Giving the Gift of Experiences

It’s the time of year for gathering with friends and family, enjoying delicious meals…. And scrambling for last minute gifts! We’ve all been there.

In the pursuit of sustainability, Heidi and Paige decided to consider some “outside-the-box” gifts this holiday season. In particular, we want to talk to you about giving the gift of experiences.


Photo by Markus Spiske

We’d like to think that one of the best parts of the holidays is spending time with people you love, and how better to extend that warm fuzzy feeling than by giving a gift you can share in together? By providing friends, family members, and loved ones with an experience rather than a physical item, you have the opportunity to spend quality time together while also gifting something very special!

Gifting experiences rather than “things” can be directly related to sustainability in all three facets: environmental, social, and economic. Celebrating the holidays in a sustainable fashion can encompass everything from supporting local businesses, contributing to causes you care about, and being resourceful and creative. Gifting experiences, rather than unwanted material objects, can be a rewarding and fun way to celebrate sustainably.

We (Heidi and Paige) came up with a list of 10 ways that you can give the gift of experiences to your friends and family members this holiday!


1. For the Nature-Lover



Do you know someone who loves nature, but isn’t so psyched about the cold? We recommend taking them to visit one of the many beautiful indoor gardens in the Ames area. Very close the Iowa State’s campus is the incredible Reiman Gardens, which offers free admission to Iowa State students! Reiman Gardens boasts not only an indoor collection of plants, but a butterfly garden as well! If you’re not in the Ames area, we also recommend the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden where you can see tons of plants even in the heart of Iowa winter! In addition, there is a café where you can enjoy lunch or dinner. In addition to their nature-related offerings, indoor gardens and botanical gardens are also highlighted by gift shops featuring local and/or artisanal products. For those who like the cold, there’s nothing better than exploring a new hiking trail together. Some of Iowa’s most beautiful scenery can be seen in the winter months! A hike and hot cocoa is not only a great experience to share in together, but it’s also free!

2. For the Drama Queen/King


            If you have a friend or family member who enjoys the performing arts, you can’t go wrong with tickets to a show you think they’d enjoy! Central Iowa has it all—dance, musicals, opera, and other performances! And if you’re an Iowa State student, many events at the Iowa State Center offer discounted ticket prices. In addition, the local theater production ACTORS has some excellent shows. If you’re still in search of tickets, the Des Moines Civic Center has a wide variety of shows in almost every art form and category!

If you’re looking for a children’s gift, helping them to host their own theater production in the garage or backyard will be an experience they’ll always remember!

3. For the Movie Buff


            If someone you love truly enjoys the cinema experience, you may consider taking them to Des Moines’ independent movie theater! Fleur Cinema is a movie theater and café that features classics as well as new releases; they have a heightened focus on indie, foreign, and quality Hollywood cinema, so you’ll find movies not playing at other theaters in the area. You can also enjoy a wide range of snacks and drinks (read: an astounding variety of desserts) during your movie!

Sometimes people just want a designated night to relax; if this is what you’re looking for, a low-cost idea is to host a theater night at home with your favorite streaming service and popcorn! You can purchase popcorn flavorings at most grocery stores, and all of your favorite toppings.

4. For the Stressed-Out Person


Do you know someone who’s had a hard semester or long few months? Someone who just needs a little “me” time this winter? We’re of the mindset that self-care is one of the best things you can do for yourself, and it also makes an excellent gift! Consider purchasing a gift certificate for a really nice haircut and style, or perhaps a massage or other spa treatment. There are so many great places in the Ames area, so we suggest searching local Yelp! Reviews and the Groupon deals to find an option that works for you.

For an at-home option, buying some bubble bath supplies and candles, or making homemade face masks (check out these recipes) can be just as relaxing!

5. For the Artist (or the aspiring one)


When the cabin fever of winter starts to kick in, your friend or family member can exercise their creative side with one of the many art classes available in Ames! The Workspace in the Memorial Union offers many free or inexpensive art classes, and the Octagon Center for the Arts offers classes working with many different mediums, for children and adults. You can often find art classes at other locations in Ames, like Reiman Gardens or the public library.

If you’re looking for a low-cost alternative, host your own class—or at least a craft night! Putting together a “Pinterest” craft night with a friend or small group of friends can be simple, fun, and free! Take a peek at our Pinterest boards for some ideas.

6. For the Busy Person


We all know those super busy people who just don’t have the time to clean at home (or despise doing it!). This may be a great gift for an elderly neighbor, new parents, or a big family. Heck, if you want to give me this gift I won’t argue! Another twist on this is to hire a professional organizing service person to come in—this could potentially help keep things clean for even longer. This is another great opportunity to search on Groupon or Yelp! for local businesses who offer cleaning and organizing services!

For a low cost option, you can find recipes here to make some unique and “green” cleaning supplies, or give a homemade coupon and offer to do the cleaning yourself!

7. For the Generous Person

download-2.jpg            We all have people in our lives who don’t want to receive gifts. However, if you know what they like and support, you can purchase a gift for a non-profit organization on their behalf! There are lots of non-profits, both local and international, which feature similar ideas. You could do something like purchase school supplies for families who can’t afford them, pay for trees to be planted to offset the person’s carbon footprint, or donate to an international non-profit organization like Oxfam or Heifer International which gifts livestock to families in developing countries who cannot afford them.

