Luther students travel to conference, present sustainability proposals

By: Noah Nelson-Gross, Staff Writer
November 25th, 2012

While many were enjoying time with their families over fall break, a small group of Luther College students and faculty made their way to Los Angeles to present in the annual Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) sustainability conference.

Luther has been involved in the conference for around five years. However, Tina Yates (‘13), a presenter at the conference, explained that this year was different.

Courtesy of Nathan Haines

“In the past they have only sent sustainability staff and coordinators,” Yates said. “This is the first year they have sent students there.”

Yates presented on sustainable foods purchasing guidelines, which Luther College has been using when working with Dining Services and Sodexo to begin sourcing local food.

The sustainability staff are also excited about student participation in sustainability on a national level. Associate Professor of Philosophy Jon Jensen (‘89) directs the environmental studies program here at Luther, but he is also on the board for AASHE.

“Luther has developed a reputation as being one of the leaders across the country in campus sustainability, and going to this conference and having students present their work provides an opportunity to display the great things we are doing at Luther and sharing that with other people,” Jensen said. “We made it more intentional this year in terms of getting Tina to go there, and also with Nathan’s work in computer science, which was a great opportunity to share student work with others.”

Courtesy of Nathan Haines

Nathan Haines (‘13) has been doing work with the rideshare website being offered by Luther and also presented at the conference this year.

“The rideshare website makes it easier to carpool,” Haines said. “Instead of having three people driving to the same place, or having their parents come to pick them up, we just have three different people riding in one car saving money on gas, carbon emissions and overall being more sustainable.”

The website is open source, which means that it is free for other institutions of higher education to use unlike similar services.

“We predict that we will be shipping out exactly what Luther is doing to a lot of universities, some as big as 80,000 students, over the next couple of years,” Haines said.

In the end, these presentations and the AASHE conference as a whole are bringing more ideas and dialogue to the table as far as sustainability across higher education is concerned.
“You cannot do sustainability alone,” Haines said. “Sustainability is not an individual, independent endeavor.”

Haines emphasized the importance of teamwork for future sustainability success.
“You have to work together, whether that means students working together on campus or colleges working together in higher education,” Haines said. “That’s what this conference is about, it’s about working together and finding new ideas to move forward in sustainability.”