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Catalyst Newsletter

Catalyst 43 - December 2013

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Sustainability News

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Read news articles published over the past month.

Record number of green rooms for GFC


Nov. 20, 2013 -- The second year of Indiana University Bloomington's Greenest Floor Challenge saw the certification of 525 student rooms through the Green Room Certification Program, an increase from just 200 rooms certified from last year's competition.

"We have been very impressed with the student interest in the Green Room Certification Program this year," said Emilie Rex, assistant director of sustainability for IU Bloomington. "I think we're seeing a real commitment to sustainable living among residents and resident advisors who are helping support the program within the halls."

Run concurrently with IU's Energy Challenge, the Greenest Floor Challenge rewards the floor in each residence center that certifies the highest percentage of occupied beds. Thirteen floors will receive a pizza party funded by the Office of Sustainability and Residential Programs and Services' Academic Initiatives and Services Committee.

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Urban Woodlands Project receives Grant

Nov. 19, 2013 -- Toyota and the National Audubon Society have announced that an $18,248 Toyota TogetherGreen Innovation Grant will be awarded to a Bloomington-based project that will bring the community's woodlands alive with wildflowers, butterflies, and birds.

climate change

The grant will be presented to the Bloomington Urban Woodlands Project, a collaboration by Indiana University and several local organizations and initiatives. The project will use the funding to provide neighborhoods, students of all ages and plant nursery retailers with opportunities to learn about the many benefits -- aesthetic to therapeutic -- of Indiana's rich natural heritage of native woodlands and to promost healthy interactions with this precious local resource. Heather Reynolds, associate professor in the Department of Biology at IU Bloomington, is the project principal investigator.

Toyota TogetherGreen, a national conservation program of the National Audubon Society and Toyota, invests in conservation initiatives that use innovative approaches and technologies to engage new and diverse audiences in addressing pressing environmental problems. 

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Winners announced for IU Bloomington's Fall 2013 Energy Challenge 

fall energy challenge 2013

Nov. 20, 2013 -- Collins Living-Learning Center, Tulip Tree Apartments, and Ashton and Read residence centers are among the first-place winners in the Fall 2013 Indiana University Bloomigton Energy Challenge. Also winning their divisions were the Maurer School of Law, the Geological Science/Geological Survey building, Jordan Hall, and Delta Delta Delta sorority.

The Energy Challenge, a four-week competition to conserve energy and water, ended Nov. 4.

In its inaugural season in 2008, the challenge included only 10 residence halls. This fall, the challenge included 17 residence halls and apartment housing complexes; 15 lab, classroom or administrative buildings; and 13 Greek houses, making it one of the largest energy challenges in the nation.

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Campus Catalyst Awards recognize excellence in sustainability

campus catalyst awardsaa

Nov. 18, 2013 -- The Indiana University Bloomington Office of Sustainability has presented its second annual Campus Catalyst Awards, which recognize faculty, staff, and students for outstanding  contributions to campus sustainability in the areas of leadership, teaching, research, and teamwork.

The awards, which included a new award for student leadership, were announced Nov. 13 in a ceremony at the Neal-Marshall Black Culture Center's Grand Hall. Winners are Noma Maier, Excellence in Leadership; Ben Brabson, Excellence in Teaching; Rinku Roy Crowdhury, Excellence in Research; the Cyberinfrastructure Building's Green Living Team, Team Excellence; and Maggie Messerschmidt, Student Leadership 

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Duke Energy names IU Bloomington a 2013 Power Partner

cyberinfrastructure building

Nov. 14, 2013 -- Indiana University Bloomington is one of 18 organizations honored by Duke Energy as a 2013 Power Partner in recognition of their commitment to responsible energy use.

IU Bloomington is the only college or university chosen as a 2013 Power Partner by Duke Energy. Other honorees inlcude businesses, a city government and three school systems. Many of these organizations have created national models for energy effieciency while reducing expenses and implementing behavioral changes.

"IU Bloomington is committed to being a more sustainable campus through both academic and operational initiatives," said Tom Morrison, vice president for capital planning and facilities. "We are honored that our energy conservation efforts are being recognized by Duke Energy with this award. Our energy-saving programs are an excellent example of what we are doing to educate and live more sustainably at Indiana University. 

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Survey:  Most Americans unaware of financial advantages of owning an electric car

john graham

Nov.13, 2013 -- A survey co-authored by two Indiana University researchers indicate U.S. consumers know little about the tax incentives and other financial benefits of owning plug-in electric vehicles.

