Sustainability — here and abroad

Indiana State students learn about sustainability efforts while on a study abroad trip to Thailand this spring. At home, Blue continues to capture accolades for its ‘green’ efforts.

A city powered solely by renewable energy sources may sound like an idea plucked from the future.

But Indiana State University business administration major Angela Hess, ’16, of Huntertown, Ind., can verify that it is anything but farfetched after her experience at the Chiang Mai World Green City of the Asian Development College for Community Economy and Technology (adiCET) in March.

“(Chiang Mai World Green City) had a great campus space with the ability to grow, develop and improve on what was already there,” said Hess, who was part of a group of Sycamores on a study abroad trip led by Scott College of Business professors Aruna Chandra and Bill Wilhelm. “It was great to see that the people were willing and wanted to hear advice on ways to advance their project. The people running adiCET are highly qualified, well-trained engineers, but they don’t have the business background to know how to leverage key stakeholders in order to get the benefits of the technology to the community.”

Aiming to be the first community in the Association of Southeast Asian nations to be 100 percent sustainable by using green technology, renewable energy and conservation, adiCET is part of the more than 200-arce Chiang Mai World Green City that launched several years ago on Chiang Mai Rajabhat University’s Mae Rim campus.

Students pose for a photograph at the Chiang Mai World Green City of the Asian Development College for Community Economy and Technology (adiCET) in March.

Students pose for a photograph at the Chiang Mai World Green City of the Asian Development College for Community Economy and Technology (adiCET) in March.

It includes about 20 buildings operated by solar cells, a recycled road constructed from 2 million waste plastic bags, low-carbon agriculture, smart water system, AC-DC power micro-grid, community and household biogas systems, biomass gasifier and energy-efficient classroom.

But what is lacking, Hess said, is the connection between the renewable energy technology and economic development, which was the focus of her research project.

“They need to work from the bottom up, starting with the community’s needs and desires and create grassroots technology that can be implemented into society,” she said. “Their key issue is how can adiCET develop the strategic economic development objective to include all stakeholders — faculty and students, businesses and the community?”

Chandra has suggested that adiCET build relationships with stakeholders, like faculty, students, business and government, to bridge the gap between technology and the community.

“The projects are all on a macro level right now, but if they could come up with more micro, grassroots-type innovations, like how to harness solar or renewable energy to run a stove, then that innovation could be sold,” she said. “They could use faculty and students to come up with projects to take the technology to the grassroots level in the local community. The university could also write grant proposals for government funding or start an incubator to encourage people to setup businesses that take the renewable energy technology and convert it into market need based technology that will impact the community, and then businesses that are interested would have a reason to fund some of these technologies.”

In addition to the benefits at the local level, Chiang Mai Green City could serve as a prototype for other green communities around the world. Chandra is developing a course in sustainable innovations as part of the entrepreneurship concentration in the Scott College of Business’ management program.

Interest in finding more ecologically friendly solutions to the world’s environmental and economic problems is growing among U.S. college students, like Hess.

In the Princeton Review’s 2016 College Hopes and Worries Survey Report, 61 percent of perspective college students nationwide said a college’s commitment to environmental issues would contribute “strongly,” “very much” or “somewhat” to their application and attendance decisions.

As perspective college students turn their focus toward sustainability, so has Indiana State, where the campus made its first steps toward sustainability with the construction of the campus Recycle Center in 1989.

Indiana State's Community Garden and the Institute for Community Sustainability office is seen.

Indiana State’s Community Garden and the Institute for Community Sustainability office is seen.

“Even though they built the Recycle Center thinking about economics and reducing the amount ISU had the pay for landfill tipping fees, we also sell the recyclables that we capture on campus,” said Caroline Savage, program director for Indiana State’s Institute for Community Sustainability. “It’s doing exactly what we define sustainability as — the interconnection between economic, social and environmental issues.”

