On The Radio – Des Moines mayor touts ability of city governments to pursue sustainability


CGRER co-director Jerry Schnoor (left) interviews Des Moines mayor Frank Cownie at COP21 in Paris. (CGRER)
CGRER co-director Jerry Schnoor (left) interviews Des Moines mayor Frank Cownie at COP21 in Paris. (CGRER)
December 21, 2015

This week’s On The Radio segment looks at Des Moines mayor Frank Cownie and sustainability initiatives he has led in Iowa’s capital city.

Transcript: Des Moines mayor touts ability of city governments to pursue sustainability

Des Moines Mayor Frank Cownie was among more than 500 mayors from around the world in Paris earlier this month as part of the COP21 international climate conference.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.

Mayor Cownie sat down with University of Iowa civil and environmental engineering professor Jerry Schnoor at the international climate conference in Paris to discuss ways that city governments can help in the global effort to reduce carbon emissions and also to discuss specific initiatives taken in Iowa’s capital city. One such initiative was Des Moines’ LEED platinum-certified World Food Prize building, which at the time of its opening was the largest single-owner, single-occupant LEED platinum building in the world.

Des Moines was also one of the first cities to the sign the Compact of Mayors agreement, which is an accord by mayors from roughly 120 cities across the United States that have responded to the president’s plea to address climate change through local government initiatives. Cownie said he thinks that the smaller size of city government makes it easier to implement certain measures compared to state and federal initiatives.

COWNIE: “We don’t need to have an act of congress or an appropriation that might come 12 to 16 months down the road. If there are things that need to be done we can do them today. We’re working in preparedness and mitigation techniques. We recognize from past experiences some of the vulnerabilities we have even in Iowa.”

For full text and video from the interview with Mayor Cownie, visit Iowa-Environmental-Focus-dot-org.

From the UI Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research, I’m Nick Fetty.

Central College recognized for efficiency efforts


Earlier this month Central College was presented with a check from Alliant Energy. From left: Bill Northup, vice president for advancement; Peggy Fitch, vice president of student development, Mark Putnam, Central College president; David Vollmar, Alliant Energy key account manager; Janine Fontana, operations manager and Mike Lubberden, Central College director of facilities planning and management. (Central College News)
Earlier this month Central College was presented with a check from Alliant Energy for energy efficiency effort on campus. From left: Bill Northup, vice president for advancement; Peggy Fitch, vice president of student development, Mark Putnam, Central College president; David Vollmar, Alliant Energy key account manager; Janine Fontana, operations manager and Mike Lubberden, Central College director of facilities planning and management. (Central College News)

Nick Fetty | December 26, 2014

Earlier this month Iowa’s Central College received a $18,969 rebate from Alliant Energy for energy efficiency projects on campus.

The college recently installed new insulation in Gaass residence hall as well as an energy-efficient heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system in the Maytag Student Center. Both of these projects were financed with assistance from Alliant Energy’s custom rebate and new construction energy programs.

These efforts are expected to save the college nearly 25,000 therms of natural gas annually. Additionally, these efforts will reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 132 metric tons each year, the equivalent of removing about 28 percent of passenger vehicles from Iowa roadways.

In 2003, Central’s Vermeer Science Center was the first building on an Iowa campus to achieve Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification after then president David Roe signed the Talloires Declaration on sustainability . The college is also working toward eventually powering its entire vehicle fleet using photovoltaics. Earlier this year Central became the fourth school in Iowa to join the Alliance for Resilient Campuses which aims to adapt to the challenges of climate change and promote sustainability.

Central College is a private liberal arts college with 1,386 students located in Pella, Iowa.

New biomedical building features first green rooftop on University of Iowa campus


Nick Fetty | July 28, 2014
The Old Capitol Building on the University of Iowa campus. Photo by Matthew Anderson; Flickr
The Old Capitol Building on the University of Iowa campus.
Photo by Matthew Anderson; Flickr

The University of Iowa’s new Pappajohn Biomedical Discovery Building (PBDB) is the first building on campus to feature a green rooftop.

Crews began planting various perennial sedums – such as black-eyed Susan alliums, liatris, and hostas – in the spring. These plants are expected to provide several perks from a social and aesthetic perspective to environmental and sustainability benefits. The green rooftop is expected to not only save money on energy costs but also help to control water runoff and mitigate erosion. This rooftop greenery was key to the PBDB receiving gold-level LEED certification.

The University of Iowa has two buildings with platinum-level LEED certification and six that have achieved gold status. A recent list compiled by College Prowler ranked the University of Iowa the 279th greenest college campus in the nation and 6th amongst colleges in Iowa.

