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!”

Screen Shot 2017-09-28 at 1.58.11 PM

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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! ☕️

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:

13048117_1110095892369729_2481387476892667282_o 14379764_10209276246696299_2388272344861312724_o IMG_0171
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!


Gardening 101: A Newbie’s Guide to the Food At First Garden

Hello, everyone! My name is Laurelin, and I’m a Live Green! intern currently working for the office over the summer! You might remember me from previous blog posts, and I’m happy to say that I’ll be here throughout the fall semester as well! Today I’m back with a new post on gardening – let me know your thoughts in the comment section below!

Every Wednesday after a long day spent in front of a computer screen, I don my gardening gloves and knee pads and reconnect with nature. I’ve spent hours fighting with weeds, planting seeds, and chasing rabbits through a maze of raspberries – and I can honestly say that my experience as a volunteer at the Food At First Garden has been one of the highlights of my summer!

At the beginning of the season I started interning full time, and I found that I had significantly more time on my hands without the pressures of schoolwork. I knew that I wanted to volunteer in some way and I’ve also always wanted to try my hand at gardening, so I signed up to help at the Food At First Garden.


On that very first Wednesday, I was the first one to arrive. I paced around nervously to kill time, and I was filled with doubts about the experience. I’d never really gardened before, and I could barely tell crops from weeds. I imagined pulling up all of the wrong plants and killing everything in the garden – I was worried that I’d be the worst gardener in the history of mankind.

Soon enough, some of the wonderful volunteers from the Sustainable Agriculture Student Association (SASA) arrived, and they put me straight to work! I quickly learned that my lack of gardening experience didn’t really matter – every task was explained to me very clearly, and I was able to ask all sorts of questions if I still didn’t understand something.

Really, the only qualification necessary was willingness to work hard at work worth doing.

Everyone at the garden was friendly and welcoming, and I learned a lot about plants and gardening in the two hours that I spent there on my first day. I left feeling excited to return, and I’ve been going back each week ever since!

Gardening to me is a way enjoy the outdoors, learn new skills, and take a break from the rest of the world. Some days (depending on the task), it’s also a great way to get in a workout! And because the Food At First Garden donates most of its produce to the local community, it’s a wonderful way for me to give back in my spare time.

Food At First is an organization that offers a free meal program and a food pantry program. Fresh produce from the garden is incorporated into the Food At First meals and is also available for distribution at Trinity Church on Saturday mornings!


Live Green! intern, Adam, made Mexican Lasagna at Trinity Church for Food at First using some ingredients from the garden! 

So for all you hesitant gardeners out there, I encourage you to give gardening a try! Here are some things I wish I’d known on my first day at the garden:

  • No gardening experience is necessary
  • Come dressed to sweat in clothes you don’t mind getting a little dirty
  • Put on sunscreen and bug spray before arriving
  • Bring a water bottle
  • Gloves and knee pads will be provided
  • Be prepared to eat as many overripe raspberries as you want

The Food At First Garden is located behind the Trinity Christian Reformed Church at 3626 Ontario St. Garden work days are Wednesdays from 5-7pm and Saturdays from 9-11am! Sign up online or just show up ready to work! And for more information, email This year the garden will be open until about mid-October and will pick back up in the spring!

Gardening has been one of the best and most memorable experiences of my summer, and if you have some extra time on your hands it could also be the highlight of yours, too!

Written By: Laurelin Haas, Live Green! intern
Featured Image:

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!

Sustainapalooza 2015 Recap


Sustainapalooza is an event hosted by The Green Umbrella in conjunction with The Live Green! Initiative. This event is to celebrate the sustainable things that people are doing on the Iowa State campus, as well as to raise awareness of sustainability and share opportunities on campus and in the Ames community. This was done through a variety of components, including Green-It Yourself Centers, poster session, display of sustainable artwork, the green wall, making pledges, a photo booth, local refreshments, and walking the green carpet.

All aspects of Sustainapalooza 2015 were a success! Everything was enjoyed, from the ice cream bike all the way to the poster sessions.

The six “Green-It-Yourself” Centers were successful in presenting various crafty, healthy, and outdoorsy aspects of the three principles of sustainability, which are economic, environmental, and social.

“Leave No Trace” Survival
JAX Outdoors, and outdoor clothing and gear company that originally started as a military surplus store, had a representative named Morgan Dowdall at Sustainapalooza that did a water filtration demonstration using a water filtration device that you can purchase from their store, as well as one that you can make using the materials you would find when you are backpacking. They also brought along a variety of clothing items to educate the guests on layering appropriately when backpacking or camping. The overall theme of this Green-It-Yourself center was “Leave No Trace,” which is a set of outdoor ethics promoting conservation in the outdoors.