So while this isn’t necessarily an “experience” that your gift-receiver tangibly receives, they’ll have the experience of knowing they have helped someone either in their own community or across the world. This can be an especially powerful gift for a child (of the right age), through something like the “Kid for a Kid” project that gifts goat kids to families living in poverty!

8. For the Explorer


One of the best gifts I (Paige) gave my mom was a weekend getaway for her birthday! She lives six hours away from Ames, so I met her halfway at an Airbnb and we spent the weekend trying new restaurants, watching our favorite movies together, and just enjoying spending time together! She returned the gift on my birthday, and we got to spend another weekend together.

Whether it’s trying new restaurants or stores together, going on a road trip with no destination, or looking for new experiences in your own town, there are many ways to offer the gift of exploration! For a low cost option, you could even design a scavenger hunt throughout your neighborhood or town.

9. For the Green Thumb


Winter can be a sad time for your favorite backyard gardener, or local-food aficionado! But there are SO many ways to cheer them up! You could give them a coupon for “x number of hours weeding your garden” or a share in a local CSA. If you’ve got a garden pal who currently lives in an apartment or another place without a yard, you could even buy them a plot in a local community garden (there are several in Ames) or let them use part of your yard come springtime! As garden and local food fans ourselves, we highly recommend caring for the people who will give you their surplus veggies all summer long! 😉

10. For Everyone


Ahh, the classic coupon book! Most of us probably gave a parent or sibling one of these at some point as a kid. If you haven’t, a coupon book is a fun and free way to create vouchers for services you can offer the gift receiver: a back rub, to clean their kitchen or sweep the floor, or something fun like breakfast in bed or adventuring to your favorite park together.

While they may seem cheesy, it’s easy to make this into a very meaningful gift for someone you care about. Whether you’re giving coupons for hugs, an hour of your undivided attention, or a date night, your loved one will appreciate the effort you’re making to spend quality time with them! Make sure they know that these coupons can and should be redeemed so there’s no confusion.


And that’s it—ten ways to spark your creativity related to how easy and fun it can be to give the gift of experiences! We hope that these suggestions have sparked some inspiration for you in your holiday and future gift-giving endeavors. Never underestimate how valuable the gifts of time and experiences are.


                                    We hope you enjoy the rest of your holiday season!

— Heidi and Paige


Fashion: Sustainably.

Hello! Paige here to talk about one of my biggest guilty pleasures – fashion.

As fashion designers continue to create stunning creations year round, I can’t help but get sucked into following their trends. I like to predict how beautiful runway designs will be soon interpreted into more affordable ready-to-wear collections, trickling down to department stores and shopping malls around the world.

I think about those same ready-to-wear items in my closet, even though it’s already OVERFLOWING with last year’s already outdated trends that I wore maybe two or three times. Admittedly, I’m an addict for new clothing trends. As fashion industry feeds new trends to the public, I’m the first one to eat it up. I usually wait for mega sales or clearances, never spend more than $20 on a top, and never purchase things full price. So I can’t be THAT bad, right?

Not quite. While I do shop with a budget in mind, the cost of my clothing addiction is actually way steeper than I could have imagined.

According to the EPA, 13 trillion tons of textile waste are thrown into landfills every year. They estimate that this waste creates approximately the same environmental toll as the carbon dioxide emissions 7.3 million cars.  

On top of the waste that the physical garments produce, you also have to consider all of the resources it took to make those garments. Water, labor, transportation, fibers (the water and resources it took to make those fibers), dyes… etc. are all part of the equation.

So even if I do buy more tops than I really need, I can just donate to a second hand store, right? Yes, and that’s an awesome option. However, just because clothing is donated doesn’t mean it can actually be sold. The EPA cites that approximately only 10% of items donated to second hand or thrift stores are actually resold.

So, what can I do to prevent all of this pollution?

1. The first and most straightforward option is to simply stop consuming so much. Instead of constantly looking to new trends I can add my own style to classic timeless pieces. It’s recognizing that hey, I already have 5 white t-shirts, I definitely don’t need a 6th one. Or that (*gasp*) it’s ok to wear the same pants twice in one week!

2. The second option is to shop second hand.

Trends repeat themselves. Right now you’ll notice that tons of styles in stores are reflective of styles that were popular in the late 90’s and early 2000’s (mom jeans anyone?). LUCKY FOR US, those are the exact styles you’ll find in thrift stores for $4 per garment.

Additionally, many second hand stores are nonprofit and proceeds go to charities. You’re saving money, preventing clothing from being thrown in a landfill, saving the resources it would have taken to produce a new garment AND likely supporting a good cause. I couldn’t think of anything more sustainable than that.

Here are a few of my favorite second hand stores in Ames:

  1. If you’re not into vintage fashion, try a sustainable clothing label! There’s plenty of really cool brands that use sustainable materials and manufacture their garments using ethical labor standards. A few of my favorites include: Girlfriend Collective, Awamaki, Everlane and more!        (The holidays are coming up… wink, wink).

Here are some of my favorite vintage looks. I purchased each of these items for less than $10 from a local thrift store!


Use colorful scarves to breathe new life into old pieces. Guess leather bucket bag- $10, Scarf- free, taken from my grandmother’s closet 😉

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I love my denim jacket because I purchased it already worn in, so it has some character. Denim jacket- $10, Pink denim skirt- $7


I almost never wear jeans that I purchased new. There’s just something I l love about a good vintage fit! Each pair of jeans in this photo cost me less than $7 from local thrift stores.