However, the PBDB will not be the only building on campus to utilize a green roof. The new Art Building – which is expected to be completed by 2016 – is projected to include a 14,600-square-foot rooftop garden, more than double the size the garden (6,440-square feet) on PBDB’s roof. The PBDB open earlier this month and is expected to be fully operational in the coming months.

Iowa State University ranked “greenest” college in Iowa


Nick Fetty | July 26, 2014
Image via eCollegeFinder
Image via eCollegeFinder

The annual Iowa-Iowa State football game is still seven weeks away but the Cyclones recently beat the Hawkeyes in a different kind of contest.

Iowa State was ranked as the “greenest” campus in Iowa according by a list compiled by College Prowler. The website did not provide the criteria used to judge each school but stated: “These days, schools boast a high number of LEED-certified facilities and sustainability initiatives. The following colleges and universities are striving for a more eco-friendly future.” Pitzer College – a liberal arts college with 1,084 undergraduates located in Claremont, Calif.  – took the top spot on the list with a perfect score of 10.

Iowa State was 46th overall with a score of 9.19. Other Iowa schools to make the list include Grinnell College at 64th (9.04), Luther College at 66th (9.01), Central College at 85th (8.93), the University of Northern Iowa at 134th (8.75), and the University of Iowa at 279th (8.45).

Iowa State University has two buildings that have achieved platinum-level LEED certification, three at the gold-level, and one at silver. The university also has several LEED projects currently under construction. In 2013, Iowa State received gold certification from STARS (Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System) because of its sustainable programs and initiatives.

The University of Iowa has two buildings with platinum-level LEED certification, six at gold, and several projects in the works. Iowa also received golf certification from STARS and continues to work on various sustainability projects.

The Cyclones and Hawkeyes will duke it out for state bragging rights on gridiron on September 13. This year’s contest is in Iowa City and kickoff is set for 2:30 p.m.

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.

Central College becomes fourth Iowa school to join Alliance for Resilient Campuses


Nick Fetty | July 10, 2014
Central College Pond on the Central College campus in Pella, Iowa. Photo by Central College Alumni; Flickr
Central College Pond on the Central College campus in Pella, Iowa.
Photo by Central College Alumni; Flickr

Central College has become the most recent higher education institute in Iowa to join the Alliance for Resilient Campuses.

Central – a liberal arts college with 1,486 undergrads located in Pella, Iowa – is among 35 other colleges and universities across the nation that aim to “respond to the challenges of climate change and work to ensure greater community resilience.”

In 2003, the Vermeer Science Center at Central College became the first building on an Iowa campus to achieve Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification.

The Alliance for Resilient Campuses is an initiative by Second Nature, a nonprofit Boston-based organization that aims “to create a sustainable society by transforming higher education.” The group was founded in 1993 and the Alliance for Resilient Campuses was started in May of this year.

Three other Iowa institutes are members of the Alliance for Resilient Campuses: Coe College in Cedar Rapids, Drake University in Des Moines, and Iowa Lakes Community College with campuses in Algona, Emmetsburg, Estherville, Spencer and Spirit Lake.

Chipotle restaurants to serve more locally grown produce


Nick Fetty | June 26, 2014
Chipotle burrito bowl. Photo by punctuated; Flickr
Chipotle burrito bowl.
Photo by punctuated; Flickr

Chipotle Mexican Grill has announced plans to purchase more than 20 million pounds of locally grown produce for its restaurants this year, up from 2013’s goal of 15 million pounds.

The Denver-based restaurant chain will rely on 45 local farms around the country to provide bell peppers, cilantro, jalapeno peppers, oregano, red onions, romaine lettuce, and tomatoes when seasonally available. Locally grown avocados and lemons will also be available at select locations.

Recent reports show that consumers are embracing locally grown produce initiatives at restaurants and grocery stores. Locally grown produce was listed as #2 for Top Trends according to the National Restaurant Association’s 2014 Culinary Forecast. The National Grocery Association 2014 Consumer Panel found that 87 percent of consumers regard the availability of locally grown produce as “very/somewhat important” during grocery store visits.

Chipotle has been environmentally sustainable with other efforts such as serving more Responsibly Raised meat than any other restaurant company in the country as well as opening the nation’s first platinum LEED-certified restaurant. Despite these efforts, Chipotle has received criticism for importing beef from Australia and also for misleading advertising campaigns.

There are more than 1,650 Chipotle restaurants nationwide with six locations in Iowa.