Real life recycling lessons: 5 recycling mistakes by Utah fans

Abby Ghent sorts recycling from the March 6 Utah Red Rocks gymnastics meet.

Sustainability Ambassador Abby Ghent sorts through items placed in recycling bins during the March 6 gymnastics meet at the Huntsman Center. Recycling Manager Josh James assists in the background.

By Abby Ghent, Sports & Sustainability Ambassador

After the March 6 Utah Red Rocks gymnastics meet—a competition where Utah handily topped Stanford and Utah Senior Kim Tessen scored a perfect 10 on the vault—members of the U Sustainability and Recycling teams sorted through all the discarded materials in the Huntsman Center recycling bins as part of the Pac-12 Zero Waste Challenge. Utah has some of the best fans, but there were few things we noticed in the bins that were problematic. Here are the five most common contaminants we found:

Soda cups, lids, and straws (combined or individually)

Soda cups are paper with a plastic film on the inside. This plastic film is to ensure the cups do not disintegrate while there is a liquid in them. However, this plastic film also makes the cups not recyclable because they aren’t true paper, and they aren’t recyclable plastic either. Additionally, the lid and straw that come with the cups are too thin of a plastic to be recycled and therefore must be taken to the landfill along with the cup.


Although many of the containers that hold liquids are recyclable, if there are liquids in them, they must first be dumped out (either in the sink or another appropriate place for liquids). After dumping the liquids, many of these containers can be recycled—like plastic water bottles that are #1 plastic. If the liquids are poured into the single stream recycling, any paper in the bin is contaminated and must be removed and sent to the landfill.  

Dirty ice cream and smoothie/juice cups

Many of the ice cream cups and smoothie/juice cups we saw still had remnants of food in them. These then harden and are difficult to remove from the plastic. For them to be successfully recycled, they must first be wiped or rinsed out. This is easiest to do as soon as the cups are empty. These dirty containers also have the potential to ruin other recycled items. (Note that the spoons and straws that accompany these materials are not recyclable.)

Plastic wrappers

Plastic wrappers are commonly confused to be recyclable, when in fact, they are not. These plastics are too thin and so cannot be made into another plastic, so they must be sent to the landfill. Plastic wrappers from candy, chips, food items, etc. must be thrown out.

Dirty food containers

Similar to the ice cream cups and smoothie cups, food containers are often contaminated with food remnants such as sauce, grease (in the case of cardboard boxes), and other food waste. Some plastic food containers, particularly #1 plastic containers, can be recycled if they are cleaned first, and if a cardboard box is free of grease and other food remnants, it also can be recycled with the paper/cardboard. Also, pizza crusts—or any food items—do not belong in the recycling bin.

Soda cups, as well as lids and straws, are not recyclable.

Soda cups, as well as lids and straws, are not recyclable.

Greening your office

This article, originally published in @theu on November 7, 2019, was written by Kate Whitbeck, communications, sustainability office. 

Every office has that one person who pulls things out of the trash and puts them in the recycle bin. The same person goes around and turns off the lights that aren’t being used. Sometimes it is a couple of people and sometimes those people make up the majority of the office.

These people are part of a growing force that is transforming our campus. They recognize that the choices we make in our work environment impact the natural environment, our health and our future quality of life. They also recognize that these are issues that are important to our students. These values also happen to fit into the university’s broader mission to promote responsible stewardship of our resources, reduce the impact of the U on the environment, and ensure the long-term success and viability of the institution.

There are currently 45 offices, centers and departments that are either Green Office certified or in the process of getting the certification. Coordinated by the Sustainability Office, the Green Office program helps provide the tools, support and guidance to institutionalize these changes. Departments and offices on campus represent a large portion of energy and material use and waste production on campus. Working through the Green Office checklist is an easy way to reduce energy, waste and emissions through smart purchasing, transportation choices and simple changes to common office practices.

So, how do you go about getting Green Office Certification? We talked to a local expert who has shepherded her office through the process. Ally Marringa is the Academic Advising Coordinator for the College of Social & Behavioral Science.

Why did you initiate the Green Office program in your office?

I really didn’t know much about sustainability when I first started working at the U. I quickly noticed that it is super important to my students. We wanted to make sure that we were upholding our students’ values. If we are trying to be role models and teach them that you can make a difference no matter what you are doing then this is a small way we can start.

What are some of the unique things you have done in your office to make it greener?

We have incorporated green office practices into how we advise—using laminated sheets and dry erase markers rather than a single paper sheet for each student. We use online fillable tracking sheets so students can plan out courses a semester by semester. We try to make the process as paperless as possible.

How did you get started?

When we got the check-list, half of it was done already. So that was the easiest part. In terms of stuff, we needed to put more time into what we purchase. Like when we need swag for tabling we find recyclable material to use now. When we need to get T-shirts for students or materials, it’s just thinking about taking the extra time to look at whether the product is sustainable, where it comes from, and all of those different things. Some of it can be pricier. So, it’s being choosy about what we get to buy.

We brought in plates and mugs for people to use in our breakroom (they have a dishwasher). They were all pretty for it.  It was pretty easy for us. It is mostly just slowly getting other people to buy in and share ideas on how they can do things differently.

What was surprising to you?

We checked off half of the things on the checklist just because we are in a LEED-certified building. So it was making little tweaks. In our meetings we have presenters send out flyers electronically instead of providing printed handouts.  That way we can post on Canvas, listservs or other tools instead of using physical handouts. Sometimes you just need one copy to hang in a central location.

What is your next goal?