Plaid is in this season, so I was ecstatic when I found these old plaid trousers for $3.50. I paired them with a belt my grandma (stylish grandma, that is) and I think they make the perfect combo.


In the spring and summer months, check second hand stores for long denim skirts! You can easily trim them to the length you desire, throw them in the dryer and you’ll have a cute new frayed denim skirt! I purchase these three for less than $5 each.

Event in Review: National Campus Sustainability Day

How did October pass us by so quickly?! It feels like we’ve breezed by Halloween festivities and straight into the cold, cruel weather of winter here in Ames!

For Heidi and I, October was a whirlwind of National Campus Sustainability Day planning! October 26th marked the 9th Annual National Campus Sustainability Day event here at Iowa State, and we were so thrilled to be a part of planning it.

For a little background information: National Campus Sustainability Day isn’t the same day for all universities. An umbrella organization for universities engaged in sustainability, the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE, pronounced ay-shee) promotes “National Campus Sustainability Month” during October, with the goal of having universities host events around the topic of sustainability. Every university does things a little bit differently!

Here at Iowa State, we celebrate National Campus Sustainability Day (NCSD for short) by hosting a tabling event that is chock-full of student organizations, community organizations, and local businesses all supporting sustainability through initiatives, projects, events, products and/or practices, for ISU students, faculty, and staff to visit and talk to. Every year, we host the event on one day in October from 11am-2pm on the South Library Lawn. ALSO every year, we have hundreds of students visit the event to learn about sustainability (and to get some of that free coffee, snacks, and awesome door prizes!).

An attendee writes on the pledge wall at the event; their pledge reads “Drive less.”


An attendee writes on the pledge wall at the event; their pledge reads “Drive less.”



Students Helping Our Peers (SHOP) talks about their organization with an attendee.


This year’s theme was “Make Waves,” which was chosen to represent the ways in which our university has made substantial commitments and impressive accomplishments in sustainability over the years, and the ways in which everyone can live and work a little more sustainably. We wanted to celebrate, challenge, and empower attendees to make lifestyle changes as a result of the event.

This year, we noticed something especially exciting. Yes, cookies and coffee are always a big hit; but truly meaningful conversations around the topic of sustainability seemed to be a top priority at this year’s event. This was so exciting for us because it illustrates how aware and passionate our students, faculty, and staff are at ISU. We’re so motivated to be a part of building this awareness into empowerment and action in the coming months, and even after our internships end.

As always, we had some amazing prizes that were given away! Everyone received Hy-Vee Bakery cookies, Starbucks coffee, and local apples from the ISU Horticulture Research Station. ISU Outdoor Recreation was at the event to provide free bike tune-ups, and the ISU Longboarding Club provided free longboard tune-ups. We also gave away Live Green! Initiative coffee travel mugs, buttons, stickers, and herb planters to participants! Participants who visited at least 25 out of 38 tables were also rewarded with an entry for the door prizes, which included:

  • $5 gift cards to Morning Bell Coffee
  • $10 gift card to Random Goods
  • Stuffed pumpkin decoration with two bars of chocolate
  • ISU t-shirt from Dogtown
  • Three gift bags from Portobello Road



Are those not some awesome prizes to win?! We are out-of-this-world thankful for the amazing local businesses that donated prizes to our event, and congrats to the 10 students who won door prizes this year!

Thanks again to all of the people both on- and off-campus who helped plan and make this event possible! To see a list of all participating organizations, click here.

Our next big campus event will be in February, but you’ll see plenty of us before then!


Until next time,



Campus and Community Engagement Intern

Greening Your Cup of Joe

Molly- “Paige, guess what today is?”

Paige- “What?”

Molly- “International Coffee Day!”

Paige- “That’s one of my new favorite holidays! Let’s go celebrate!”

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Ames is a coffeeshop goldmine. It’s full of unique coffee shops that add a diverse flavor to your study session or hangout. In honor of  International Coffee Day on September 29th, we took a Coffee Tour in Ames. We toured {almost} every coffee shop from Main Street to Campustown and everywhere in between.

How Can you Green Your Joe?

A great way to celebrate International Coffee Day is to support farmers and communities around the world by purchasing sustainable and fair trade coffee. There are dozens of places to purchase ready-to-drink sustainable coffee or beans to make on your own coffee at home. This is a great way to “green your cup of joe” and celebrate a delicious holiday. Additionally, supporting local coffee shops is another way to green your cup of joe.

What is Sustainable Coffee?

Sustainable coffee has three main goals: improve livelihoods of workers, conserve nature and sustain supply.

Improving livelihoods focuses on assuring that workers are being treated and compensated fairly. It’s ensuring that child workers aren’t being exploited, wages are fair, hours are reasonable and conditions are safe.

Conserving Nature is aimed at adopting climate smart agricultural practices. This includes improved market access, infrastructure and the elimination
of harmful pesticides or fertilizers. **help me here… how is market access and climate smart connected?

Sustaining Supply is all about conserving what resources we still have. The production of sustainable coffee works to reduce water consumption, forest depletion, and soil consumption while reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

What is Fair Trade?

Being fair trade certified requires an extensive set of guidelines are followed and specific
parameters are satisfied. Fair Trade standards aim to bring a mission of empowerment, economic development, social development and environmental stewardship to farmers, fishers and workers around the world. This means your cup of Fair Trade coffee is truly making a positive impact on farmers around the world.