The survey, administered to more than 2,000 drivers in 21 of the nation's largest cities, revealed that 95 percent of the respondents didn't know about state and local subsidies, rebates and other incentives. A large majority, 75 percent, was uninformed about the savings in fuel and maintenance costs that all PEVs are expected to generate compared to gasoline vehicles.

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How Green is your Christmas Tree?

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By Bill Brown, IU Office of Sustainability Director

A common question I hear this time of year is whether artificial Christmas trees are more sustainable than harvesting live trees. 

The simple answer is that real trees have less detrimental impacts than artificial trees. If you want the full life cycle analysis of both, check out this rather detailed study by Canadian sustainability consulting firm Ellipsos, where you will find the graphs referenced below.

Xmas tree 1

From Comparative Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) of Artificial vs Natural Christmas Tree - Ellipsos 2009 - Couillard, Bage, Trudel

About 200,000 live Christmas trees are harvested each year in Indiana, according to the National Christmas Tree Association. Nationally, you will find about 50 million fake trees and 30 million real trees brightening living rooms. About one million acres of land is planted in Christmas tree farms.

According to the Ellipsos study, if you really prefer fake trees, buy one that will last for 20 years, at which point the impact will be less than buying real trees every year. Be aware that many fake trees contain polyvinyl chloride, which produces carcinogens during manufacturing and incineration. Many are manufactured in China, which means part of their environmental impact is due to fuel used in shipping. Artificial tree manufacturers argue that these bulk shipping impacts per tree are minimal compared to the fuel used by individuals shopping for their one tree per year via their own vehicles.

Xmas Tree 2

From Comparative Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) of Artificial vs Natural Christmas Tree - Ellipsos 200 - Couillard, Bage, Trudel

Growing live Christmas trees on tree farms has some positive benefits. Those farms tend to be on marginal soils not suitable for most other crops. As the trees are growing, they produce oxygen, sequester carbon dioxide, provide habitat, reduce erosion, and keep land out of development. The best tree farms have a variety of trees and use low-impact integrated pest control methods and little or no irrigation. If you visit a local tree farm, like Twin H Tree Farm and Nursery on West Chumley Road, you can ask them about their growing methods and pick your own live tree in the field or take home a potted one for planting in your yard after the holidays. These local trees may have less of a carbon footprint than natural trees that have been trucked in from other states. By selecting  a local grower, you can also support the local economy.

With either type of tree, consider low-power LED lights and lighting controls or no lights at all to minimize electricity use. Hang onto your artificial tree for as long as you can and then donate it to someone in need rather than disposing of it in the landfill. Utilize free tree composting servies provided by the city and county so that your real tree can become new soil or consider a potted tree and plant it outside when the weather allows.

No matter which tree you select, be sure to enjoy the holiday season with family and friends and get ready to flourish in the New Year!

Catalysts for Change

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IU Sustainability Alumni Are Making a Difference: Meet Meredith Dowling

Meredith lives in New Orleans with her husband (also an IU alum) and their two dogs. She currently works as the Gulf Program Director for a conservation-focused volunteer pilot nonprofit called SouthWings. Prior to grad school, she worked for the same organization managing flights in Appalachia, most of which were focused on ending mountaintop removal coal mining. Meredith was the No Waste Coordinator intern during her graduate studies here at IU. 

By Anna Will, Communications Specialist

meredith dowling 

  • How long were you here at IU?

    • I spent two years as a SPEA graduate student in the MSES/MPA program.
  • What are your hobbies?
    • I love gardening, cooking, vermiculture and all things compost, knitting, and hiking whenver I have the chance.
  • Where is your favorite spot in Bloomington?
    • I enjoy visiting the downtown Farmer's Market on a beautiful fall day.
  • How do you practice sustainability in your daily life?
    • When I moved to a new city after IU, I consciously set up my pattern so that my daily life doesn't require a car. My husband walks to work, I telecommute, we live within walking or biking distance of grocery stores and restaurants, and our apartment is two blocks from public transit when I need to go to meetings downtown. Most days my transportation needs are well met by a pair of good shoes. Recently, I found a community garden plot within biking distance of my apartment, which allows me to get my hands in the dirt and grow a bit of my own food despite being a city dweller. In my job as a program director for SouthWings, a conservation-focused volunteer pilot nonprofit, sustainability is at the heart of my professional life as well. 
  • How did your internship at the E-House influence your goals and choices after graduating from IU?
    • My IUOS internship helped me stay true to what has long been my goal of pursuing a career focused on environmental sustainability. It offered me a valuable opportunity to put into practice many of the things I was learning in graduate school. The lessons I learned about the importance of building environmental sustainability into the fabrice of an institution or an organization provided valuable insights I will take with me throughout my career.
  • What is your favorite green tip?
    • Drying your laundary on a drying rack is a simple way to reduce your carbon footprint. And it's less expensive!

