try cleaning up with a reusable rag or sponge)



  • Think of recycling as a last resort. Have you refused, reduced, or reused first? Question the need and life-cycle of your purchases.
  • Buy primarily in bulk or secondhand, but if you must buy new, choose glass, metal, or cardboard.
  • Avoid plastic: Much of it gets shipped across the world for recycling and often ends up in the landfill (or worse yet, the ocean).
  • Links to recycling information in Ames:
    • Visit Ames Recycling Programs to learn the best ways to recycle cans and bottles, cardboard, clothing, electronics, glass, household goods, printer cartridges, rechargable batteries, and more!
    • Iowa State’s FP&M Recycling Tips provide some basic ground rules that all students should follow!

For your Recycling Bin

Not for your Recycling Bin

  • Paper (including envelopes and magazines)
  • Newspaper
  • Cardboard
  • Metal
  • Plastics
  • Glass
  • Aluminum cans and aluminum foil (make sure to wipe it clean first)
  • E-waste (i.e.e cellphones, computer supplies, and more)
  • Liquids
  • Chemicals
  • Yard waste (compost instead)
  • Food waste (compost instead)
  • Styrofoam
  • Cellophane (i.e. the plastic window on some cardboard boxes)
  • Aerosol cans



  • Too cold to compost outdoors? Try an indoor composting system! Bokashi composting kits are specifically designed for urban areas without access to much space outdoors, and the special fermentation process they use is odor-free!
  • Find a compost system that works for your home and get to know what it will digest (dryer lint, hair, and nails are all compostable). Check out this list of 80+ items that you can compost!
  • Turn your home kitchen trash can into one large compost receptacle. The bigger the compost receptacle, the more likely you’ll be to use it freely.
  • Don’t have a compost bin in your house? Try saving all of your food scraps in a separate ziploc bag, and store them in your freezer. Then at the end of the week, give your scraps to a friend who has a composting bin!

Advice from The Live Green! Team

The Live Green Team took part in the Zero Waste Week Challenge earlier this semester to ensure they could offer their experiences as others take the challenge and have kept records of their experiences! Check out the links below to read about our Zero Waste Week challenges, and ah-ha moments!  We learned a lot about waste and ourselves.


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Celebrating Sustainapalooza 2016

Laurelin: Hello, everyone! Madi and I are back to introduce our guest blogger, Lauren!

Madi: Lauren is an Honors student working with the Live Green! Initiative this semester, and we’re very happy to have her help covering Sustainapalooza!

Laurelin: Before we dive into Lauren’s article, we’d first like to take a moment to thank the volunteers, tabling organizations, poster session participants, and GIY station leaders who worked behind the scenes to make Sustainapalooza possible!

Madi: And we’d like to give a special thank you to The Green Umbrella! Their passion and enthusiasm for sustainability were really the driving force behind the entire event!

Laurelin: Now let’s welcome Lauren!


The theme of Sustainapalooza 2016 was “One World, Green World.”

My name is Lauren Young, and I’m so excited to be guest posting on the the Live Green! blog. I am currently a freshman with an Open Option major. As an Honors student, I was given the opportunity to be a part of the First Year Mentors Program, which pairs up students with mentors at the university to participate in research projects. With the help of my mentor, Merry Rankin, I have been doing research on sustainability, writing articles for the newsletter, and attending this year’s Sustainapalooza.

This annual event take place in the Great Hall of the Memorial Union to promote sustainability at Iowa State. Tons of tables, posters, volunteers, food, and crafts are brought in, and anyone is welcome to come.

This was my first year attending and volunteering at Sustainapalooza. I showed up a little before my volunteering shift as the hustle of set up was beginning to die down. I grabbed my name tag and went to my station at the giveaway table. Scanning the room as I waited for the event to start, I looked at all the stands and activities lining the walls of the Great Hall. Each station was manned by smiling volunteers who all looked excited to get started.


Giveaways included energy-saving car chargers and reusable basil planters.