There are many places in Ames you can purchase sustainable and Fair Trade coffee which include Burgie’s, Hy-Vee, Wheatsfield and Worldly Goods, just to name a few. Ask your favorite local cafe or retailer about the fair trade and sustainable coffees they carry.

Why is it important to shop at local coffee shops?

By purchasing beverages from local shops, you support our local economy. When you shop local, the money you spend stays in the Ames community! That means that we become a more self-sufficient community with more resources added into and circulating throughout our economy.  On top of that, you’re supporting someone’s livelihood! Small business owners are our neighbors. They have families, ambitions and goals. Supporting their businesses means you are supporting all of that and more.

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How to Green your Joe on Campus?

If you’re on campus and need a boost, stop by one of the ten Iowa State Cafes where you can support sustainable coffee by The Roasterie. Iowa State Dining supports fair trade and many of the cafes offer various sustainable coffee and espresso options. Check out Iowa State Daily’s article, to learn more about fair trade offerings on campus. Remember to bring your reusable cup to instantly save 35 cents on any beverage!

Iowa State students are noticing how important sustainable coffee is too. Emily Seibel and many others are helping to combat the issue of unfair coffee practices by joining a group called El Zapote Coffee, which is connected through various churches in Ames. Seibel says, “Supporting these farmers is so important and if I can do this by purchasing delicious coffee, then why wouldn’t I?” You can learn more about El Zapote and their connection with Honduran farmers on their Facebook Page.


There are ten campus cafes where you can support fair trade coffee and espresso AND receive 35 cents off for bringing your reusable mug. Check out all the campus cafes here. (Bookends Cafe in Parks Library pictured)

We are so lucky to have so many delicious and sustainable coffee shops in the town of Ames and even right on our campus. Whether you are supporting the community by checking out a local cafe or stopping at Bookends Cafe before class to try ISU’s fair trade coffee, find a way to celebrate International Coffee Day. International Coffee Day is celebrated around the world in over twenty countries, but we say, why just limit the celebrating to one day? Keep learning about coffee and how you can support an important (and delicious) cause everyday.


Have a “brew-tiful” day celebrating International Coffee Day,  and please enjoy our video about sustainable and local coffee! ☕️

Earth Day. Everyday.

Paige: Hey, everyone! Molly and I are back with one last recap from our year as Campus and Community Engagement interns!

Molly: It’s been such a great year of planning events, creating engagements on social media and seeing students really dive into sustainability.

Paige: We had blast this year and loved getting to work with The Green Umbrella and Live Green! Team.

Molly: Earth Day was the perfect way to end the year.

Paige: Agreed! If you missed the event, below is a recap from all of the sustainable fun!


The Green Umbrella student organization hosted its 2017 Earth Day Celebration on Friday April 21st. It was a beautiful Friday afternoon on the South Library Lawn. The sun was shining and the sky was blue! The event was attended by over 1200 people!!

This year’s theme was “Earth Day Every Day” and encouraged students to make mindful decisions in their everyday lives. Thirty-seven campus and community organizations came to showcase their sustainable causes. We had several of old friends who are present at our events year after year and we also had a few organizations who were new to our events!!

A few of the new organizations included: Our Hour, Society for Landscape Architects and Network against Human Trafficking. Our Hour was started by two entrepreneurial students who are passionate about business and service. They started a t-shirt company with a twist: for every t-shirt they sell, they volunteer for one hour!! Society of Landscape Architects was hanging out, literally, with a hammock they made themselves and Network against Human Trafficking was educating attendees on resources available to increase awareness about signs of human trafficking and who to contact.

These three organizations are just a few of the MANY fantastic causes that were represented at the event! Students and attendees alike were encouraged to walk around the event and start conversations with organizations or causes that sparked their interest. As we’ve done in the past, the event attendees received “challenge cards” when entering the event and were encouraged to take the event challenge. For each organization they engaged with at the event, they received a check mark on the challenge card. The more organizations they talked to, the more sustainably-minded and messaged prizes they were able to earn! Prizes included: Live Green! Stickers and buttons, Earth Week buttons, reusable and recyclable cutlery sets, reusable and biodegradable herb planters (that included herb seeds to grow), Trees of ISU books and CDs and reusable and recyclable Live Green mugs that could be filled with fruit-infused water provided by ISU Dining!

Before attendees collected their prizes, they also had to make a Live Green! Pledge and commit to some form of sustainability, to complete the Challenge. Pledges included: buying more fair trade products, biking to class, committing more volunteer hours and many more great and creative sustainability practices!

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 Insomnia Cookies, Fuji Japanese Steakhouse, Hickory Park and Perkins!

The event was a great opportunity to connect the campus community to sustainable organizations and opportunities throughout Ames and collectively 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 ,, or Paige at,, for more information!

Make sure and stay updated on all things green and sustainable at ISU by:

Sustainapalooza 2017 Recap

Sustainapalooza part 1 497


Hello, I am Molly Breen, one of the Campus and Community Engagement Interns. Some of my past blogs include the Countdown to Kindness and Celebrating Friendsgiving. I am back now with a blog about Sustainapaloooza 2017. I had so much fun helping to put the event together and even more fun during the event! Read on for a recap of Sustainapalooza 2017!