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  • Urban Woodland Outreach Internship - Spring 2014
    • The Bloomington Urban Woodlands Project (BUWP) is searching for a graduate student to work on their campagin, "Restoring Urban Woodlands One Neighborhood at a Time." This 5 hrs/week, $12/hr position will assist a team of faculty, students, and professionals in PR (i.d. press releases, website, and social media updates) and volunteer recruitment of students, community members, and underrepresented groups, and will work with an undergraduate assistant to organize and lead volunteers in weekly woodlands restoration activities. If interested, send a *brief* cover email with attached resume and contact information for two references to by December 30th. For more information about BUWP, visit their webpage.
  • Urban Woodland Invasive Control Internship - Spring 2014
    • The BUWP is also hiring a graduate student to assist a team of faculty, students, and professionals in neighborhood outreach on wintercreeper control and implementation of wintercreepr control at Dunn's Woods, Latimer Woods, and in neighborhoods around these woods. The intern will also use various methods for  control depending on the site and infestation, and will become certified as an herbicide applicator before using any herbicides. The intern will work 10 hrs/week for $12/hr in conjunction with the "Restoring Urban Woodlands One Neighborhood at a Time" campaign. To apply, send a *brief*  cover email along with an attached resume and contact information for two references to by December 30th. To learn more about BUWP, visit their webpage
  • Careers in Sustainability
    • Are you interested in a career in sustainability? Sustainability-centered careers are blossoming for Indiana University students. Visit our new webpage to see what opportunities are waiting for you!
  • Sustainability Peer Educator
    • The Sustainability Peer Educator Program (SPEP) is searching for undergraduate students interested in leading workshops and lessons about sustainability. SPEP hopes to increase sustainability literacy, promote sustainable behaviors, and foster a culture of sustainability among students. Educators will work with others to plan meetings and lessons, hold workshops weekly, answer questions via email or social media, track changes in sustainability literacy, represent SPEP and IUOS at related events, and set a good example for peers by embracing sustainability practices in their own lives. Requirements include communication and leadership skills, passion for sustainability and education, willingness to work with others, ability to work quickly and adapt, and have a flexible schedule to work some evenings and weekends. For information on applying, please see the webpage.
  • Roots, Fruits, & Resiliency
    • This summer, Dr. Galuska will be taking a group of 15 students to Jamaica to participate in experiential-learning initatives associated with cultural ecology, sustainable agriculture, eco-heritage tourism, park management, and permaculture. The course will being May 13th and on June 20th. IU Credit will be given in Latin American and Caribbean studies: L426 to undergraduate students and L803 for graduate students for 3 credit hours. A $500 non-refundable deposit will be due March 5th after being formally accepted into the program. Contact Dr. Galuska at for an application due February 5, 2014 or for more course details. 
  • Real Food Challenge
    • Indiana University is offering a food data class entitled GEOG-G450: Real Food Challenge. Students will learn where our food comes from and how it is produced, while exploring ways to define sustainable food and helping IU become a more sustainable university. Participating students will complete an assesment of food purchased by IU using the framework of the Real Food Challenge. If you are interested, contact Dan Knudsen at for more information and will need to pick up a permission form from Susan White in the Department of Geography Office, Student Building 120.
  • IUB Electricity Demand:  Identifying Opportunities for Savings
    • On December 13th, there will be a SPEA Graduate Capstone Final Presentation on the major factors driving energy demand and usage on the IU Bloomington campus and how to facilitate energy savings. The research expanded the findings of the IU Integrated Energy  Master Plan to develop a new sub-building classification scheme based on space use and occupancy patters and a method to comparatively visualize building peak timing. Come to the Kelley Godfrey Graduate and Executive Center, Room 1040 at 9 am to learn about these new accomplishments.
  • SPEA E400/V450 Contemporary Issues in Public Affairs
    • Professor Carolyn Waldron will be teaching a course on Leadership and Creativity in Public/Environmental Policy during the Spring 2014 semester. This course is designed for seniors and juniors interested in public policy and making a contribution in solving emerging problems in business, government, or then nonprofit sector. If you would like more information before registering, please contact Professor Waldron at