In front of me lay the giveaways to promote sustainability. When an event advertises anything with the word “free,” people are bound to show up – if only for the giveaways. There were energy-saving car chargers and adorable little grow-your-own basil kits. As people starting making their way around the room, I began handing out the giveaways. And I must say, I have never seen grown men get so excited about tiny pots of basil seeds.

Volunteering was fun because it allowed me to see the event from another perspective and interact with the students and faculty members that meandered their way over to my table. When I was done with my shift, I turned in my name tag and started my rounds as a participant this time. My bag started to fill with samples and pamphlets as I discovered all kinds of new things about sustainability.


Volunteers learned how to upcycle old shirts at the T-Shirt Bag GIY station.

I loved learning and smelling all the essential oils that can be used in natural cleaning products and learning how to mend old clothes. These were part of the GIY  (“Green-It-Yourself”), and they included ways to be more green in easy ways you can do yourself.

Of course, what eventually caught my eye, as a typical hungry college student, was the long table full of food. I picked up a reusable plate filled it with delicious and diverse snacks. All of the food featured local and/or healthy ingredients. Armed with some sustenance, I continued exploring.


Sustainaplaooza refreshments featured items with local and/or healthy ingredients. Reusable cutlery and dishware were used, and all food waste and napkins were composted.

One of the focal points of the room was the Green Wall. A crowd of people holding markers gathered around the wall, and visitors were allowed to write on all the different parts of the wall. I spent a few minutes walking around just reading all of the connections, ideas, and commitments people had made for a more sustainable future. It was a really unique way to promote and spread a very sustainable message.

My favorite part of the event was visiting the Clothing Swap GIY station. Tons of lightly used clothes had been donated, and as a fashion lover it was fun shopping through all the treasures. People who donated items could use those as an exchange for different clothes. Food or cash donations to The S.H.O.P. (Students Helping Our Peers), an on-campus student food pantry, could also be used as payment. The various clothing racks included everything from a classic red pea coat to cool retro handbags.

Next I walked through each of the posters and tables representing different organizations from the community. Both of on- and off-campus groups were invited, and it was great to see that such diverse clubs and companies were all tied together through sustainability. I stopped and talked with someone from Happy Strong Healthy, a new student organization at Iowa State. They’ve created a really interesting magazine that promotes personal sustainability through both mental and physical health. After tossing my leftover food into the compost bin, I left the event with a bag full of all-natural laundry detergents and granola bars.

Overall, there was such a fun and positive energy during Sustainapalooza. All ages gathered together to share their experiences and learn more about sustainability. People walked around with their friends laughing and smiling, and I could tell that the event was a blast for everyone that came out. I smiled when I came home and saw my roommate had put a potted basil plant on our windowsill.

Sustainapalooza by the Numbers: 

  • 400+ participants enjoyed Sustainapalooza
  • 363 clothing items were donated to the Sustainapalooza clothing swap
  • 63 volunteers worked behind the scenes to prepare the event
  • 35 on and off-campus organizations and initiatives highlighted their sustainablility efforts and accomplishments through posters and tabling
  • 13 Green Umbrella members worked for months to organize Sustainapalooza
  • 1 amazing event!

The Green Umbrella poses for a picture at the Sustainapalooza Celebrity Wall.

Written by: Lauren Young
Edited by: Madi VanGundy and Laurelin Haas
Photos by: Grace Lee and Lauren Young

For more photos of the event, check out the Live Green! and The Green Umbrella Facebook pages!

A Snapshot of Life in Poverty

Imagine that the end of the month is approaching, and you still haven’t paid your rent.  You have a little extra cash left from your last paycheck, but some of that will have to go towards groceries for your family, which doesn’t leave much for anything else.

You decide to pawn off your television set, but the money you get back is far less than what it’s actually worth and it doesn’t even begin to cover all of your bills.

Your mind starts reeling with stress. I can’t get evicted!  I can’t lose my kids.  But what if I can’t provide for them anymore?  Would they be better off in foster care? No, I can’t think like that! I’ve got to make ends meet – one way or another.

For families living below the poverty line in the United States, this type of situation is a monthly, weekly, or even daily occurrence. In Story County alone, approximately 16,366 people are in poverty; the rate of poverty within the county is 20.1%, which is higher than the state average (12.2%) 1.