Sustainapalooza was held on February 28th from 5-8pm in the Great Hall of the Memorial Union. This annual event takes place to promote sustainability at Iowa State. Lots of tables, posters, volunteers, food, and crafts are brought in, and anyone is welcome to come.

Immediately, before even entering the Great Hall you see the welcoming members of The Green Umbrella student organization at an informational table. The Green Umbrella is a student organization that helps to plan and put together Sustainapalooza. Once the students give you a brief introduction to the club and the event, you are enthusiastically welcomed into the Great Hall. As you enter Sustainapalooza, there are a few tables that are singled out. As you look to the right, you see one of the two photo booths at the event and a table for the Live Green! Marketing and Communications Interns, Caitlyn and Rebekah. The eager individuals are passing out newsletters and starting green conversations with attendees. On the other side, you see members of The SHOP (Students Helping Our Peers), a student organization that operates a campus food pantry. The SHOP is collecting non-perishable items , and informing attendees about all The SHOP does.

Straight ahead, you see the massive green wall with student pledges written all over it. Sustainapalooza is all about impacting the participants and the green wall is a crucial component. The Green Wall is a pledge wall where students can make commitments to living greener while walking on their very own “green carpet” made of recycled materials. Participants are encouraged to share their perspectives, vision and commitment through writing all over the wall  to questions related to water, waste, energy, money, and community service (stay tuned for those responses in an upcoming blog coming out soon).

Spread around the Great Hall you see four main GIY  (green-it-yourself) stations Each station represents a different sustainability hands-on opportunity and is sponsored and assisted by a variety of clubs, organizations and businesses.  The purpose of each station is increasing awareness, engaging a new activity and empowering sustainable opportunities and green living after Sustainapalooza. Which means, at each station, there is something creative and sustainable to take away. One station, sponsored by Wheatsfield Cooperative and assisted by Greeks Go Green is creating an all natural sink cleaner made with essential oils that Wheatsfield Cooperative and Greeks Go Green (student organization) assisted with. ISU Dining, with assistance from student dietetics interns, has formed an assembly line to create a mason jar filled with an instant potato soup mix that has an extended shelf life, because nothing is perishable, offering a meal for years, and reducing food waste. On the other side of the hall, DIY Craft Club, through assistance from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources,  is leading a station creating tote bags out of recycled vinyl banners. (If you want to make your own, here are the instructions.) The Workspace at Iowa State has three GIY projects at their station: making magnets made out of computer keys, folders made out of laminated posters, and business card holders out of recycled calendars. Creativity is especially apparent at this station.

Beyond the GIY creations, sustainably-minded giveaways are available for all attendees and feature a reusable, made from recycled-content cutlery set and a three-piece herb garden set including reusable and compostable planters and potting mix and seeds for parsley, cilantro and basil. The second photo booth of the event is the Cy-lebrity wall where attendees were invited to grab their friends and strike a sustainable pose with some fun props.


Next up at the event, attendees browsed through clothes available for swapping at the Sustainapalooza Clothing Swap: Exchange for a Change. The clothing swap was widely popular with over 50 participants swapping out items. The fashion industry, where trends seem to change every week, creates such a problem with waste. The swap gives students a chance to put their old clothes to use and reduce short term waste. Students could swap one clothing item for another. Also food or cash donations were accepted for one clothing item and went to The S.H.O.P.. All leftover clothes were either donated to local secondhand shops or given to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources to properly recycle.

Towards the back of the room, there were 40 different student organizations and businesses displaying what they are doing to be sustainable. Organizations like The SHOP, Volunteer Center of Story County, ActivUs, and more captivated students with their individual messages.

In the center of all the hustle and bustle, there was a buffet line of locally made and freshly produced snacks provided by ISU Dining. Attendees enjoyed their sustainable snack and beverage while mingling with the groups. Many attendees took their snacks over to the Inclusive Communities portion of our event where they were invited to sit on “Sit Next to me, Sue,” an art piece made by a team of Iowa State landscape architecture students to give people the freedom to choose their own seating arrangement. Once they sat in the movable seats, attendees were invited to join in conversation about how they can make Iowa State a more inclusive community and even offered buttons to take home as a reminder of inclusivity.

Overall, there was such a positive energy during Sustainapalooza. All ages gathered together to share their experiences and learn more about sustainability. Whether noticing the special green features throughout the event, such as composting, or listening to the green-minded playlist throughout the Great Hall, participants really got to embrace sustainability in our community with engaging activities, interesting discussions, and creative thinking.

Sustainapalooza by the Numbers:

  • 1000+ participants enjoyed Sustainapalooza
  • 300+ clothing items were donated to the Sustainapalooza clothing swap
  • 60 volunteers worked behind the scenes to prepare the event
  • 40 on and off-campus organizations and initiatives highlighted their sustainability efforts and accomplishments through posters and tabling
  • 10 Green Umbrella members worked for months to organize Sustainapalooza
  • 1 amazing event!

The Journey of a Budding Indoor Gardener

Hello! My name is Caitlin Deaver, and I’m a Marketing and Communications intern on the Live Green! team – I help create our monthly newsletter. In the March Live Green! Monthly newsletter, the Now You Know feature shares some opportunities for the budding indoor gardener.

Being the author of this month’s Now You Know feature and a new budding indoor gardener myself, I wanted to share how I’ve come to love gardening through my ongoing adventure with many types of plants. I’ll preface by saying I’m also a new plant parent, and highly recommend doing your own research to fit your needs and interests before starting your own indoor garden! Here’s the story of my journey.


