Frequently Asked Questions

Cy, Iowa State University's mascot, standing in thought.

  1. What does sustainability mean?
  2. When did the Live Green! Initiative start?
  3. What can I do to get involved with the Live Green! Initiative?
  4. How can I support ISU Live Green! when I live off-campus?
  5. Are there any sustainability clubs at ISU?
  6. Are there any upcoming sustainability events?
  7. What are the sustainability-focused classes I can take at ISU?
  8. Where does Iowa State get its energy?
  9. How much energy is campus using?
  10. What are some easy ways to reduce energy use at home, in the office, etc.?
  11. How is Iowa State reducing its waste-print?
  12. How is ISU being recognized for its commitment to sustainability?

1. What does sustainability mean?
Sustainability can have many different meanings depending upon your interests, experiences and perspectives. Overall sustainability is about being mindful of the state of our natural world and leaving it in good condition for generations that come after us. Iowa State University, the Board of Regents and the Governor all recognize sustainability under the definition provided by the 1987 Bruntland Commission (a United Nations world commission focused on environment and development), "meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs." This definition is also widely adopted throughout the world. Learn more about the history of sustainability.


2. When did the Live Green! Initiative start?
Live Green! is President Geoffroy's personal initiative and call to action for all students, faculty and staff that was officially kicked off in 2008. Read more about the goals, history and progress of Live Green!.


3. What can I do to get involved with the Live Green! Initiative?
There are many ways to be a part of the Live Green! Initiative! Consider joining a green team or sustainability organization within your college, department or community! Even just being more thoughtful in your daily actions can make a big difference.


4. How can I support Live Green! if I live off-campus?
There is always something you can do to support Live Green! When you're on campus, you can impact energy demands and the greening of our campus by decreasing your energy use. You can also consider joining a group on campus or in the community in which you live or reading our weekly green tips to get ideas on how to reduce your energy use and increase your sustainable actions both on- and off-campus!


5. Are there any "green" clubs at ISU?
Absolutely! There are more than 40 groups on campus whose activities and projects support "green" living and all facets of sustainability (environmental, social and economic). Their specific areas of focus range from sustainable agriculture and green building to outdoor recreation and community service. Browse the list of student organizations and their events and activities to see what interests you!


6. Are there any upcoming green events?
There is always something going on that supports Live Green!, either on campus or nearby! Visit our events calendar for more information.


7. What are the sustainability classes at ISU?
There are more than 350 green courses at ISU that focus on sustainability and living green, related to agriculture, water quality and more. Every college and nearly every department has at least one sustainable course to offer. In addition, Iowa State also has multiple degree programs that pertain to sustainability, both undergraduate and graduate. View the full list of courses to find one (or more!) that interest you!


8. Where does ISU's energy come from?
Iowa State University has the distinction of having its own co-generation power plant that ensures ongoing power, heating and cooling to campus year-round. Read more about its operations.


9. How can I tell how much energy I'm using every day?
If you live on-campus it is very easy to track how much energy you are using in your campus home. You can also look at the energy consumption in campus buildings you use frequently, including buildings where you work, have class, work on projects or hang out. If you live off-campus, talk to your energy provider to track how much energy you consume daily. The City of Ames's website also provides a great resource page on how much energy your typical household appliances are using.


10. What is the easiest way to reduce my energy-use in my apartment?
There are a number of easy ways you can greatly reduce your energy use in your home. Using compact fluorescent bulbs, reducing the number of "duplicates" you have such as TVs, and turning your thermostat up in the summer and down in the winter, even a few degrees can save a lot of energy and can save you money. Also, try unplugging electronics when you're not using them. For other tips about energy conservation, check out our green tips or visit the City of Ames' energy website.


11. How is Iowa State reducing its waste-print?

Iowa State University follows the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Waste Hierarchy in all of its operations, recognizing no single waste management approach is suitable for managing all materials and waste streams in all circumstances. Iowa State diligently aims to reduce its waste-print through a variety of methods:

  • Recyclables (plastic, paper, newspaper, cardboard and metal), collected in campus recycling bins and solar-powered trash compactors through single stream recycling, are taken to processors to be made into new products.
  • Food items from ISU Dining centers and ISU Catering are sent to the ISU Compost Facility and made into compost to be used on campus and at the ISU Horticulture Research Station. Pre-packaged food donations are also made to Food at First through campus cafes.
  • Glass from campus laboratories and residential facilities is collected in Tidy Cats Glass Recycling Bins and glass dumpsters and sent to the City of Ames' Resource Recovery Center to be crushed and recycled.
  • Garbage and trash (collected in dumpsters and solar-powered trash compactors) is sent to the Resource Recovery Center, where metals and items that cannot be composted or reused can be diverted from the landfill. All refuse-derived fuel (60-65% of what ends up at the Center) is provided to the City of Ames power plant to be mixed with natural gas to provide electricity to City of Ames electric customers. Non-beneficial fuel items, such as furniture, carpet and wood products, are taken to the Boone County landfill.


12. How is Iowa State being recognized for its commitment to sustainability?

Throughout the years, Iowa State has been recognized for its many accomplishments in sustainability. Some of these awards and recognitions include:

  • Fifteen Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)-certified campus buildings (2 Platinum, 10 Gold, 3 Silver)
  • STARS Gold certification, a program by AASHE (Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education)
  • Top 25 Most Beautiful College Campuses in the World
  • Tree Campus USA by the Arbor Day Foundation
  • One of the 2017 Safest College Campuses in Iowa
  • Princeton Review's Guide to 361 Green Colleges Recognition
  • Iowa Governor's Environmental Excellence Award Recipient