Private and community colleges in Iowa focus on green initiatives

Nick Fetty | July 15, 2014
Stewart Memorial Library on the Coe College Campus. Photo by Swagato; Flickr
Stewart Memorial Library on the Coe College campus.
Photo by Swagato; Flickr

Private colleges in Iowa are keeping up with the national trend of increased green initiatives at private colleges and universities.

Coe College in Cedar Rapids is undergoing an effort to decrease consumption of electricity (by 25 percent) and natural gas (by nearly 50 percent) on campus. This is expected to save the college roughly $220,000 annually in energy and operational costs and also reduce Coe’s carbon footprint by about half. Coe along with three other higher education institutions in the state have joined the Alliance for Resilient Campuses.

Green initiatives are taking place at other private schools in Iowa including Luther College which currently has the state’s largest array of solar photovoltaic (PV) panels. Central College is gradually moving toward an all-electric/hybrid fleet of vehicles and Grinnell College is planning a wind farm north of campus that is expected to produce 80 percent of the college’s energy consumption.

Iowa’s community colleges are also adopting sustainable practices. Cedar Rapids-based Kirkwood Community College is utilizing solar panels and wind turbines to generate energy. More than 675,000 square feet of building spaces is heated and cooled using geothermal energy and a new trash diversion program has decreased the amount of waste sent to the landfill by 80 percent.

The state’s public universities have also embraced sustainable practices. There are currently six gold-level LEED-certified buildings on the University of Iowa campus and two buildings that have received a platinum rating. Next year Iowa State University plans to replace the coal boilers at its power plant with boilers powered by natural gas while the University of Northern Iowa plans to retrofit three buildings in fiscal year 2014 to achieve greater energy efficiency. All three public universities were named to the The Princeton Review’s Guide to 322 Green Colleges.

Kirkwood hosts successful I-Renew Energy Expo

This past weekend, Kirkwood Community College hosted the I-Renew Energy Expo. The expo included two floors of booths displaying renewable energy research and innovations, numerous workshops and three keynote speakers (Tim Dwight — former NFL star currently working for a solar power provider; Jeremy Symons — National Wildlife Federation senior vice president of conservation and education; and Bill Leighty — earth protection vice president of the Leighty Foundation).

The Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research (CGRER) was among the organizations supporting I-Renew. CGRER also setup a booth and displayed their work at the expo. Continue reading

Iowa’s colleges and universities lower use of bottled water

Photo by djflander, Flickr

Iowa’s colleges and universities are working to reduce the use of bottled water on campus. Many schools have recently installed water fountains designed to refill water bottles (i.e. there’s enough space under the water fountains’ spouts to fit most water bottles).

At the University of Iowa, free water bottles were handed out to students who signed a pledge to not use bottled water.

Some schools have even contemplated eliminating bottled water from vending machines, but this is difficult to enact due to vendor contracts.

Among the schools to install water bottle friendly fountains are University of Iowa, University of Northern Iowa, Iowa State University, Kirkwood Community College and Mount Mercy University.

Read more about the bottled water reduction efforts from The Gazette here.

On the Radio: Kirkwood’s campus gets greener

Photo courtesy of Kirkwood Community College.

Listen to this week’s radio segment here or read the transcript below. This week’s episode highlights the excellent environmental practices of Kirkwood Community College.

Kirkwood Community College is raising the standards for on-campus sustainability.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.

Continue reading

Kirkwood plans to create sustainability village

Photo by U.S. Army Environmental Command, Flickr.

Kirkwood Community College continues their green initiatives. The school recently announced plans to create a “sustainability village” on campus. It will be used as a research and training hub for sustainable technology.

The 3-acre village will contain three-to-five buildings, a small wind turbine, solar collectors, photovoltaic systems and geothermal devices. There are also plans to construct residential green cabins for research purposes.

Two weeks ago, we reported that Kirkwood installed their first electric-vehicle charging station.

Last month, we reported that Kirkwood finished installing a wind turbine on campus.

Read more about Kirkwood’s sustainability village from Business 380 here.

Kirkwood Community College adds wind turbine

Photo by ali_pk, Flickr

Kirkwood Community College’s wind turbine is up and running. The turbine cost the school $5.2 million, but the energy generated each year will be sold to Alliant Energy for an estimated $300,000.

Additionally, some students in Kirkwood’s Energy Production and Distribution Technologies program will use the turbine as part of their training for a future in wind energy.

This training is in high demand in Iowa, as MidAmerican Energy alone will build 176 new wind turbines this year.

Read more about the turbine and Kirkwood’s program here.