We want to hit Gold. One of the next goals is to increase our supply of reusables or work with Chartwells to use reusable china so that our larger events are zero waste. Holding green events would have a big impact on students. We need to make sure these practices are visible—that we are modeling these values.

What would you tell an office that is considering certification?

It is super easy. I think most offices are doing these things. It’s just seeing what other people are doing, what other universities are doing, and how the Sustainability Office can help makes it easy. It’s just talking to your team. “This is something we are considering doing. Do you agree? What are the non-negotiables and what can we do differently?”

Oh, and I love the webpage. I use it a ton. The info is good. Use the library guide. Be sure to sign up for the Sustainability Office’s newsletter and follow social media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter).

For more information on the Green Certification program, email Karren Fultz at

Print & mail recognized

This article, originally published in @theu on August 9, 2019, was written by Corinne Smart,
University Print & Mail Services.

In an industry based on using paper, sustainable practices are an ongoing challenge for organizations like University Print & Mail Services. But taking that challenge on has proved successful for the department, which has just been awarded bronze certification in the Sustainability Office’s Green Office Program.

Conscious of the resources that it uses daily, Print & Mail felt compelled to follow best practices for sustainability and help support the university’s mission and goals. This commitment started the department down the path toward achieving the Green Office Certification and completing the requirements was the next step. ­

The Sustainability Office observes how campus work environments negatively impact our natural environment. To instigate change, they created the Green Office Certification, a program to teach campus ways to integrate sustainability practices into the workplace through sustainable choices. The Green Office Program has three tiers of certification: bronze, silver and gold. Once departments register, they receive a Green Office Checklist as a guide for success. To celebrate certifications, the Sustainability Office advertises the newly certified department’s achievements on their social media outlets.

Over the course of many months, the Print & Mail team worked to identify areas of improvement and correspondingly, began to check off boxes from the sustainability certification list. Some items were as simple as posting stickers to remind colleagues to turn off office lights at the end of the day; others took more effort, requiring continuous dedication from the entire Print & Mail team to carry the effort forward.

The Green Office Program has done more than just help Print & Mail conserve energy and reduce waste, it has influenced Print & Mail’s team to adopt a more sustainable lifestyle. Team members have been seen bringing in office plants, making special trips to the recycle bin, using multi-use water bottles instead of disposables and taking public transit to work instead of driving.

For those considering joining the certification program, Print & Mail’s Green Office Educator Wendy Covert has some advice: “Come up with a Green Team. It is much easier to get buy-in from the department as a whole if other people are invested.”

At Print & Mail, every team member had a part to play in being more sustainable, from the department purchaser being willing to buy green supplies to printing staff remembering to put scraps in recycling bins. The support and willingness of Print & Mail’s entire team were vital to the department’s success in acquiring bronze certification.

Despite its roots in printing, Print & Mail has shown that even in the paper business, being sustainable is more attainable than you think. Beyond their commitment to helping the planet, the team is dedicated to helping the campus community by serving as an excellent resource for eco-friendly paper. Print & Mail prints university business cards on 100% PCW recycled paper and can order recycled paper for your department. Visit Print & Mail online or call 801-581-6171.

Beyond the Aluminum Can

Image credit: Todd Helmenstine /

Why Recycling Across the Periodic Table Matters

By Kate Whitbeck, Sustainability Office

When the average person thinks about metal recycling the image that pops into their head is of an aluminum or tin can – a soda can or the can that beans or corn came in. They aren’t thinking of all of the 62 elements that make up the metals of the periodic table. All of those metals, like fossil fuels, are finite resources that we, as a human population, aren’t managing responsibly. Recycling rates for most metals are well below 50 percent. The challenge is that modern technology is critically dependent on each element of the periodic table. We know that metal recycling is more energy-efficient than mining virgin materials and doesn’t have the same kind of social and environmental implications. So, how efficiently are we using these resources and what happens when metals become scarce?

Professor Barbara Reck is a senior research scientist at Yale University’s Center for Industrial Ecology who studies the role of metals in society, particularly nickel and stainless steel; where they are sourced from, how they are used, disposed of, and recycled, and the implications thereof on their future availability. On August 27th from 4-5 p.m. in ASB 210, join her for her lecture, “Why using metals efficiently matters” as part of the Global Change and Sustainability Center seminar series.

Dr. Reck earned her doctorate degree in environmental engineering at  Technische Universitӓt Berlin in Germany. In the early 2000s, she was part of a team of pioneering researchers which mapped out the first global (and national) metal cycles, looking at current and historical flows of specific metals, developing scenarios of possible future metal use, and assessing metal supply and demand. This work was part of the Stocks and Flows (STAF) project conducted at Yale’s Center for Industrial Ecology.

While working on these metal cycles, the research team came to understand that metal recycling rates were not clearly or uniformly defined.  Working in collaboration with many industry associations, academics, and EU representatives through the United Nations’ Environmental Program’s (UNEP) International Resource Panel, they set about establishing a consistent set of recycling metrics and quantifying the recycling rates for the 62 metals and metalloids of the periodic table.

What the results of those metrics indicated was that there was a large discrepancy in the recycling efficiency of major (e.g., steel, aluminum) versus minor (e.g., indium, germanium) metals. The recycling rate of major metals is around 50-60% whereas minor metals hardly get recycled at all. “One of the major challenges,” Dr. Reck explains, “is that low-carbon technologies such as solar, wind or electric vehicles are very dependent on these minor metals. For a low-carbon future, these technologies need to be up-scaled big time, which means that the demand for the minor metals involved would skyrocket in the future.” This finding led to the Criticality Project which looked at whether the future demand for each metal could be met by its supply from primary (i.e., known mines and reserves) and secondary (ie., recycled) sources.

