Indiana State University

Student Preparedness

In 2015, ISU completed the Sustainability Campus Master Plan, an action-based vision for large tracts of abandoned residential property adjacent to the university that the university purchased to improve neighborhood quality, which they are calling the Sustainability Campus. This area includes several properties in the Ryves neighborhood, where 98% of school children receive free or reduced school meals. The Sustainability Campus is a living, learning laboratory for sustainability; plans and actions are constantly evolving, but to date achievements toward the Sustainability Campus have included an outdoor community classroom, a depot for the re-use of leftover campus construction materials, a solar-powered community art installation, and the largest community garden in the state of Indiana, which is provided free of charge and offers access to tools and water. ISU does not have a sustainability office on campus, but an Institute for Community Sustainability, whose mission is to link campus and community sustainability efforts through outreach, public education, and research. Sustainability efforts at ISU are equal parts campus and community focused, and we achieve the greatest success in actualizing that mission when we provide students with experiential learning opportunities to improve the community through sustainability. The next phase of the Sustainability Campus, which is currently underway, include the development of an affordable eco-village in the Ryves neighborhood, expansion of the university compost to incorporate organic waste collection from the community, brownfield restoration, an edible urban orchard, and pedestrian and public transportation infrastructure development.

Climate Innovation

Last year ISU initiated a Certificate in Sustainability Leadership, a program offered through the Career Center to teach students in all majors the basics of sustainability and help them to be able to communicate about and advocate for sustainability no matter where they are employed post-graduation. All students who have received the certificate reported increased knowledge about their career options, sustainability, and how to be a leader. This spring, The university also expanded the offering of the Sustainability Minor so that it can be achieved via online courses. The biggest community sustainability focus at ISU is the creation of community gardens. Not only does ISU have the largest community garden in the state of Indiana, but they have helped two other local organizations to develop their own gardens. ISU also offers educational programing about food preparation and preservation, as well as composting, mycology, and growing herbs for food and medicinal use. By using the resource wealth ISU has in their soil, they hope to prepare their community for a more localized food system. ISU has partnered with two local groups who are working to build food self-sufficiency in our community: One group is organizing a food hub amongst local farmers to better enable them to distribute their produce to large regional organizations and encourage farmers to grow crops other than corn and soy as they build a market for local produce. Another partner is working to establish the community’s first cooperative marker, which would allow consumers to purchase local produce directly.

Creating Opportunity

The campus used to be powered by coal energy; ISU converted the facility to one that uses natural gas. Making this change reduced their carbon emissions to half of 1990 levels. The university has worked to reduce Scope 3 emissions by making Car Sharing available to discourage students from bringing cars to campus, as well as by increasing bicycle infrastructure on campus, and working with the local city government to make bicycle parking more convenient and accessible in the community.

ISU has partnered with Vectren, the local gas utility, to improve energy efficiency in the Ryves neighborhood, as well as neighborhood self-sufficiency by acting as a convener of neighborhood residents and engaging students through research projects about how to improve housing, public transportation, food, and energy options in the community with the goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions in this neighboring community.

The university has installed a vertical shaft UGE wind turbine and multiple solar panels on the campus, which both offset energy use and are used as teaching tools for student research projects. By using formerly residential sites as urban gardens, they are creating carbon sinks around the community to further reduce their impact upon the planet.