Sustainability and poverty go hand in hand. In the Brundtland Report, the World Commission on Environment and Development wrote, “A world in which poverty and inequity are endemic will always be prone to ecological and other crises.”2

But for those who have never experienced poverty, it can be difficult to understand and empathize with the issues that people in poverty face.

Here at ISU, poverty affects the people around us in ways that might not always be immediately obvious. Some students are single parents, some students have parents who have been laid off from work, and some students have parents who are incarcerated. Poverty can affect anyone, but there’s no way of knowing if a classmate’s bad day can be chalked up to missing the bus or a more serious issue at home.

Our society can become more sustainable and we can all become more understanding and patient by looking at the world through another person’s perspective.

On January 18th, Madi and I were able to get a brief snapshot of life in poverty through the Volunteer Center of Story County’s poverty simulation. A poverty simulation is a “unique and enlightening experience that helps individuals begin to understand what life is like with a shortage of money and an abundance of stress.”3

How does the simulation work?


Laurelin as a teacher in the community school

When we arrived at the event, we chose a name tag at random. The name tag represented a person who was living in poverty, and throughout the simulation we assumed the roles and responsibilities of our new identity.

Our new identity was part of a family unit, and when the simulation began, we had about five minutes to read a brief description about our family’s situation, including biographies on each family member, a list of bills and expenses that had to be paid each month, information on income sources, and other unique characteristics of our household (I don’t know what to include here?).  All of the family scenarios in the simulation were based on actual families’ journeys.

Our families were given “homes” (chairs arranged into a square in the middle of the room). Businesses and services that most families need or use on a monthly basis (utility company, grocery store, school, bank, church) or services they may utilize in times of need (pawn shop, homeless shelter, food pantry), were located at tables which were arranged around the perimeter of the room.

Whenever we traveled to any location outside of our home, we had to spend money for transportation – so that had to be budgeted too.  The simulation took 40 minutes to complete, and during that time period we lived a month of our fictional lives, sectioned out in 10 minute weeks.  Our goal was to survive the month and ensure our families had food, shelter, and clothing and didn’t get arrested or evicted.


In the span of one week, depending upon our family’s circumstance, we had to travel around the community to various locations for work, school, groceries, child care, social services, and banking. Within the 10 minutes we were given for each week, a full time job took up 5 minutes of time and a part time job took up 3 minutes. This left 5-7 minutes to complete important errands, like buying food for the week – that is if you had money to complete the errands.

If you didn’t have a job, or your family was in a situation where a parent was suddenly laid-off from a job, or someone wasn’t able to work due to an illness, then you needed to find financial assistance to buy food. So extra time was needed to complete forms for financial assistance, or extra time was needed to visit the food pantry or the church; as a result, a lot of time was spent waiting in line.

At the end of each week, we were given two minutes to regroup with our families on the “weekend.” After the end of the two minutes the week started again, and the cycle continued until we had completed all four weeks in the month.

Madi’s Experience


Josh and Madi as 13-year-old twin sisters, Patricia and Penelope

Our family situation was initially very stressful. Our parents were divorced, and our dad just got sent to jail for eviction.  To make things worse, our mother refused to pay for child support. Our family of four only had $200 leftover from our dad’s last paycheck, and he had paid a full month of rent before going to jail, so we didn’t have to worry about that expense. We had to pay $440 in utilities by the end of the month, and we also had to pay for food and clothes every week, which amounted to $60 and $40 weekly. On top of all that, our older brother was a college student who didn’t have a job.

After reading our family description, my group members and I looked at each other with raised eyebrows. “How are we going to pull this off?”  I thought to myself.

The first week began, and my twin and I went to school feeling helpless.  We couldn’t get a job – because we had to go school.  Our older brother made the tough decision to skip school to run errands, such as taking the baby to daycare, pawning off our microwave and TV, and buying food for us to eat.  By the third week, we were almost out of money. We only had about $20, and we still had to pay for food, clothing, and utilities for the rest of the month.

