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Environmental impact focus of annual Sustainability Week

Campus Life Apr 12, 2024
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More sustainability week photos here. 

KOKOMO, Ind. — With just a few tweaks, anyone can reduce their impact on the environment.

Indiana University Kokomo students learned small changes they can make, and helped give the campus a beautiful refresh, as part of the annual Sustainability Week.

“There are realistic goals for our campus that can be achieved with our students,” said Vivianne Pentland, president of the Student Sustainability Council, which sponsored the event.

“We don’t realize the impact we can make on campus by biking from University Place or the Annex instead of driving, or maybe doing a stuff swap,” she said.

This week, she and about a dozen students made a difference by cleaning up and planting the flower beds in the Main Building Courtyard. They removed dead plants from last year and replaced them with noninvasive and native Indiana plants. In other campus locations, students planted dogwood and sycamore trees, adding to the tree canopy.

“Everybody loves planting the trees. It’s one of our biggest tasks,” Pentland said, adding that planting the flower beds is just as important.

“This is a space for students to go and be. That’s sustainable as well,” she said. “The space wasn’t a space that was welcoming for students before, and now it is.”

Andy Tuholski, director of the Office of Sustainability and assistant professor of political science, said the week’s events are part of the Council’s goal to become an Indiana Wildlife Federation certified Sustainable Campus.

“Sustainability is important because it affects us all,” he said, adding that students have let campus leaders know this is a topic they care about.

“In poll after poll, they tell us they are concerned about the earth they have inherited,” he said. “There’s not a single student who says, ‘I want to have water that’s dirtier and fewer trees.’ They all want to make it better, and this is a small way they can do it.”

Students started the Council two years ago, and have since brought a honeybee colony to campus, started an environmental literacy project to put sustainability-related books and materials in students’ hands, planted trees, and started environmental restoration areas.

The also reclaimed the empty flower beds in the courtyard, creating four themed areas that include IU with red and white flowers; sensory, with herbs and textured plants; Zen, with calming, aromatic plants; and a pollinator box to help insects and butterflies.

“It’s nice for people to be able to enjoy the space,” said Tera Gotschall, design intern with the Office of Sustainability. “When I’m coming out here to water, it’s fun to see what’s happening with the plants. It adds to the biodiversity on campus and it gives a nice visual aspect.”

Gotschall will lead an environmental restoration in June. Areas with invasive plants will be mowed and tilled under, and students will install about 1,500 native Indiana plants.

Tuhoski said the plants came from the Hamilton County Soil and Water District, and are specifically chosen for the areas where they will be placed. One restoration area is low-lying and floods frequently, so a rain garden is planned there.

“Right now, it’s just invasive plants and overgrown grass,” he said. “Our students will be able to maintain those spaces and learn from them. They want to make a mark on our campus, and are leaving it better than they found it.”

Education is KEY at Indiana University Kokomo.

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