The research that Dr. Reck and her colleagues have been focused on has helped ensure that corporate, national, and global stakeholders have the tools they need to make strategic decisions around metal use. To learn more about the importance of building a circular economy when it comes to using metals in addition to your aluminum and steel cans come to ASB 210 on August 27 at 4 p.m. for Dr. Reck’s GCSC Seminar Series lecture, “Why Using Metals Efficiently Matter.”




Originally posted on @theU on March 25, 2019.

By Ayrel Clark-Proffitt, Sustainability Office

“You think you know…but you have no idea.”

Sure, this is the lead-in for a celebrity exposé series on MTV, but in reality, it’s probably the best line to describe the state of recycling. Recycling isn’t a particularly new concept, even in the United States—Depression-era families couldn’t afford to throw things away and wartime conservation pushed for reduce, reuse, recycle before it was a “thing.” But the system we know today came out of the 1970s, 80s and 90s.

Chances are, the majority of people who recycle have been doing it wrong for decades. Recycling bins have long been the receptacle of hope—“aspirational recyclers” toss everything in the bin because they want it to be recyclable. That’s not how it works. Now, with China and other countries banning the import of a number of waste materials, including post-consumer plastic and mixed paper, as well as reducing the contamination threshold for other materials, learning to recycle right is more important than ever.

In January, the Sustainability Office, in partnership with Athletics and Stadium & Arena Event Services, launched the “Recycle Right” campaign at the Huntsman Center. We installed recycling and trash bins that follow best practices in waste management and added eye-catching posters designed to remind people to think before they throw. Then, on March 2, we decided to test how well the bins were working as part of the Pac-12 Team Green push to promote sustainability in conference sports facilities. After the gymnastics meet (in which our Red Rocksachieved a season-best score and beat Michigan!), employees and students in Sustainability and Facilities opened up the bins.

LANDFILL: Drink cups, lids, straws, condiment packets, chip bags, popcorn containers, food containers, food wrap, hotdog wraps, plastic cutlery, Styrofoam, napkins, paper towels, excess food and liquids. RECYCLING: Soda and water bottles, aluminum cans, candy cardboard boxes, paper drink trays, souvenir cups, clean food containers. No food or liquid.


We found recyclables—cans, plastics, perfect “10” signs—but we also found a lot of contaminants, aka trash. Contamination has long been a concern in single-stream recycling, where all recyclable materials go in one bin. The U uses single-stream recycling in the Huntsman Center to make recycling easier for fans and to reduce bin space. For the recycling bins on March 2, half the material by weight, was in the wrong bin. (By volume, an alternate way to measure, 40 percent was trash.)

We know people want to do the right thing, so we’re here to help you do the right thing right. Here are the top five contaminants we saw in the Huntsman bins:

  1. “Paper” soft drink cups
    Just like “paper” coffee cups, soft drink cups from concessions should go in the trash. While the outside of the cup is paper, the inside is a thin layer of plastic, which is what makes it able to hold liquid. It’s next to impossible to split the materials, so multi-layered cups go to the landfill.
  2. Liquid
    No liquid should go on the recycling side. So, if you have a soda bottle that is half empty that you want to recycle, empty the liquid first and then place the plastic bottle in the recycling bin. Same goes for water.
  3. Food
    Food is particularly problematic when all recycling is placed together. Large amounts of recyclable paper ended up in the trash because of food, syrup from ice cream and liquids. How clean should a container be before it goes in the recycling bin? Its contents shouldn’t spread to other materials. Also, popcorn isn’t recyclable.
  4. Food containers
    Paper popcorn bins should go in the trash, because like the cups, they are lined with plastic. Additionally, the red-checkered boat and paper need to go to the trash can.
  5. Napkins
    Yes, they are paper, but they can’t be recycled. Napkins are often soiled with food or human by-products (eww), plus the paper is such low quality that it doesn’t get recycled even when unused.

By eliminating these items from recycling bins, we can significantly reduce contamination and improve our recycling totals. It takes a community, and luckily, we’ve got a good one.

BYOB: Bring Your Own Bottle

Recycling is good, but reducing our waste generation in the first place should be the priority. The three Rs—reduce, reuse, recycle—are actually a hierarchy, with recycle being the last option. Fans can reduce their waste by bringing their own water bottles. From the Stadium & Arena Event Services A-Z Fan Guide:

One factory-sealed bottle of water per person (1 liter or less), is permitted in the stadium and arena. Bottled water may not be frozen. In an effort to be sustainable, empty, clear, plastic water bottles will be permitted. Bottle-filling stations can be found throughout the concourses at Rice-Eccles and the Huntsman Center.


Originally posted on @theU on March 8, 2019.

By Shawn Wood, communications specialist, University of Utah Communications

The University of Utah has adopted guidelines to promote better health on campus through nutrition, physical activity and programming over the next three years through the Healthier Campus Initiative sponsored by the Partnership for a Healthier America.

President Ruth V. Watkins signing the Healthier Campus Initiative.

L-R Jerry Basfor, Robin Marcus, President Watkins and Alexis Pearl Lee.

“I’m impressed with the work being done on campus,” said President Ruth V. Watkins, who signed the initiative on March 7, 2019. “I fully support doing whatever we can to encourage and educate our students, staff and faculty about the importance of engaging in healthy habits and the difference eating well, exercising regularly and taking care of their overall wellness will make throughout their lives.”