My gardening journey began in May of 2016 when a friend gave me a baby spider plant. She handed me a water-filled plastic cup with a little, green sprout floating inside. I was just moving into my off-campus apartment, and I had absolutely no idea what to do with “him” – my eagerness to become a plant mom gave him the name Fernie.

Little did I know, I was just gifted one of, if not the most, immortal of houseplants. Spider plants are great for first-time gardeners because of the following:


Fernie has now grown up to be in a dirt-filled pot. To keep Fernie happy, I make sure to turn his pot in the windowsill (all of his leaves like to get sun exposure), and I water him with half a cup of once water every week.

I also learned how to successfully propagate baby spider plants when Fernie decided to reproduce – and yes, spider plants reproduce often, so it’s important to know how to remove the baby spider plant from the main plant, as well as have a nursery ready.

Propagating baby spider plants is as simple as clipping the plant right underneath the new sprout and removing it from the rest of the plant. Then you place the sprout in water, making sure to cover its base where the roots will begin developing, providing a root nursery. Keep the nursery in a windowsill, or wherever it can get some sunlight. Also, don’t worry if the water seems to be covering a large portion of your sprout – it loves it!

My first baby spider plant has taken about five weeks to really develop a structured root system – it is characterized by a few longer, main roots, as well as many shorter, finer roots also beginning to develop. At this stage, the baby spider plant is ready to be potted with soil.

TIP: Plastic bottles make great spider plant nurseries and “toddler spaces”. First, cut your bottle in half (top and bottom). Fill the bottom half ¾ full with water, and place your seedling in the water to support root development. Once the roots have developed enough, take the top half of the bottle and place two strips of wicking fabric in to the neck of the bottle. Add your soil and seedling, and watch as it grows!


My first succulent came from a weekend getaway to Missouri just a few weeks after receiving Fernie. I was walking around the Soulard Farmer’s Market in St. Louis and came across a florist’s booth. After feeling like a tried and true plant mom for the lowest maintenance Fernie at home, I nabbed my first succulent and took him back to Iowa.

Then I came to realize I loved the look and feel of succulents and I loved talking about the little indoor garden I was starting. Before I knew it, my family and friends supplied me with more succulents, bringing me to my current herd of four.

In addition to acting as aesthetically appealing décor, a succulent can have so many more positive qualities.


I haven’t tried properly propagating my succulents yet – I’m currently searching for the perfect Do-It-Yourself project to display them in first. That’s just another great thing about succulents – there seems to be no limit to the number of fun and creative ways you can display them according to what fits your taste, as well as your space.

To keep my succulents happy, I give them a small amount of water once every week or so.

TIP: Always keep a spray bottle handy. Succulents tend to enjoy a light misting of water every other week or so – a spray bottle helps keep the urge to overwater at bay.


Even if you’re not a penny-pinching college student, there are many unique opportunities to not only save some cash, but also do something new and creative when it comes to crossing produce off your grocery list.

An item that is always on my grocery list is avocado — guacamole is one of my favorite snacks. It finally hit me one day as I was pulling the pit from an avocado to make guacamole, about to throw the pit away, that it’d be really cool to grow my own avocados.

Then, I thought, that there must be some way to do it. As it turns out, no matter where you live, anyone can start growing avocados. It only takes some patience!

Here’s how! Peel the thin layer of skin off the pit. It’s important to have the flatter bottom of the pit submerged in water, keeping the top 2/3rds of the pit above water. I used an avocado boat for my pit, but four toothpicks and a glass of water (like this) works, too. After a few weeks, the pit should begin to split and grow roots.

TIP: To keep your avocado pit healthy, be sure to change out the water every week, or to at least stir the water every so often. This keeps the water from becoming stagnant and a breeding ground for dangerous microbials.

I won’t be picking avocados from my self-grown avocado tree anytime soon, but you never know! Plus, I’ve been saving back my avocado pits to start even more potential avocado trees.

TIP: This is a great example of getting too excited and not doing homework first. Because I’d never dreamed of planting my avocado pits (especially living in Iowa), I bought an avocado boat online after seeing an ad for it on Facebook. Little did I know, at no expense to me, I could use a few toothpicks and a cup of water to get the same results. It goes to show: don’t choose the expensive way because the cheaper ways are not so obvious!

Mushrooms are also one of my favorite foods – they’re great in salads and pastas, on pizza, and basically in and on everything. This superfood is delicious, as well as incredibly healthy. So I decided to go out on a limb and try growing my own mushrooms.

I did what I suggest other newbie gardeners do: buy a mushroom farm kit and learn from it before starting to grow “real” mushrooms on your own – it’s a nice way to get an idea of how mushrooms grow best in your home.

I chose the Back to Roots mushroom farm because it was both affordable and philanthropic – by submitting a photo of yourself with your successful farm, the company sends a free mushroom farm kit to an elementary school classroom of your choice.

Another perk is that these kits grow both successfully and quickly!


I keep my mushrooms happy and healthy by following the instructions on the box – keeping the farm exposed to indirect sunlight while also giving it 2-3 teaspoons of water each day.

TIP: Warm water sparks more sudden growth as opposed to cold water. This simple switch is an easy way to speed up your mushrooms’ growth!

Green onions also make up a favorite ingredient for many of my meals. They are a tasty addition to any dish, and have many nutritional benefits, too.