Upcycling for Raising Readers
Posters were collected from Iowa State Athletics Department from past sports seasons to be made into folders and bookmarks! One size of the poster made one folder and two bookmarks and the other size of the poster made two folders and one bookmark. The items will be donated to the Raising Readers Program in Story County, which is a organization dedicated to improving language and literacy development in children and to nurture healthy parent-child relationships. The Green Umbrella Club plans on doing a service project at the Ames Public Library where students can come in and decorate the bookmarks that were pre-cut for them.

Upcycling for ISU Dance Marathon & Iowa Children’s Miracle Network
T-shirts collected from the ISU Dance Marathon were upcycled into beautiful hats that could be donated back to Dance Marathon who would then pass them on to the Iowa Children’s Miracle Network. These hats had an embellishment on the front and a tied together portion of t-shirt at the top for the patients to wear. The students were able to learn the process from Iowa DNR’s Iowa Waste Exchange representative Shelene Codner. They participated in making the embellishment and tie the top of the hat. The t-shirts that were not made into hats will be a part of Earth Month Celebration on campus and will be a service project for on-campus students to take part in.

Natural Air Fresheners
Pinecones were collected by The Green Umbrella members to be made into natural air fresheners. Homemade cinnamon oil and ground cinnamon were added to the pine cones in a baggie and were taken home by each participant to sit for a five days in the bag. After the five days, the guests could take the pinecones out of the bag and attach a string or place the pinecones in a jar to have a great smelling freshener for their car, residence hall, or apartment!

Homemade Lip Balm + Recycled Soda Bottle Containers
Soda bottles were collected, cut to size, and glued before-hand so that the guests could decorate their lip balm container. The lip balm was also prepared before-hand using local beeswax and some natural oils. The guests got to embellish their lip balm containers while learning about how to make natural lip balm by Iowa State Memorial Union Workspace staff. The containers are re-fillable and can be stored in any small space!

Green Your Plate
ISU Dining Dietician Lisa Nolting and student assistants came to share their knowledge on sustainable snacking. They shared samples of various ingredients that you could put together to make a healthy, inexpensive, and easily prepared trail mix. These ingredients can be a variety of foods from your cabinets, including soy nuts, dark chocolate, banana chips, sunflower seeds, and many more items! If you do purchase the items for your trail mix, do your best to find it a local market so that you are being sustainable.

Pedal-powered ice cream
There are a lot of bike-powered things out there, but nothing like this component of Sustainapalooza! An old bike was made stationary. The chain is used to crank the paddle on the ice cream maker. The bike itself was sustainable, as well as the ice cream mix (purchased from the local AE Dairy). The ice cream that was produced was topped with a local berry cobbler to make the perfect treat to enjoy as dessert for the evening.

Food for the evening was prepared by ISU Dining Catering staff. On the menu was something sweet, something savory, and something salty. All of the food was served on compostable dinner wear with compostable utensils, which made it a zero waste event! There were even quite a few local ingredients included in the mix, too! The refreshments were centered on health, sustainability, and zero waste.

Green Wall
While everyone enjoyed food and refreshments of all tastes, participants also wrote their previous year’s dedication to sustainability on a leaf to be put onto the green wall. Participants also made their 2015 dedication to sustainability on a 5 foot tall thumbprint!

Green Carpet
As participants entered Sustainapalooza, they walked over a large platform of cardinal, green, and gold with various students excited about their arrival. With information all around them as they walk down, students learned more about the event as well as various “did you knows” about sustainable efforts all around the world.

Poster Session
As part of Sustainapalooza and the Symposium on Sustainability, many people within the university as well as the community submitted posters to be displayed during the events. The posters represented detailed and well researched documents as well as various programs involving sustainability and even classes at Iowa State with a purpose. The poster sessions had a large turnout with the food right next by and allowing participants to have something to look at!

Sustainable Artwork
A few students who were a part of the Art 355 and Art 555 Relief Printmaking course taught by April Katz brought their designs to display as part of the poster session for the event. The designs displayed an environment for viewers to enter. The design pieces included multiple printings of their blocks, collages, and even mixed media approaches. The creation of the pieces was even a waste-free project!

Green Your Plate Green-It-Yourself Center

Air Freshener Green-It-Yourself Center

Upcycling Folder Green-It-Yourself Center

Upclycling Hats Green-It-Yourself Center

Lip Balm Containers Green-It-Yourself Center

Homemade Lip Balm Green-It-Yourself Center

13 Easy Changes to Green Any Holiday Celebration

Green In the Celebration

From Thanksgiving to New Year’s, this time of year is full of celebration. Keep sustainability in mind throughout your holiday season by greening your gala!