The Healthier Campus Initiative partners with 73 colleges and universities across the nation to advance healthy living. Each partner commits to meeting a majority of the guidelines developed by Partnership for a Healthier America in collaboration with some of the nation’s leading nutrition, physical activity and campus wellness experts.

By joining the initiative, the U has agreed to meet at least 23 separate guidelines in three categories: food and nutrition, physical activity and overall wellness programming.

A new campus wellness committee will guide the U’s work over the next three years. Members are charged with identifying and organizing campus activities that promote living well for students, staff, faculty and visitors. Supporting a One U approach, the broad-based committee will develop recommendations and direction of campus wellness initiatives and promote healthy living on campus and in the community.

The leaders on campus are Robin Marcus, chief wellness officer, U of U Health, and Jerry Basford, associate vice president, Student Affairs. They will steer the committee to support innovative projects led by students, staff and faculty across campus, ranging from sustainable gardens to food-focused courses and cooking workshops, to outdoor recreation trips and active transportation.

“We are thrilled to partner across our campus to continue our move toward the healthiest campus,” said Marcus. “The habits formed in college—including what they eat and how much physical activity they get—can last a lifetime.”

Committee members will include representatives from:

Green to Red Tailgate Challenge

By Abby Ghent

Ah, football. The smell of barbecued foods, the sound of cheering fans, and the excitement of watching your home team playing their hearts out. The only thing missing is a little bit of sustainability thrown in. But you can change that: Join in the 1st Annual Green to Red Tailgate Challenge!

At the Oct. 12 home game vs. Arizona, join your fellow fans in a little friendly competition to bring some green into your red-out tailgating. The Green to Red Tailgating Challenge offers a contest to make your tailgate as sustainable as possible. Wear red and be green during the U’s first Green to Red Tailgate Challenge. All tailgates are automatically entered. Winners will be chosen by student sustainability leaders based on how sustainable their tailgate team can be in the areas of waste and recycling, transportation, energy, food purchases, and innovation. Here are some ideas:

  1. Ditch the disposables. Bring reusable cups, dishes, and cutlery. Stay hydrated with reusable jugs of water.
  2. Don’t go Solo! Those iconic red cups are a low-quality plastic. If you need plastic cups, look for clear cups that are plastic #1.
  3. Separate your recyclables. Keep two bins—one for trash and one for recycling. Make sure to avoid food and liquid in the recycling bin.
  4. Go local. You can get all your tailgating needs—including BBQ, brats, grass-fed beef, and of course, beer! (21+)—from Utah companies.
  5. More than cars. Points for people in the group that biked, carpooled, or used public transportation.
  6. Reuse your U decor. You wouldn’t throw out your favorite University of Utah t-shirt! Show your team spirit with U decorations you can use game after game.

And the prizes, you ask?

1st Place: On-field experience at your choice of 2018 football game and dinner in the Tower for four people; recognition of your tailgate team on the video board at the chosen game

2nd Place: Tour of Spence and Cleone Eccles Football Center and lunch in the cafeteria for four people

3rd Place: Four tickets to any 2018/19 U sports event of fans’ choosing


The competition is part of a larger effort by the Pac-12 Conference to be leaders in both championships and sustainability. The Pac-12 Team Green, a first-of-its-kind in collegiate athletics, promotes sustainability initiatives taking place around the Pac-12 Conference and all 12 of its member universities. Learn more at


Originally published in Continuum on September 17, 2018.

Jessica Kemper, coordinator of the U’s Edible Campus Gardens, shows off produce from this season’s abundant harvest at their garden east of Pioneer Memorial Theatre. Kemper helps organize more than 75 student volunteers, who work shifts year round composting, trellising, weeding, planting, and harvesting at both the Pioneer Garden and their plot by the Sill Center. Come fall, there is enough produce to donate to the Feed U Pantry, share with volunteers, and sell at the U’s Farmers Market, which takes place Thursdays just west of the Union Building from mid-August to early October.

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Originally posted in @theU on Sept. 22, 2017.

By Amy Brunvand, Sustainability Librarian.

The University of Utah Sustainability Office turns 10 years old this year, and it is truly amazing to look around campus and realize how much has changed for the better in the past decade. Nowadays, there are campus vegetable gardens with ripe tomatoes and hives of buzzing bees, solar parking canopies that provide both power and shade, electric vehicles plugged into charging stations, crowds of students arriving on TRAX light-rail trains, tasty vegetarian and vegan options on offer at the cafeteria, water bottle refilling stations in most buildings, and plenty of recycling bins to divert waste from the landfill.

The curriculum has changed, too. Undergraduates can earn a number of sustainability-focused degrees and minors, while graduate students in any field can add an Interdisciplinary Graduate Certificate in Sustainability to their credentials.

Over the years, students, staff and faculty have all contributed to a vision of making the University of Utah a better place. In September, the Sustainability Office will celebrate these milestones and achievements with a Sustainability Showcase highlighting current programs and resources, and a special presentation by Dr. Vandana Shiva who advocates for traditional agriculture, and environmental and social justice issues worldwide.

Join us at the Sustainability Showcase on Friday, Sept. 29, 11 a.m.-2 p.m. on the Marriott Library Plaza for food, live music and fun activities. Later this fall, Dr. Vandana Shiva will present a public lecture at Libby Gardner Concert Hall on Saturday, Oct. 20, 7:30 p.m., as part of UtahPresents 2017-18 season. Tickets are available now.