However, when I chop multiple bundles, I tend to throw away about an inch of the onions (the white part containing the roots), simply because I thought I couldn’t eat them. Unfortunately, I was throwing away part of what I paid for, as well as ignoring the potential to save some money.

Therefore, I took to the Internet to discover how to begin maintaining a wasteless kitchen for produce. A wasteless kitchen encourages the recycling of the non-edible parts of produce and growing your own produce in order to keep produce parts out of the garbage.

To “recycle” green onions, it’s pretty simple! Find a pot sized appropriately for the number of onions you would like to plant. Fill with potting soil. Poke your finger about half an inch into the soil where you would like to insert your onions. Proceed to insert the onions, leaving about half an inch of the onion above soil. Spray each onion with water each day. After a couple weeks, the onions should have grown upward, allowing you to clip the new, edible green part at the top. Just snip off the green parts whenever you want to use your green onions, and continue to nurture your ongoing onion garden until the next time you want them!


Now I’m looking for other opportunities to keep a wasteless kitchen! Before you throw away any produce bits, learn about your options for growing your own small-scale food!

TIP: Storing soil in an apartment can be difficult – oftentimes there’s not enough room for a big bag of soil, and your landlord doesn’t appreciate it when you get potting soil in their carpet. I avoid this by keeping only a portion of my soil in my apartment, taking a gallon bag to my parents’ house to refill on soil every so often. I don’t use my soil often, plus it’s a nice excuse to take some time during the weekend to run home and spend time with family!

I hope my adventure in indoor gardening gives you some encouragement to bring some green into your home, too! Just remember to soak up as much knowledge as you can beforehand to have the most success – and fun!

For more information about some of the plant types mentioned here, check out the Now You Know feature of the March edition of Live Green! Monthly.

Happy (indoor) gardening!


The Good Deeds Countdown

Hello- My name is Molly Breen, a Campus & Community Engagement Intern for the Live Green! Team. On the first day of December, I posted on Facebook  about my 25 Random Acts of Kindness Holiday Countdown Calendar. Now, I am here to recap my my month of good deeds.


It all began when thinking about how I can give back for the holidays. I started making a list of things I could do like donate clothes to charity, make treats for a neighbor, volunteer at a soup kitchen, and so on. After noticing a sizeable list, I decided to hold myself accountable in a fun way my making my kindness advent calendar.


I chose to create my calendar at the beginning of December due to the connection with the holidays and gift giving, but any month can be YOUR good deeds month! To make the calendar, all you need is …

  • A current blank calendar for the month you want to start your kindness countdown
  • A list of good deeds (if you need any ideas check some out here)
  • Pen
  • Somewhere to display your countdown (I hung it up by my desk and had a picture on my phone)

My Good Deeds Advent Calendar was very simple to make/do, and the results were phenomenal. In the midst of gifts and mass consumerism, it is easy to forget about the things that really bring us joy, but this truly held me accountable for my actions. I felt great knowing every day I was doing something to give back. I highly recommend a kindness calendar as a way to slowdown, connect, and do good during the any season.

It has become a goal of mine to not only continue this Good Deed Countdown Calendar every December, but to also continue spreading kindness every day. One idea I have is to collect a jar of good deeds and pick from those on a weekly or daily basis. Another idea with Valentine’s Day coming up next month, would be a countdown to Valentine’s day or for the whole month with good deeds related to love, appreciation, and kindness. If you are feeling really ambitious, you could even take part in a 365-day calendar for good deeds where you do a good deed every day!!

Overall, making an effort to do a good deed every day, week, or even month is an easy way to give back. No matter how slight, a good deed does good. The impact of smiling at a stranger or picking up litter is a small action with big effects. After all, I believe good deeds, like kindness, are contagious. No matter how you choose to perform good deeds, starting everyday with the right mindset will help you to constantly spot those moments to give back.

Celebrate Friends-Giving

Hello! My name is Molly Breen, and I am a Live Green! Intern in the Office of Sustainability. My teammate, Paige, and I recently blogged about our first sustainability event of the 2016-2017 academic year, National Campus Sustainability Day! Today I am back to talk about a fun and unique twist to celebrating Thanksgiving – Friends-Giving.

November is a month of family, friends, food and, most importantly, being thankful. It is extremely easy to get caught up in the craziness of the holiday season and all the family celebrations to keep track of and overlook the fun and joy of gathering together and being thankful for all of the opportunities and blessings we enjoy.

One idea to assist in better embracing kicking back, relaxing and enjoying is by celebrating Friends-Giving. Friends-Giving is a popular trend focused around celebrating the season with friends, in addition to families.  Not only does this offer another opportunity to celebrate, it means, two holiday meals and that much more time to be thankful. Unlike the traditional Thanksgiving gathering, Friends-Giving encourages the opportunity to add some originality into your celebration in ways such as by having a themed potluck, getting crafty with reusable items, or just taking time to share your gratitude.

So… let’s look a bit more at the possibilities for each of these.  


Turkey, mashed potatoes, cranberries…oh my. November is a time to indulge and finally take a break from work and studies. While the traditional dishes are always delicious, a fun twist is to host a potluck to share a variety of sweet and savory dishes to enjoy with friends. To add some spice into your meal… you can actually add a theme all the food has to fall within or ban any traditional Thanksgiving foods to save them for Thanksgiving dinner.  

