Illinois State students back on campus this fall will have a new, sustainable way to charge their devices, thanks to the Student Sustainability Committee.

A solar-powered picnic table was installed June 26 inside the Bone Student Center interior courtyard to ensure that Illinois State students are able to utilize sustainable energy on campus.

The $11,455 table is made from recycled high-density polyethylene materials such as milk jugs and water bottles. It features three 45-watt solar panels on its sides and one 100-watt solar panel on the top of the umbrella. The table has outlets to plug in cell phone and laptop computer chargers, as well as USB ports for smart phones.

The solar picnic table was provided by Illinois State’s Student Sustainability Committee (SSC) through the Student Sustainability Fund. Each year the committee has $180,000 to fund sustainability projects on campus, and any faculty or staff member or student can request a grant for their own project. The student committee then votes to decide which applicants meet the criteria for a sustainable project on campus, said Melissa Nergard, director of the Office of Sustainability at Illinois State.

“These tables have very limited uses on college campuses right now. Our SSC wanted to fund the table because they wanted to showcase renewable energy on campus and have something out there for the students to really use,” said Nergard.

Solar Table close-up

The table has outlets to plug in cell phone and laptop computer chargers.

The table was one of 15 projects funded by the SSC this year, including an outdoor classroom, Earth Month events, and solar trash compactors expected to hit campus this fall.

Cally Lindenmier, the Student Government Association’s secretary of sustainability, said the solar table serves a dual purpose.

“The Student Sustainability Committee decided to fund this project due to its potential high visibility on campus and the contribution it could have on sustainability awareness,” said Lindenmier, a senior vocal music education major. “Not only can students see solar panels at work in an innovative and modern way, but they also will see the SSC logo and be able to inquire about the committee and how to get their own projects funded.”

Lindenmier and the Student Sustainability Committee believe that Illinois State students will get a lot of great use out of the table.

“College students constantly need to charge their devices, and these picnic tables seemed like the perfect sustainable solution,” Lindenmier said.

Jennifer Beemer can be reached at