The Recycle Center spurred campus to action and resulted in an e-waste recycling program, environmentally focused speaker series, awareness events and the creation of the Institute for Community Sustainability.

Indiana State’s Institute for Community Sustainability was funded in 2012 under the Unbounded Possibilities and last year became part of University Engagement.

“We really see sustainability as an interdisciplinary, multidisciplinary effort and get to work with people across campus,” Savage said.

The Institute for Community Sustainability found a permanent home on 11th Street when the university started neighborhood quality control and purchased several neighborhood blocks with abandoned and dilapidated homes. While many of the homes were torn down, Savage said the university kept one house that was turned into the hub for the institute.

“The university was looking for ways to give back to the community on that property, so nine years ago the community garden was started as a free service to the public,” she said. “I’m most interested in the social sphere of sustainability and dealing with equity and access to resources, which you see with our office being next to the Ryves neighborhood. I think the way we have the community garden setup encourages people to come have a garden plot and involve themselves in the community, but they do the growing so it’s not a handout.”

About 150 gardeners from around the city have taken put a plot and 10 percent of all produce from the garden is donated to charity.

“By reclaiming the land and using it to grow fresh produce, we can really feed ourselves within the Wabash Valley, and if we had to we wouldn’t need to import any food and could just live off the land,” Savage said. “We’re not necessarily there yet, but we’re doing something great by providing the garden and supplies next to Ryves neighborhood — one of the most impoverished neighborhoods in the region. The garden is the perfect example of what it means to be a Sycamore — take care of your community and leave it better than when you found it.”

Indiana State has reaffirmed its commitment to sustainability throughout the years. In 2007, the university signed the American College and University President’s Climate Commitment and has lowered carbon emissions levels to 53 percent of 1990 levels, due in part to efforts like the installation of a vertical wind turbine in front of Rhoads and Mills residence halls in 2013.

The move was progress toward the Climate Action Plan, which guides the university toward carbon neutrality by 2050 through examination of food systems, energy systems and buildings on campus before proposing ideas for becoming more sustainable in the future.

As a push for a “more sustainable State,” all new construction on campus is required to be built to at least LEED Silver standards as of 2013. That was the year Federal Hall, which houses the Scott College of Business, received the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design’s Silver certification — the organization’s third-highest designation.

Earth Day at Indiana State draws thousands of people from the campus and community each year.

Earth Day at Indiana State draws thousands of people from the campus and community each year.

By 2014, sustainability efforts spread further into the curriculum when Indiana State began offering a minor in sustainability that allows students to use a multidisciplinary perspective for solving problems on a local or global scale.

“I think integrating experiential learning and projects into the coursework will help to develop student interest in sustainability,” Hess said. “Partnering with (Asian Development College for Community Economy and Technology) would give students valuable experience in sustainability efforts in a developing country like Thailand, and Indiana State could work to create a similar green city where students could research and develop grassroots technology to implement into Terre Haute and the surrounding communities.”

Indiana State’s ongoing sustainability initiatives have led to designations as a Tree Campus USA campus and as one of the most environmentally responsible colleges in the U.S. and Canada by the Princeton Review for three straight years. Second Nature: The Center for Green Schools recently selected State as a finalist for the 2016 Climate Leadership Awards because of its commitment to sustainability through academics, community outreach, and proactive facilities management.

This year, Indiana State’s Earth Day celebration was also named one of the best in the U.S. in an inaugural list by Leaf Filter, the nation’s largest gutter protection company.

“Indiana State’s Earth Day celebration has been celebrated for about eight years and grown to see participation from about 3,000 people and 50 businesses and university and community organizations who set up during the Sustainability Festival, allowing them to get in front of students to get volunteers and talk about their sustainable businesses and efforts,” Savage said. “We ask that they focus on education so students learn things and can connect with businesses and organizations in the community that are doing good things. It’s a big, open celebration with the public that was named one of the 11 best Earth Day celebrations in the country, I think, because we keep it community-focused.”

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