Sustainability committee takes new approach to its work – View Inside Iowa State

Sustainability committee takes new approach to its work – View Inside Iowa State yH5BAEAAAAALAAAAAABAAEAAAIBRAA7

By Anne Krapfl
November 02, 2023
As it completes its fourth year of advisory service, the University Sustainability Committee (USC) has refined its charge and assembled a subcommittee structure to help its 20-plus members tackle the work. Five subcommittees will focus on different categories in the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education's STARS (sustainability tracking, assessment and rating system). Since 2013, Iowa State has maintained a gold rating, second only to platinum in the four-tiered system that regularly raises its metrics.
Because it assesses "all corners of campus" — academics (curriculum and research), operations, planning and administration, and engagement (on campus and in the community) — director of sustainability and committee vice chair Merry Rankin called STARS "a relevant and very representative measure of campus sustainability." Universities not ready to pursue a STARS rating still use its framework to assess their progress on sustainability efforts, she noted.
The five subcommittees will explore:
*Outside the work of the USC
Their work will supplement Rankin's information gathering for the next STARS submission in 2025. Involving more people and promoting awareness of the process should result in a more accurate, more complete data set for the STARS submission, said new USC chair Ted Heindel, Bergles Professor of Thermal Science and University Professor in mechanical engineering.
"We think our faculty, staff and students are doing relevant work that isn't being recognized, whether they don't know we're looking or they're not sure if their work checks the box," Heindel said. "Our subcommittees will need to find ways to reach all parts of campus."
Professor of geological and atmospheric sciences Bill Gutowski, who remains on the committee, led the group since it formed in spring 2020. Heindel and Gutowski worked with President Wendy Wintersteen over the summer to broaden the committee charge beyond its initial focus on energy efficiency, energy conservation and renewable energy. The committee serves in an advisory capacity to Wintersteen.
Gutowski noted STARS "is the goalpost in front of us right now," though it's not the endgame.
"The real issue is being sustainable, making progress as a university and being a positive contributor to our community, to the state. STARS is an excellent way to measure what we're doing," he said.
As part of their work, the subcommittees also will look for cost-saving or low-cost actions that improve campus sustainability more generally. For example, ISU Dining removing trays from the dining centers several years ago greatly cut down on campus food waste, Heindel said.
The newly appointed subcommittee chairs will meet for the first time Nov. 3 to launch their work for the year.
Heindel acknowledged a very broad — even differing — understanding of sustainability among members of the university community — and that's OK.
"Our committee can't do everything in that broad realm. We're trying to focus our efforts in some subsets where we can make a difference," he said. "The work of these subcommittees shouldn't dissuade anyone at Iowa State from sustainable actions in other areas. We all can impact sustainability in our own way."
Members of the campus community who want to pass along information to the committee may email it to Heindel, theindel@iastate.edu.
University Sustainability Committee: members
The athletics department, via ISU Surplus, will sell pieces of the 2020-23 Hilton Coliseum basketball floor in a Nov. 6 online sale.
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