Iowa aims for 1st place conference finish at RecycleMania 2015

Herky and several University of Iowa students march around campus to promote RecycleMania 2015. (UI Office of Sustainability)
Herky and other University of Iowa students march around campus to promote RecycleMania. (UI Office of Sustainability)

Nick Fetty | February 3, 2015

After placing second in the Big Ten last year, the University of Iowa is aiming to take the conference’s number one spot in the RecycleMania 2015 challenge.

RecycleMania 2015 kicked off on February 1 and will continue through March 28. The eight-week event aims to educate students and other members of the University of Iowa community about the importance of recycling. Participants are encouraged to fill out the RecycleMania Pledge and Quiz to be entered to win weekly prize packages including a RecycleMania mug, lunch container, tote bag, and New Pioneer Co-op snacks.

RecycleMania is part of a nationwide program that began in 2001 between Ohio University and Miami University (Ohio). Since its inception, millions of students from 727 colleges and universities have recycled and composted more than 650 million pounds of material during the tournament’s time-frame.

Competing schools are critiqued on amount of trash and recyclable items collected divided per capita as well as  “which schools have the best recycling rate as a percentage of total waste and which schools generate the least amount of combined trash and recycling.” Last year, Purdue University had the highest recycling rate in the Big Ten at 39.4 percent followed by Iowa with 34 percent. Iowa finished 5th in the conference in 2013.

Nearly 400 colleges and universities around the country are participating in this year’s event. The state of Iowa has three institutions in this year’s tournament: The University of Iowa, Loras College, and Wartburg College.

Researchers from two Big Ten universities working on environmentally-friendly lawns

Nick Fetty | September 5, 2014
A house in Gossau, Canton of Zurich, Switzerlan. (Flickr)
A house in Gossau, Canton of Zurich, Switzerlan. (Flickr)

The college football season is underway as the Hawkeyes, Cyclones, and hundreds of other teams from all across the country take to the field for the more than century-old tradition. However, scientists from two Big Ten universities are putting their differences aside and teaming up to develop more environmentally friendly lawns.

Researchers from Rutgers University and the University of Minnesota – both members of the Committee on Institutional Cooperation – will work together on a five-year study to develop a strain of grass unaffected by disease and drought while remaining affordable for consumers. The U.S. Department of Agriculture granted the researchers $2.1 million to further develop a strain of grass known as fine fescue. These grasses are known not only for their drought resistance but also their shade tolerance enabling them to survive varying conditions.

Fine fecues are divided into five species and subspecies: Hard fescue, Chewings fescue, (blue) sheep fescue, creeping red fescue and slender creeping red fescue. The grass is native to Europe where it was traditionally used for grazing pastures as well as ornamental landscaping and home lawns. It is ideal for lawns because it grows slowly and requires little to no fertilizer. Lawn fertilizers, pesticides, and other chemicals can lead to a range of health complications from rashes and headaches to birth defects and even cancer. Children and pets are even more susceptible to these adverse health effects. Use of these chemicals also leads to waterway pollution.

Horticulturalists with the Iowa State University Extension and Reiman Gardens in Ames suggest different grass blends depending on conditions in various parts of Iowa.

University of Iowa hosts international conference about environmental contamination

Nick Fetty | August 19, 2014
Water pollution in China. (Bert van Dijk/Flickr)
Water contamination in China. (Bert van Dijk/Flickr)

Beginning today and continuing through Friday, the University of Iowa is hosting a conference to discuss emerging contaminants and their effect on the environment.

EmCon 2014: Fourth International Conference on Occurrence, Fate, Effects & Analysis of Emerging Contaminants in the Environment will feature speakers from all across the world, including a keynote speech from University of Iowa engineering professor and CGRER co-director Jerry Schnoor. Representatives from various Big Ten schools (Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Nebraska, Purdue, Wisconsin) as well as Iowa State, Stanford and several other educational and governmental entities are scheduled to give speeches or other presentations. The event “will focus on the most recent developments and findings concerning the source, occurrence, fate, effects, and analysis of emerging contaminants in the environment, providing an ideal venue for exchange of cutting-edge ideas and information in this rapidly evolving research area.”

The first conference, EmCon 2007, was held in York, United Kingdom and brought in more than 100 attendees from all around the world. EmCon 2009 was in Fort Collins, Colorado and EmCon 2011 was in Copenhagen, Denmark.

The National Hydraulic Engineering Conference 2014 is also taking place in Iowa City this week. This event will focus on “sustainability in the design of infrastructure in a rapidly changing environment.”

EmCon 2014 begins at 4 p.m. today and the full schedule of events is available here.