1991-2006: Early Beginnings of Sustainability

Ten years ago, the transition to campus sustainability had barely begun, although a few major milestones laid the foundation. The first big sustainable change was a side effect of trying to cope with limited parking; in 1991, Commuter Services launched the Ed Pass program to give a UTA transit pass to every student and employee on campus. Not only did this encourage people to leave their cars at home, it helped expand Salt Lake City’s light rail network when enthusiastic transit riders from the U showed up at City Council meetings to press for construction of the Red Line TRAX, which opened in 2001.

In 1996, a biology professor named Fred Montague started an “unofficial” campus vegetable garden to teach students about his ideas for ecological gardening. That unofficial garden became the foundation of today’s Edible Campus Gardens, which teaches volunteers how to grow food, supports organic gardening curriculum and sells produce at the University of Utah Farmers Market. By 2006, the university had also constructed the Spencer F. and Cleone P. Eccles Health Sciences Education Building, the first LEED-certified building which incorporated efficient use of energy and water, waste reduction and consideration of human health in the building’s design, construction, operations and maintenance.

These efforts were significant, but they weren’t yet part of a unified drive to implement sustainability on campus.

2007-2014: The Sustainability Office Forms

Divergent efforts began to coalesce in 2007, with the formation of the Sustainability Office (then called the Sustainability Resource Center), underneath Facilities Management.

Something like the Sustainability Office doesn’t happen without visionaries. The idea was originally proposed by students, but it was City & Metropolitan Planning faculty member Craig B. Forster who led the effort to make the idea work. Forster, who became the first director, was a natural fit with sustainability. He was interested in facilitating interdisciplinary research and bridging the gaps between science and public policy. He also had a talent for bringing people together and was deeply involved with the local community. In the summertime, he was often seen at the Pioneer Park farmers’ market playing cimbalom (a kind of hammered dulcimer) with his Hungarian Táncház band.

With only one full-time staff member and some volunteers, the Sustainability Office got to work organizing recycling at football games, installing the first solar panels on campus, setting up a campus farmers’ market, making sure that sustainability was included in the Campus Master Plan and developing a student fee to support student-led sustainability projects through the Sustainable Campus Initiative Fund. On Earth Day 2008, University of Utah President Michael K. Young signed the American College & University President’s Climate Commitment, dedicating the university to achieving carbon neutrality by 2050. The year ended in tragedy, though, when Forster died in a hiking accident.

Despite the loss of Forster, the university persevered with a vision for making sustainability integral to its operations. In 2009, after a competitive nationwide search, architect and planner Myron Willson was appointed the next director of the office.

2014-2017: Sustainability is Integrated into Academic Affairs

In 2014, the Sustainability Office made another big change to adapt to the growing campus. Originally, the office was on the organizational chart under Facilities Management with the idea that university employees would take care of recycling, xeriscaping, transit passes and such.

But then an interesting thing happened. Students were getting more and more interested in sustainable change. They wanted to try out their ideas, and the campus was the most natural place for them to do so. With the Sustainable Campus Initiative Fund (SCIF) now up and running, grants were available for student-led sustainability projects. The university had become a living laboratory for sustainable change, and sustainability-focused courses had popped up in academic departments all over campus. With so much involvement in interdisciplinary research and learning, the Sustainability Office moved into Academic Affairs, and Associate Vice President for Faculty and law professor Amy Wildermuth was named Chief Sustainability Officer in 2014. Wildermuth added Adrienne Cachelin, Environmental & Sustainability Studies faculty to the team as the director of sustainability education to guide burgeoning sustainability education efforts across campus.

Under Wildermuth, the Sustainability Office also joined forces with the Global Change and Sustainability Center (GCSC), founded in 2010 by biology professor Jim Ehleringer to foster interdisciplinary sustainability research. Nowadays, under Director Brenda Bowen, Geology & Geophysics faculty, the 129 faculty affiliates of the GCSC represent nine colleges. The center supports graduate students through grants and fellowships, offers an interdisciplinary research seminar series, faculty networking opportunities, assistance for large interdisciplinary grants and core courses in the Interdisciplinary Graduate Certificate in Sustainability curriculum.

Sustainability is You: The Next 10 Years

Today, the Sustainability Office team includes fourteen faculty and staff members as well as numerous student interns and volunteers and continues to expands its scope. Though much progress has been made, sustainability is an ongoing effort, and there is still a lot of work to do.

This year, the Sustainability Office celebrates 10 years of dedicated efforts of faculty, staff and students from across campus. The next 10 years of sustainability at the university will be guided by those in our community who get and remain involved. We invite you to be part of this important work. Join us at one of our fall events to learn about ways you can help make the U a better place for all who live, work and play here.


Burned Out Art Installation, $262.14

Project manager: Lya Yang  |  Project advisor: Wendy Wischer

Lya Yang created an interactive sculpture installation to talk about energy use and indirectly bring awareness to carbon dioxide emissions created by power plants that generate electricity by burning fossil fuels. The piece consisted of black structures to evoke factory plants and handles placed at varying points, which viewers could engage with. Four different people cranking all four handles caused a portion of the sculpture to light up. The lights served as both a warning about non-renewable consumption of electricity and a beacon of hope in the search for a solution that can only be achieved if the collective works together.

Cowspiracy Screening, Panel, and Information Fair, $210

Project manager: Jayla Lundstrom  |  Project advisor: Howard Lehman

Eating sustainably can be one of the most effective ways for individuals to reduce their environmental impact. The screening of the 2014 documentary “Cowspiracy” about the footprint of animal agriculture, facilitated thoughtful reflection and discussion and ignited student action and involvement. The screening was followed by a panel discussion with professors and community members who have expertise in sustainability fields. An information fair after the event offered students and community members the ability to connect with sustainable campus organizations and local groups. Attendees gained an understanding of how their actions impact the environment and how they can make a difference.