It’s easy to put together a gathering around food.  All you need to do is pick a date with some friends and have each pick a food item to bring. Remember in the spirit of being sustainable try and buy local ingredients whenever possible.  This could also be a theme – bringing only dishes that can be made with all local ingredients.  A favorite recipe of mine is an apple pie made with apples from a local orchard and homemade pie crust. Another twist on your gathering can be for everyone to bring ingredients and cook together, instead of just bringing finished dishes.  This adds a fun group activity as well as delicious food to your Friends-Giving.  

An obvious challenge with any gathering around food is how to not waste it.  If your friends are not as hungry as anticipated do not throw the extra food away, make it useful! Most thanksgiving foods can be turned into a variety of other meals like a turkey sandwich or shepherd’s pie, through “Greening your Leftovers” (shown on page 12 of the November Live Green! newsletter).  If your guests are traveling and are not able to easily take leftovers home, donating your extra food is great way to show your thankfulness as well.  Check in with local shelters of community support groups to see what options may be available in your area.  


What to do when the eating is done?  There are tons of green-it-yourself (GIYS) crafts that can offer a fun distraction to any gathering!! With the holiday season upon us, there are so many useful and timely considerations for things to craft, such as decorations. One of my personal favorites is wreaths. Wreaths can be made from SO many different things that you likely have laying around, can gather outside or can find at a thrift shop.  These different wreaths (pictured below), for example, made with recyclable materials are eco-friendly and free and  would spice up any door. For more GIY decorations and crafts for the holiday season, check out Crafting a Green World for some fun ideas.

In the spirit of friends-giving, you could also show someone how thankful you are by giving them your GIY you created. Nothing can beat the love and uniqueness of a handmade gift.


Lastly, the underlying reason for Thanksgiving, giving thanks.  It’s important at any variety of Friends-Giving you embark upon to incorporate sharing thankfulness with each other. It is easy to get caught up in school and work, take for granted all that you have and forget about all the amazing people in your life and things happening around you. One thing my friends and I enjoy at our Friends-Giving is each take a turn and verbally say what we are thankful this holiday season. It is fun to hear everyone else’s perspective and it can lead to other discussions about the people and things that bring you thanks. Besides verbally expressing thanks, you can offer thanks through other unique ways, such as creating a “pumpkin of thanks” that can be a centerpiece for your gathering.  For other fun ideas, check out this list.


These three ideas together create the best friends-giving possible with food, crafts, and gratitude, but no matter what unique pieces you might incorporate into your celebrations, remember to be thankful.

5 Tips to “Green” Your Halloween

Hello, everyone! My name is Laurelin, and I’m a Live Green! intern in the Office of Sustainability! You might remember me from my previous blog posts about farmers’ markets, composting, and more! Today I’m back with some tips on how to “green” your Halloween!

Fall is in full swing, and Halloween is right around the corner! It’s the season of corn mazes, pumpkin carving, and trick-or-treating, and this year the Live Green! office celebrated with our own spooky(ish) pumpkin creations!

Halloween is a wonderful time to engage with your community and even give back! But between the plastic candy wrappers and disposable pumpkin-themed decorations, Halloween can create a lot of unnecessary waste. From costumes to pumpkins, candy, and more, there are many different ways to “green” your Halloween!

1. Upcycle Old Materials to Create Spooky Decorations

Halloween is the second biggest holiday for decorations, and many Halloween-themed decor is made from non-recyclable plastics1. Rather than buying materials for decorations, make use of the odds and ends you’ve gathered throughout the year! Old stockings can become spider webs, and cardboard boxes can be used as tombs. You can also use autumn produce, like pumpkins and gourds, to achieve a fall-themed look! Check out 13 eco-creepy crafts and decor at!

2. Make Your Own Costume

Show off your best Project Runway-inspired creation this Halloween and create a completely unique costume! Use recycled materials to transform into a bat, mason jar, or paper doll. Browse thrift shops, flea markets, or invite friends over for a Costume Swap! You can also look for inspiration from your closet – an old prom dress, Hawaiian shirt, or cowboy hat are the beginnings of great costumes! BONUS: Use masks and face paint instead of a rubber mask, and make your own fake blood!

3. Throw an Eco-Friendly Party

Throwing a greener Halloween party is simple! If you cannot use reusable dinnerware, avoid non-recyclable cups, plates, and cutlery and look for compostable or recyclable alternatives instead. Use markers or labels to identify cups to ensure a multiple use option. Purchase locally produced foods, candies, and treats. Look for products with minimal packaging. And finally make sure to compost leftover foods and recycle whatever you can.

4. Use All Parts of the Pumpkin

What Halloween celebration is complete without pumpkin carving? Make sure to purchase a locally grown pumpkin, and compost your jack-o-lantern when the holiday is over. Save your seeds from carving and roast them with a little oil and salt for a fall-themed treat! Or try out some of these tasty recipes, like pumpkin ravioli, pumpkin enchiladas, or healthy pumpkin pie french toast, that call for fresh pumpkin!

5. Try Earth-Friendly Candy

Green your trick-or-treating this year, and give away earth-friendly treats! This Halloween, try candy that is made from natural ingredients, without artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives! Also consider fair trade candy that’s been sustainably sourced!

Have a wonderfully spooky time this Halloween season, and remember to “green” your Halloween!

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Author: Laurelin Haas, Live Green! Special Initatives Intern