As 13-year-olds, my twin and I couldn’t really do anything, which was so frustrating.   But then my twin suggested that we steal from another family, and I couldn’t help but agree.  We had gotten desperate.  So during the third week, when school was out for break and our neighbors were away from their homes at work, we stole a sofa and a television, then tried to sell them at the local pawnshop.

Reflecting on that moment, it’s heart wrenching to imagine children actually going through that. I knew that stealing was wrong, but I really felt like I had no other options. If our family couldn’t make more money, my sister and I might have been taken away from our older brother because he was failing to provide for us.  It is so saddening to realize that families are faced with decisions like this every day, right in our own community.

The last week of the month, one of our neighbors saw our desperate situation and asked if we wanted to move in with them. The family we joined was so welcoming, but my twin and I looked at each other with guilty eyes because they were one of the families that we had stolen from.

Overall, the poverty simulation really opened by eyes. I had no idea how hard it is for people living in poverty, and I only got a taste of the constant struggle that they go through on a day-to-day basis.

I was constantly worried about my family and how we were going to make ends meet. I knew that stealing was wrong, yet I did it anyway because I was desperate and I wanted to help out in some way. This process reminded me of how lucky I am and that I cannot take things for granted, such as never worrying if I’ll have food for the week.

Laurelin’s Experience


Laurelin’s household of of four

To begin my morning, I picked a nametag from the registration table, which told me that I was the 40-year-old male breadwinner of the Q family. I had a 20-year-old daughter in college, a 9-year-old son, and a 1-year-old granddaughter.

To begin the simulation, we were given more information about our family’s situation. We were pretty fortunate because I had a job, my daughter had a part time job, and we seemed to be able to make enough money to get us through the month. Once the time on the clock for the first week started, I shot out of my seat and ran around in circles trying to figure out the best step to take. That first week was really chaotic – I didn’t know what was going on, and I wasted a lot of time trying to figure out how to cash my check, so I didn’t even get food for the family that week.

As we moved along in the simulation, things got easier to handle. My daughter skipped school to work part time and help me out with errands, and we eventually got enough money to pay off almost all of our bills and feed the family each week with some cash to spare.

Throughout the first simulation, I was running around (literally running from table to table) trying to get everything done in the short amount of time that I didn’t spend working. I was so focused on my family and our problems that I didn’t even think to ask if other people needed help. I experienced a kind of tunnel vision, and I was completely dedicated to my goal of keeping my family out of trouble for the month.

At the end of the simulation, I felt completely drained. The thing that resonated with me the most was how difficult and stressful it is to try and get by while living in poverty. There are a lot of unavoidable trade-offs that you have to make for the good of the family – like giving up school, spending time with your children, or possessions to feed the family.

As an ISU student, I feel like I’m constantly taking my college education for granted – and that really hit home when my simulated daughter had to give up her own education in order to help me make ends meet. Many college students face this same dilemma, and I can hardly begin to imagine how tough their decisions can be.

And so I was also really touched by the people who – despite everything – gave donations to those organizations that helped them once they got back on their feet, in other words paying it forward for others in need.  It was sort of incredible and humbling to think that they could keep that in mind with all they had to deal with.

What did we take away?


Students line up at the Pawn Shop to buy transportation cards or sell belongings for cash

Poverty is still a huge problem in the United States, and experiences like poverty simulations are important for raising awareness of this issue. They are a great way to encourage discussions about poverty, which will hopefully lead to community action and support for those living below the poverty line.

Overall, our poverty simulation experience really opened our eyes to our own privilege and changed the way that we see the world and the social inequities that exist in every community.  It also taught us valuable lessons about the importance of economic sustainability and financial literacy – simply understanding how the system works is a huge advantage for families in poverty.

How can we make a difference in the future?  We can voice our concerns to local politicians. We can help by volunteering – signing up to serve food at our local food banks or by donating daily necessities and clothing to our homeless shelter.  We can help by treating strangers with a little more kindness in our everyday lives because it’s impossible to know someone’s story from a single interaction.

For more information about future poverty simulations or to volunteer in the Ames community, visit the Volunteer Center of Story County’s website.

Authors: Madisun VanGundy and Laurelin Haas
Featured Image: Flickr.com