Solar Car Cooler, $754.09

Project manager: Beau Healey  |  Project advisor: Meredith Metzger

When parked vehicles heat up in hot weather, energy is wasted to run air conditioning to cool them to comfortable levels. Therefore, students developed a 3-D printed, solar powered, forced convection cooling system for cars. Testing was conducted to evaluate the amount of reduction in carbon emissions as well as consumer fuel savings. This device circulates ambient air throughout the vehicle, while forcing the hot air out. The final Solar Car Cooler prototype is able to lower the inside vehicle temperature to the ambient temperature outside the vehicle, successfully maintaining the inside vehicle temperature at a safe temperature.

Winterizing the Wildlife Society at the U, $540

Project manager: Amy Sibul

Caretakers of the beekeeping and kestrel nest boxes utilize a golf cart purchased through SCIF in the past, and it has proven to be incredibly useful. It allows for the transportation of ladders, equipment, hive materials, and more. In winter weather, maintenance of the cart is necessary. Funding for this project purchased a protective cover for the cart, as well as rugged tires that are better able to handle trail access needs. The cart is now better suited for winter weather so that it can continue to support beekeeping and kestrel nest box efforts.

Cradle-to-Cradle Coffee Maker, $2,613.77

Project manager: Marie Vandervliet  |  Project advisor: Roseanne Warren

Cradle-to-Cradle is a design philosophy emphasizing life-cycle sustainability of a product. This project created a coffee maker that could operate solely from the user’s input, rather than electricity. The user operates the coffee maker by riding a bicycle, which spins a circular plate of magnets beneath a copper water tube. The spinning magnets create a magnetic field that generates a current through the copper tube, creating heat. This project represents a successful example of how a human could reasonably spin magnets to brew coffee, without the need for a battery or other electrical source.

Food Recovery Network Operations Coordinator, $4,953.05

Project manager: Julia Maciunas  |  Project advisor: Shannon Jones

The United States wastes nearly 30-40% of all food produced. In an effort to combat that, the Food Recovery Network (FRN) reduces food waste from one of the most prominent and sizeable waste streams on campus and diverts potential edible food waste to feed food insecure students and other community members. The establishment of a paid FRN Operations Coordinator, funded by SCIF, helps to create a viable organizational model for the FRN and guarantees a functional transition plan for student leadership turnover. Ultimately, the position helps to engage students on a campus-wide level to realize the impacts of the university’s food system.

The Dying Spirit: Intermedia Sculpture, $4,287.07

Project manager: Darby DeHart  |  Project advisor: Wendy Wischer

“The Dying Spirit” is a sculptural piece created to increase awareness about the erosion of the Bonneville Salt Flats. The sculpture depicts Ab Jenkins, 24th Salt Lake City Mayor and Bonneville race car driver, positioned mid-run. His left hand is stretched out in front of him, but the salt on his body is disintegrating to reveal the soil underneath. The piece was temporarily displayed on the Salt Flats as well as in the Marriott Library during peak weeks.

(In)visible Interactive Art Piece, $300

Project managers: Ciria Alvarez, Maria Olsen, Uyen Hoang  |  Project advisor: Wendy Wischer

This project brought awareness to Red Butte Creek, which runs primarily underground throughout Salt Lake and the University of Utah. The art piece consisted of a river made out of wood and painted with chalkboard paint at Library Plaza. The art piece posed questions about the creek, the importance of water, and environmental justice that students could discuss by writing on the river. The project brought attention to the water sources we use and often take for granted, thereby making the “invisible” visible. It also brought out the voice of the surrounding community to potentially aid the preservation of the creek.

(In)visible Outreach Mailing, $206.70

Project managers: LeAnne Hodges, Morgan Crowley, Derek Rennicke  |  Project advisor: Wendy Wischer

This smaller piece of the bigger (In)visible project to raise awareness about Red Butte Creek involved sending letters to students to share personal stories about the creek. Even though the creek runs through campus, little awareness about it exists on campus. By appealing to students emotionally through the letters, students raised awareness for the creek and encouraged people at the University of Utah to be more conscious of how they may harm the watershed. After receiving one of these letters, which includes a map and photo of the creek, students could write their own letters and pass it on to others.

(In)visible Plaza Food, $470

Project manager: Katie Barber  |  Project advisor: Wendy Wischer

This project consisted of an event on Library Plaza with themed food and discussion to raise awareness about Red Butte Creek and other lesser-known watersheds. The event encouraged students to actively participate in learning about Red Butte Creek’s importance, and the correlation between the food and the watershed emphasized the immediacy of the Red Butte Creek’s impact on the students themselves. Discussion centered around the growing need to acknowledge the systems through which Red Butte Creek is affected by campus activity.

(In)visible T-Shirt, $200

Project manager: Emma Wardle  |  Project advisor: Wendy Wischer

This aspect of the (In)visible project consisted of a walk through campus to raise awareness about Red Butte Creek in which blue t-shirts were given out. When perceived as a group, the students walking together in blue t-shirts gave the impression of a river moving through campus, as Red Butte Creek does. The t-shirts also drew attention to the project, created incentive for students to join, and allowed the project to have a lasting impact by extending the conversation beyond the campus walk.

