Sustainability is a commitment exemplified at ISU through initiatives students undertake with staff to make campus increasingly eco-friendly. The University is elevated as students gain leadership skills through civic engagement.Appears In
One example is the student chapter of the Food Recovery Network (FRN), which is a national nonprofit. Students partner with ISU catering to recover leftover food from dining halls and the Bone Student Center, reducing waste and fighting hunger. Collections are delivered to Home Sweet Home Ministries (HSHM) in Bloomington that serves the homeless and hungry.
“All food that is served to the members of the community is only the extra food that went untouched,” said ISU Catering Chef Phillip Cade. “Any of the food that does not go out to customers gets put in pans, cooled overnight, and then labeled for delivery for the next day.”
Two to three student volunteers are usually needed to complete each recovery. “The FRN greatly impacts our area,” said Elizabeth Gilmore, a junior elementary education major who is the co-president and co-founder of ISU’s chapter. HSHM Food Services Manager Carol Schrenk agrees.
“The food that we are getting from these students helps HSHM immensely. We are able to feed so many people who have a hard time getting food,” Schrenk said. “The work of these students has been an absolute answer to prayer for so many.”
The campus also benefits. During the fall 2020 semester, students recovered more than 2,100 pounds of food and saved 4,089 kilograms of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere. ISU’s group was recognized in 2020 as the Top Food Recover-er by FRN, logging more food recoveries than 99 percent of FRN chapters across the country.
The Department of Chemistry is reducing its environmental footprint through the work of Aly Hearn ’13. As the department’s stockroom manager, Hearn advocates “reduce, reuse, recycle, in that order.” She works to implement greener practices in part by eliminating hazardous materials in labs whenever possible.
Members of the Student Sustainability Committee look for partnership opportunities that include working with the Engineering Technology Club to build donation boxes that will be filled with school supplies shared instead of discarded.
Registered student organizations also contribute to the effort. The Renewable Energy Society works to raise awareness of efficiency measures and sustainable energy. One project is creating grills powered by solar panels for campus. Fix-It Friday is yet another student group that helps eliminate waste by providing free basic sewing and mending throughout each semester.
Many initiatives are spearheaded through the Office of Sustainability and its director, Elisabeth Reed, who this past year assembled a task force of 30 faculty, staff, and students to draft ISU’s first Sustainability Strategic Plan. The office will introduce this spring semester outdoor compost kiosks to divert food waste from landfills and convert some single-use plastic items into compostable packaging.
When taken in totality, ISU’s sustainability work is a positive for all involved. It empowers students as they actively engage in protecting the environment, which in turn creates more opportunities for the campus community to help save the planet.