The inaugural Indianapolis Sustainability Summit highlighted efforts to strengthen community

A Q&A with Jessica G. Davis, director of the IUPUI Office of Sustainability

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Jessica G. Davis

The inaugural Indianapolis Sustainability Summit took place in the IUPUI Campus Center from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. March 28. IUPUI and the City of Indianapolis Office of Sustainability partnered to host the event.

The summit highlighted the impact of collaborative efforts in advancing sustainability and building a stronger Indianapolis community. The agenda featured breakout sessions about built environment, community resilience, public health, environmental policy, food, mobility, sustainable business practices, waste and water. Sessions were facilitated by experts from throughout the Midwest. The summit kicked off with a keynote address delivered by Mark "Puck" Mykleby, former special strategic assistant to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Jessica G. Davis, director of the IUPUI Office of Sustainability, answered questions about the event.

Q: What goals did the organizers have for the inaugural Sustainability Summit?

Jessica G. Davis: The goals of the summit were to highlight the impact of community and collaborative efforts in advancing sustainability in Indianapolis and to engage the community in creating a vision of sustainability for Indianapolis. The summit allowed the city to garner feedback and best practices from sustainability professionals and other experts, as well as from community members, to inform the city's Sustainability and Resilience Action Plan, or SRAP.

From top: Kevin McKinney, vice president of the McKinney Foundation, addresses the attendees at the inaugural Indianapolis Sustainability Summit at the IUPUI Campus Center; attendees listen to speakers during the luncheon. Liz Kaye, IU Communications

Q: Why is sustainability important?

J.G.D.: Sustainability is vital to creating communities where people, nature and the economy thrive together. In our current systems, we often will sacrifice one for the benefit of the other. There is an imbalance to this practice that will ultimately result in someone inequitably paying the cost of the imbalance. Sustainability recognizes the choices we make today will have a profound impact on the quality of life for both us and those who come after us; there are steps we can take to protect quality of life and create desirable communities for all.

Q: Why is it necessary for communities to support and buy into sustainability efforts?

J.G.D.: Imagine your perfect community. It is likely easily walkable and bikeable, has ready access to fresh and nutritious food, has clean water and air, encourages art and culture, provides employment and housing opportunities for all, attracts and retains talent, offers all residents the opportunity to responsibly dispose of their waste, has a thriving economy, is energy independent, has little to no crime, has fantastic education for all, and has minimal traffic because the transit systems are robust.

Most citizens don't need to buy into these ideas; they already seek out communities like this. The challenge becomes how we can create communities like this for everyone, regardless of any demographic variable, and how we can address some of the cultural and political barriers that have made creating communities like this difficult in some locations.

From top: Attendees share ideas about sustainability during formal and informal breakout sessions at the inaugural Indianapolis Sustainability Summit in the IUPUI Campus Center. Liz Kaye, IU Communications

Q: How has IUPUI shown leadership in creating a sustainable environment?

J.G.D.: There are several examples of IUPUI's leadership in sustainability:

  • IUPUI has seven LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, buildings: the James J. Fritts, D.D.S. Clinical Care Center; the Eugene and Marilyn Glick Eye Institute; the Neuroscience Building; North Hall; the Rotary Building; the Science and Engineering Laboratory Building; and University Hall. All newly constructed buildings at IUPUI must meet LEED Gold certifications.
  • IUPUI has received the Arbor Day Foundation's Tree Campus USA designation every year since 2012.
  • IUPUI was the first state university to receive the Bee Campus USA designation for its commitment to creating pollinator-friendly habitats on campus.
  • IUPUI won the Green Sports Alliance Environmental Innovator of the Year Award for hosting a zero-waste 2016 Olympic Diving Trials with a waste diversion rate of 93 percent.
  • IUPUI hosts Indiana's first Campus Kitchen, the Campus Kitchen at IUPUI, which has rescued over 22,000 pounds of food -- which would have been thrown away -- to feed people. These efforts were recognized during the Sustainability Summit, when it received the Sustainable Institution of the Year Award.​
  • IUPUI received the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education's AASHE STARS designation in 2013 and 2016.
  • IUPUI was ranked Sierra Magazine's No. 57 Cool School in 2017; the highest university rating to date.
  • IUPUI received Lighting Energy Efficiency in Parking's national lighting efficiency award.
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From left: IUPUI Chancellor Nasser Paydar; Tanjimul Alam, finance and compliance manager, The Campus Kitchen at IUPUI; Michael Stottlemyer, chair, Paw's Pantry; Kelly Moors, student director, The Campus Kitchen at IUPUI; and Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett. The Campus Kitchen at IUPUI received the Sustainable Institution of the Year Award during the inaugural Indianapolis Sustainability Summit at the IUPUI Campus Center. Liz Kaye, IU Communications

Q: Talk about the strength of the relationship between IUPUI and the city of Indianapolis.

J.G.D.: The relationship IUPUI Sustainability has with the city's Office of Sustainability has allowed us to be innovative while addressing the needs of both the campus and the city simultaneously. We frequently meet to discuss how the university can help the city advance its sustainability efforts, and vice versa.

Our relationship with the city has also created robust learning opportunities for IUPUI students. We've worked on multiple projects -- grants, INvision Resiliency, Indiana Sustainability Development Program, SPEA capstone projects and the Sustainability Summit. Each of these projects has resulted in an implementable solution or deliverable, frequently with the assistance of IUPUI students.

Q: How will the momentum generated by the inaugural Sustainability Summit be built upon?

J.G.D.: The conversations that took place at the summit will feed into the creation of the SRAP for Indianapolis. This is a direct and quick impact of the summit. We hope to host something similar to this in future years as well.

The inaugural Indianapolis Sustainability Summit was sponsored in part by Innovate Indiana.

Attendees at the 2018 Sustainability Summit write on Post-It notes during a breakout session.

From top: Attendees discuss ideas about sustainability during formal breakout sessions at the inaugural Indianapolis Sustainability Summit in the IUPUI Campus Center. Liz Kaye, IU Communications