Air Quality Ambassadors, $735

Project manager: Kimberly Kernan  |  Project advisor: Brenda Bowen

The Air Quality Ambassadors aimed to bring air quality science to K-8 students in demographic populations not typically targeted by other organizations. The ambassadors designed lesson modules that expanded upon the work currently being done by AIRU and BreatheUtah to broaden the scope of education already occurring. Through the modules, they created a hands-on science experience related to Salt Lake Valley’s air pollution and relating it to weather and geography. They also introduced students to the health effects from air pollution and discussed the multiple ways to improve air quality including personal choices and involvement with state and local regulators.

Composting Improvements, $668

Project managers: Amber Henshaw and Myrna Groomer  |  Project advisor: Kathleen Nicoll

The Edible Campus Gardens currently partner with University Dining Services to compost food waste. This group’s 8-bin wire compost system located within the University of Utah’s Pioneer Garden was experiencing numerous operational problems. Therefore, with SCIF funding, students purchased two “Compost Twin” tumblers. Through this project, students were able to reduce campus greenhouse gas emissions and campus landfill waste loads, increase compost operation efficiency, increase soil health profiles and soil reserves for holistic planting within the garden, and increase student opportunities for sustainable community building, volunteering, leadership, and education around the University of Utah’s compost integration.

Earth Week Film Screening, $481

Project manager: Jonathon Kuntz  |  Project advisor: Tasha Myers

For University of Utah’s annual Earth Week, students hosted a screening of the film “How to Let Go of the World and Love All the Things Climate Can’t Change”. The film examines the interwoven forces that create climate change and the people globally working against them. Earth Week educates faculty, staff, students, and the public about different ways the university is working toward a more sustainable future. It is important to educate people about Earth Week’s mission so they may change even a small part of their lives to aid environmental efforts.

Park Water Bottle Filling Stations, $1,068

Project manager: Jack Hattaway

The south approach to the Park Building is a high-traffic zone for student pedestrians headed to and from classes on Presidents Circle, campus shuttles, and mass transit. Given the building’s convenient location, a bottle filling station is an excellent student resource. This project purchased and installed water bottle retrofit kits for the basement floor water fountains in the Park building. These water bottle filling stations help to eliminate the dependence on external vendors such as Mount Olympus. They also reduce the need for single-use water bottles and provide a convenient place for students to fill their reusable bottles.

People’s Climate March Performance and Flyers, $420

Project manager: Colin Green  |  Project advisor: Stephen Goldsmith

The Utah People’s Climate March was an event that stood with the worldwide march on April 29, 2017. Two important groups of voices for climate change are youth and native people, so this project set out to get both involved in the Climate March. This grant provided funding for marketing materials that were spread around campus, as well as for a native drum group to perform during the march. Funding for these aspects of the rally demonstrate the university’s understanding of the role that native people and youth play in solving the climate crisis.

Project Youth, $352.15

Project manager: Rena Adair  |  Project advisor: Bryce Williams

Project Youth is an annual event where fifth- and sixth-grade students from Salt Lake County are invited to the university to experience a taste of college life. This year over 1,000 students participated, as well as over 200 university volunteers. Students received a SCIF grant to purchase tumblers and pie tins for the event. These supplies allowed organizers to feed all of the students and volunteers lunch while eliminating a lot of waste. It was a wonderful day made better by students’ ability to help the environment as well.

Reusable Bags at the Feed U Pantry, $1,091.13

Project manager: Nick Knight  |  Project advisor: Shannon Jones

Feed U allows any University of Utah student, staff, or faculty member facing food insecurity to receive free food when they visit the Feed U Pantry. During each visit, plastic bags are provided to clients to collect and carry their food items. Providing these disposable plastic bags to clients causes budgetary strains on the Feed U program, causes an unnecessary waste of materials, as well as uses plastic bags that are not environmentally sustainable. SCIF funded screen-printed reusable bags that would decrease overall program costs, give clients a more sustainable option for carrying pantry food items, and reduce stigma.

Solar Ice Maker, $616

Project manager: Brandon Hammid  |  Project advisor: Kent Udell

Through this project, students designed and developed a solar-powered refrigeration unit that creates ice inside of a cooler. The use of solar and battery power makes the product independent of an electrical grid, and the electrical generation and storage generates no harmful carbon emissions. By assuming 75 hours of annual use by 100,000 units, 680,000 lbs CO2, 900 lbs NOx, and 450 lbs SO2 emissions are eliminated that would be generated during grid powered ice production. Furthermore, the ability to grow ice, and have reliable, grid independent food storage can extend shelf-life of perishable goods, vaccines, and more.

An educational sign on a tree in President's Circle at the University of Utah.

Tree Campus USA Promotions, $225

Project managers: Brianna Milot and Emma Bellan  |  Project advisor: Troy Bennett

Tree Campus, a national designation, recognizes the University of Utah’s dedication to its tree population and to ensuring a sustainable future. The trees on our campus are alive in part simply because people have cared to support them. In an effort to get more students involved in the Tree Campus Organization, this project hired a student to create promotional flyers that were distributed on campus and social media. Promoting Tree Campus will ensure that trees will always be an important part of the University of Utah. 

ADA Accessibility for Pioneer Gardens, $5,527

Project managers: Brianna Milot and Matthew Briggs  |  Project advisor: Jennifer Watt and James Ruff

This project secured ADA access for the Pioneer Garden, which is part of the Edible Campus Gardens, by adding an ADA compliant pathway east to west through the garden. The pathway included a wider semicircle area in the middle for a good turn-around point and extended the sidewalk on the west. This pathway allows access to the central part of the garden, where there will be seven ADA accessible gardening beds. This accessible pathway helps with the inclusion of people with disabilities into specific courses, academic programs, the campus community, and the physical location of the garden itself.