1. Healthier You, Healthier Holidays

  • Remember social sustainability during the holidays!
  • Think about what you eat! Even though it’s easy to indulge, try smaller meals throughout the day. You’ll eat less and feel more full.
  • Feel good throughout the holidays by remembering to exercise. Bring the party outside by taking a walk with your gala-goers as an activity or make things more exciting by having your guests go on an active scavenger hunt.

2. Kick It Down A Notch

  • Save yourself some cash by unplugging your devices before going on vacation.
  • Keep some green in your pocket over the holidays by turning down your thermostat while you’re away. Warm yourself up by adding some extra layers, by exercising, or by running your ceiling fan in reverse.
  • When you buy your holiday lights, choose energy efficient LEDs. Keep your energy efficient decorations bright on a timer so they’ll only be on when people are around to enjoy them!

3. Give Outside of Your Typical Holiday Shopping List

  • Donate your time to others this season.
  • Organizations and charities are always looking for help, especially during this time of year. Try looking at the Volunteer Center of Story County website to find volunteer opportunities in Ames.
  • Assist other in celebrating the season by donating food to local food shelters such as Food at First or The SHOP, which is right on campus. You can help those in need have a fantastic holiday meal!

Get Festive

Celebrate the season in a sustainable style! Use these green tips and tricks to “green in” the holidays!

4. Tone Down The Tinsel

  • Instead of going out and buying new decorations for your soiree, try swapping for some pre-loved decorations. Ask around or try hosting a decoration swap.

5. You Can Recycle That!

  • Holiday parties tend to make a lot of waste. Consider the environment and make your celebrations green by making a large designated recycling bin so your guests can recycle instead of tossing things out.

6. A Renewed Outfit

  • Getting new clothes for your celebrations can be a high priority. Instead of buying a completely new outfit, try swapping with some friends. You’ll get the gift of a new outfit and you’ll be preventing waste too!

7. Become an Upcycle Expert

8. Not Just Leftovers

  • Keep the holiday going by packing up your leftovers. You can even give out takeaway containers as party favors for your guests to box up the food and treats.

Give Forward

Stay green by thinking before you gift. Read our tips for more information about how to give consciously.

9. Give a Gift That Will Keep On Giving

  • Make a donation to a loved one’s favorite charity, group, or organization. A little bit can go a long way and your contribution can help the charity continue to grow.

10. Give a Healthy Gift

  • Instead of a traditional gift, try giving a gift that will keep on giving! Cooking expert? Teach someone how to make a healthy meal. Bicycle master? Invite your buddy out for a nice bike ride on a trail they’ve never seen before. Fashionista? Offer to refresh a friend’s wardrobe by showing them outfit possibilities they haven’t seen before.

11. Give a Gift Of a Memory

  • Hold your memories close and reminisce year-round by creating a gift out of a memory. Frame images from calendars or create a memory board from photographs and images from recycled magazines.

12. Present Your Presents

13. Shop For A Cause

  • Instead of just buying a gift for your loved one, buy a gift for your community too! Support your community by shopping locally. You can also buy your gifts at stores with a mission to help other causes.

Featured Image:

Green Your Grocery Shopping Trip

It’s the perfect time of year to slip on some cooking mitts and get cozy next to an oven.

When you’re creating your next meal, no matter if you are an amateur with ramen or a semi-professional chef, try these tricks to make your meal a bit more sustainable and celebrate Iowa’s food producers and network.

Shop Iowa

The first step of creating any meal is grocery shopping. When picking out a place to buy your products try to find a business that is headquartered in Iowa so you can support social sustainability. When a business is based in the community, the dollars are more likely to stay in the community.

You can try shopping at Fareway (which is based in Boone), Hy-Vee (headquartered in West Des Moines) or Wheatsfield (found only in Ames).

Think Seasonal

While you’re at the grocery store try to pick seasonal products. Products that aren’t in season often have to be shipped from long distances and use a lot of oil in the process. For a list of the seasonal produce you can find in Iowa check this list (

Go Local

 Incorporate local ingredients. There are plenty of producers in the Ames area that sell everything from beef and eggs, to honey and tomatoes. To see a list full list of area producers check out .

If you can’t quite think of a way to incorporate your local ingredients, there are plenty of resources to help you! The Iowa Ingredient is a show that airs on Iowa Public Television that examines a new local ingredient every episode and gives a recipe for that ingredient. For more information visit

Featured image:


7 Easy Ways to Celebrate The Summer Sustainably!

As you head into summer break, don’t forget to keep living green! From food to fuel, here are seven tips to help make your summer more sustainable.


The summer months can be hot, but on the days that it’s bearable, turn off the central air conditioning, throw open the windows and use ceiling fans to keep the house or apartment cool. Running a fan on high can make a room feel five degrees cooler. Not only is it energy efficient, it can help reduce your electric bill for the month!


