Residence Hall Association bill ensures environmentally friendly events at IU Bloomington dorms

A new Residence Hall Association Green Events Bill, created in partnership with Sustain IU, is helping to set Indiana University Bloomington dorms on track toward a more environmentally friendly campus.

The new legislation ensures that any event being sponsored with Residence Hall Association money, including center-government budgets and outside events that receive funding from the association, is a certified green event through Sustain IU. Green events use compostable materials, utilize the outdoors and make an overall conscious effort not to use as much energy.

Students in a buffet line fill up reusable plates at the Holly and Ivy Dance at McNutt QuadView print quality image
Students fill up reusable plates at the Holly and Ivy Dance at McNutt Quad. Photo by James Brosher, Indiana University

IU student Cally Wilken began the process of crafting the bill during her tenure as the Residence Hall Association's director of sustainability for the 2017-18 school year, and the bill was approved in September of this year.

Wilkens' successor, Zach Fischer, is excited to help carry on the work and watch the positive changes being implemented.

"I have been extremely happy with the willingness and enthusiasm that each center has put forth toward these new regulations," Fischer said. "As with any change, there are bound to be speed bumps, but RHA and I are taking this semester as a learning experience and relying on the feedback we see and hear from residence halls in order to make adjustments and continue our efforts."

Reusable napkins used at Holly and Ivy dance. View print quality image
Organizers of the McNutt Holly and Ivy dinner dance switched to compostable single-use dining ware to comply with the new Green Events Bill.  Photos by James Brosher, Indiana University

The McNutt Holly and Ivy dinner dance on Dec. 6 was the first large-scale event that implemented the Green Events Bill. The McNutt student government had vegan and vegetarian options to help reduce emissions that serving solely meat products produces. Goodie bags were full of useful objects instead of things that would be thrown away. The party switched to compostable single-use dining ware and swapped other materials for reusable ones, including larger plastic bowls rather than individual single-serving options for students.

"We have found that students are more willing and excited to be involved in green events. The great part about the Green Events Bill is that all the work is done on the RHA side, so it is really easy for students to be involved," Fischer said. "We have been presently surprised with the receptiveness of the student body and are very excited to see what the future holds for the implementation."

Sustain IU engagement intern Lindsey Nelson, who was another instrumental leader in the process of the bill, is excited to see new parts of campus get involved with the sustainability efforts.

She said that with dorms constantly hosting events for their students, these changes are adding up quickly. The bill is building a change of culture behind sustainability and inspiring IU students to make more environmentally friendly choices.

"This is such a great step in the right direction for us at Sustain IU and as Indiana University as a whole," Nelson said. "We have wanted faculty and staff to engage more with our efforts, and this has been an asset to our campus."

Sustain IU hopes to work across campus to implement green practices, setting a goal of 200 green-certified events by 2020.