AEB Natural Playground, $10,000

Project managers: Kate Kausch and Rachel Carrillo

Staff in the ASUU Child Care Program created a sustainable outdoor classroom. They added a a flagstone path and retaining wall to their outdoor space, giving children a variety of surfaces to explore, and plant beds to include living plants specifically chosen to engage all of the senses. As a result of this project, children can engage in an all-natural playground and learn sustainability practices that they can take with them throughout their lives. Additionally, the parents are becoming involved in the maintenance of the playground and students can learn best practices for the field of early childhood education.

Centennial Valley Solar, $5,500

Project manager: Matt Angioli  |  Project advisor: Jennifer Watt

In this project, seven solar panels were installed at the Taft-Nicholson Environmental Humanities Center. The addition of solar panels to the center is a great update in energy solutions to protect against power outages and to lessen the impact of the center and the university on the environment. This project also sets a high precedent in green energy use as a research facility for other university satellite facilities and to visiting students alike.

Compost Heat Capture, $3,710

Project manager: Sean Lund  |  Project advisor: Marc Calaf

Students built a compost heat capturer to be used at the Edible Campus Gardens. Compost is a resource that generates thermal energy while providing nutrients and microbial activity to soils. This project helps to solve the thermal energy loss and complexity of use involved in composting. Additionally, this project improves local sustainability by processing organic waste created by U students. At the Mechanical Engineering Design Day, over 100 students visited this project. Additionally, a local community garden was ecstatic about the project and asked students to build another one for their other farm.

Mathematics Bike Racks, $10,779

Project manager: Della Rae Riker

The University of Utah Climate Action Plan and Bicycle Master Plan support an increase in the number of people commuting to campus by bicycle. The increased use of bicycles requires an increase in bike parking. In this project, bike racks were installed on the east end of LeRoy E. Cowles Building on Presidents Circle. Using the campus standard of the Varsity Rack by Ground Control Systems, enough racks were added to store 26 bikes. The Varsity Racks provide stability for the bikes to remain upright. This almost doubled the existing capacity in that area of Presidents Circle.

FASB Dyson airblades, $4,740

Project manager: Lily Wetterlin  |  Project advisor: Brenda Bowen

The Fredrick Sutton Building (FASB) is home to the Department of Geology and Geophysics. In this project, students replaced six of the current enMotion paper towel dispensers in the bathrooms of FASB with six Dyson Airblade V hand dryers. This project not only saves money for FASB and reduces carbon emissions and paper waste, it serves as a stepping stone for buildings all over campus to take initiative in switching to more sustainable products and inspiring future purchases to revolve around sustainability.

Sprouting words, $6,500

Project manager: Sierra Govett  |  Project advisor: Jennifer Weber

Ananya Dance Theatre is the leading creator of contemporary Indian American Dance in the global arts and social justice movement. In “Shyamali, Sprouting Words,” the company draws from the work of women of color, including acclaimed scientist and environmental justice activist Vandana Shiva, to explore how dissent creates resilient and sustainable communities.

In this project, students organized week-long interdisciplinary student intensive, a high school workshop, and a public audience empowerment workshop offered by Ananya Dance Theatre in conjunction with their performance. This project intersected sustainability, social justice, and dance-making to foster a resilient campus community.

ASCE Conference Sustainability, $1,500

Project manager: Jenny Calderon  |  Project advisor: Christine Pomeroy

The American Society of Civil Engineering (ASCE) 2017 Rocky Mountain Regional Student Conference took place April 6-8, 2017. Students incorporating sustainability measures throughout the conference. A service project was arranged at Red Butte Gardens. All printed materials were on recycled paper and name badges were placed in compostable name badge holders. A design competition took place in which students had to create a structure while considering material conservation. Recycling bins were placed at all events, resulting in about twenty 50-gallon bags of recyclable waste. The keynote speaker discussed sustainability extensively, and sustainability was included in conference logos.

EEJMRB water bottle filling stations, $1,500

Project manager: Amanda Mixon  |  Project advisor: Paul Sigala

With SCIF funding and matching funds provided by the departments of Biochemistry and Pathology, students installed water bottle filling stations on each of the five floors of the Emma Eccles Jones Medical Research Building at the School of Medicine. This project supports refillable water bottle use by the 200 students, postdocs, faculty, and staff who work in this building and thus substantially reduce disposable plastic consumption.

Sustainable Tech for DBB, $35,535

Project manager: Julia Warner  |  Project advisor: José Galarza

DesignBuildBLUFF is a 501(c)(3) administered out of the University of Utah that exists to promote applied research in contemporary rural architecture, cultural survival, and appropriate sustainable technology. With SCIF funding, students first installed Solar Photovoltaic Panel System for Cedar Hall, a multiuse space in Bluff. Next, they obtained a Compressed Earth Block Press to create compressed earth blocks, which create a sustainable, affordable, and durable building system. Students hosted a series of workshops to educate about the press. Lastly, students installed a Dense-Pack Fiber Cellulose Hopper, which creates an insulation material composed of 75-85% recycled paper fiber.

Social Equity in Transit, $8,560

Project manager: Torrey Lyons  |  Project advisor: Reid Ewing

Students used a combination of statistical and GIS analysis tools to evaluate regions with respect to social equity provisions by transit. A systematic evaluation was used to create a transit equity index (TEI). Regions’ TEI were then compared to determine how the Utah Transit Authority and our region compare to others throughout the country. This project produced a comprehensive report. It included a literature review, detailed methods, analysis, and results sections with specific conclusions discussing the project’s insight to campus and regional transit management. A research article was also submitted to a leading transportation planning journal.