Summer is the perfect time to pack a picnic with friends and family to enjoy the nice weather! A great way to ‘green’ a picnic is purchasing reusable cups, plates and silverware, which will cut down on trash and save money! You can even add a little more green by purchasing products made out of recycled content!

 3.  BUG OFF

Before spraying your backyard or other venues to keep bugs away during your summertime gatherings, consider some natural alternatives. Citronella candles and torches can offer a festive touch, natural lighting and keep bugs at bay.


It’s recommended by health professionals to use a sunscreen when spending a day in the sun. No one enjoys the lobster look or feel and it’s not healthy for your skin! Most sunscreens protect against sun damage but some may be polluting and toxic to water ecosystems. Try Badger Sunscreen, an all-natural sunscreen option that offers protection for your skin and the environment!


When planning for road trips, fun outdoor activities or even a night out on the town this summer, coordinate a carpool with friends and family to reduce the amount of environmental impact cars create. This is a great way to help the environment and save money.

Don’t have a car? You can utilize the very reliable CyRide in Ames, or invest in a bike to get you from place to place. More than 10 pounds of carbon is produced from just one gallon of gas, so consider alternative transportation first when roaming around town this summer.


Summertime is the perfect opportunity to enjoy your local farmers’ markets produce. Buying local, fresh produce like sweet corn or watermelon from one of the farmers’ markets helps the local economy and let’s you indulge in some very fresh produce! Check out local farmers’ markets on vacation too. Experiencing new produce that is grown in different areas is both fun and tasty!


Many homeowners use outdoor lights to illuminate their surroundings at night. Instead of demanding more electricity, consider solar powered lights! Solar  lights collect sunlight all day and convert it to energy to add just the right amount of light at night.

Solar lights are inexpensive and they do not attract the evening insects that traditional lighting does.  You can choose from solar lights for your sidewalks, decks and even driveways, and they are available at most hardware and gardening stores, like Lowe’s.

Featured Image:

Green Your Spring Cleaning

Whether it’s your house, apartment or dorm, it’s that time of year when you’re ready to throw open the windows, roll your sleeves up and start cleaning. But as much as we can appreciate the seemingly magical effect cleaners have on dirty spaces, have you ever stopped to wonder, “How do these products so easily turn grime into shine?”

Just as it’s important to look at food labels to really understand what you’re putting into your body, you should also consider seeing what ingredients and chemicals make up your household cleaning products. Even though those products can leave a room sparkling clean, you should be aware of what else you might be exposing yourself to after the work is done.

As an alternative this year, consider making your own cleaning products. You’ll save money and reduce your exposure to harsh chemicals.

Air Fresheners- Lemon and Baking Soda

1. Dissolve 1/8 cup of baking soda into 2 cups hot water
2. Add in 1/2 cup lemon juice
3. Fill in spray bottleOR1. Cut up peels of fresh lemon
2. Place on top of 1 cup baking soda* in a clean plastic-lidded container
3. Punch holes in lid

*Baking soda is great at absorbing odors, and lemons infuse a fresh citrus aroma into the air

Window and Wall Cleaner

1. Put 1/4 cup of vinegar in a spray bottle and fill to top with water
2. Spray on surface
3. Rub with a cotton cloth, other lint-free rag, or sheets of newspaper.
Tub and Sink Cleaner1. Use baking soda in place of scouring powder
2. Sprinkle on porcelain fixtures and rub with a wet rag
3. Add Castil Soap or Murphy’s Oil Soap to the rag for more cleaning power
4. Rinse well to avoid leaving a hazy film.
All-Purpose Cleaner
For spots on linoleum, tile, and woodwork:
1. Add a drop of Murphy’s Oil Soap on a wet washcloth
2. Rub briskly. A washcloth will last longer and create less waste than a sponge

Featured image:

Keep Your Dorm Room Sustainable Over Break!

Are you leaving your dorm room? Whether it’s a weekend mini-vacation or a tropical week-long getaway remember to do a few things to save energy and keep your room sustainable while you’re away!

  • Close and lock your windows. Don’t make your thermostat work in overdrive while you’re gone, even if you think the weather might be nice while you’re away.
  • Remove the trash from your room and recycle what you can! Don’t have your room smell of whatever you ate last Thursday (those smells can attract vermin)!
  • Unplug everything you can! Remember to unplug your alarm clock (those loud beeping noises might distress your neighbor), your printer, your power strip bars, your desk lights, your coffee maker­­­­­­­­—anything that you won’t be using while you’re away can be unplugged. Remember that even when you aren’t using something, it still uses power.
  • Remember to think about your plants and your pets! Make sure they have enough food and water before you leave.
  • Make sure you look at your building’s thermostat settings before you leave. Most buildings require you to leave the thermostat at a medium heat so pipes don’t freeze.
  • Report any problems, such as leaky faucets, to maintenance so they can be taken care of over break

Featured image: