Sustainability at SAU
At St. Ambrose, we believe sustainability is more than a cause; it is an individual and collective responsibility.
Our commitment to the Catholic Intellectual Tradition and social justice requires each of us to examine the use of natural, social, and economic resources, as well as seek solutions and adopt stewardship practices that will sustain our world today, and allow it to thrive for the generations of tomorrow. It is a commitment reflected in our actions, academics, and goals.
Building on What We've Started
- We've planted pollinator gardens, installed water bottle filling stations, prioritized energy efficiency in campus construction, utilized fresh vegetables from our campus gardens to serve in our tray-less cafeteria, improved recycling education, and established a Sustainability Committee to lead new initiatives and promote stewardship of the natural environment.
- In academic programs such as Biology, Environmental Studies, Business, and Public Health, we provide students with the tools to become sustainability champions.
- Our environmental student club, Green Life, strives to educate their peers and lead earth-friendly initiatives.
- We spark collective action by hosting guest lectures and roundtable discussions where students and community members gather to learn about environmental challenges and ignite change.
- Through undergraduate research and internships, our students address environmental issues hands-on at partner organizations like Nahant Marsh, Niabi Zoo, Living, Lands and Waters and more!
Our mission and shared values of academic excellence, social justice, and community service require Ambrosians do more than simply advocate for sustainability; we must also challenge ourselves to do more – on campus, in the world, and for our future.
Demonstrate your commitment by signing this Sustainability Pledge and learn more about our work below.
Follow us on social media for the most current news, events, and information.
"Green Life initiatives allow me to make a difference in my community that will hopefully encourage others to do the same. I am especially motivated by the need to help protect all of the beautiful species diversity we have in our state." -Green Life President, Greta Solbrig
"Sustainable solutions to climate change are urgently needed to protect the most vulnerable populations. Being involved in Greenlife at SAU gave me the opportunity to learn leadership skills necessary for a career in sustainability, while also creating a positive impact on campus and in the surrounding community." -Former Green Life President, Emma Duncan
"As a future healthcare worker, I see how the changing climate is changing the lives of individuals and their livelihood. It is impacting the environment and the health of others. I feel a calling to that, and I want to make it better for those people."–Former Green Life President, Anna Schmidt
"As a campus community, St. Ambrose intentionally nurtures our common home, through various research, operational, and co-curricular activities. We are committed to the research of local eco-systems, stormwater retention applications, the use of local food, and care of our gardens and beehives." -Amy C. Novak, EdD, St. Ambrose University President
Consistent with our Catholic heritage and Catholic Environmental Teaching, St. Ambrose University commits to stewardship of our natural resources and protection of the rest of Creation.
Initiatives will be fiscally prudent, critically thought out, educational, and potentially require difficult behavioral changes to reduce our impact on the environment.
We will collaborate with appropriate campus, local, state, and broader constituencies to share ideas, resources, and solutions to meet our goals.
Our Collective Impact
"It's easy to think I am only one person, and this is only one plastic bottle – how will that make a difference? But if we all start making small changes to become more sustainable it will add up and lead to bigger changes. It starts with the individual."
–Kristina Shelman '20, former Green Life student leader and current medical student at the University of Iowa
Start today. Choose from the list of tips below and collectively, we can make a difference on campus, in our communities, and across the world!
Faculty, staff, students, and university administrators lead SAU's sustainability initiatives and promote stewardship of the natural environment.
The Sustainability Committee's research and recommendations – whether focused on solar energy or reducing food waste – aims to decrease the university's environmental impact. The committee is igniting discussion and action by hosting projects and events, and it encourages each student and employee to commit to reducing their impact on the environment by signing the Sustainability Pledge.
Ambrose students and employees who want to participate in the discussion and planning of future sustainability initiatives are welcome to join the committee. Contact Professor Amy Blair, PhD, or Associate Professor Dennis Tarasi, PhD, co-chairs of the Sustainability Committee.
Green Life, our student environmental club, educates and encourages the campus to adopt practices that will protect and support a thriving Earth for generations to come.
Here's a sampling of their contributions over the past couple of years:
- Members built beehives, planted multiple pollinator gardens, and a vegetable garden used by campus food service.
- They've organized litter clean-ups, labeled recycling bins (to reduce waste contamination), led efforts to reduce food waste, and coordinated an end-of-semester food drive in each residence hall. Green Life has collected more than 1,200 pounds of food to donate to local food banks like Riverbend Food Bank and Cafe on Vine.
- Green Life members make a difference. Three past presidents have earned scholarships as the recipients of the prestiguous "Future Leaders of Conservation" Oberholtzer Awards
- 2022 Emma Duncan
- 2020 Kristina Shelman '20 and Anna Schmidt '21
Anyone from campus, including faculty and staff, is welcome to join and support Green Life initiatives. Contact us by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Academic programs such as Biology, Environmental Studies, Business, and Public Health provide our students with the tools to become sustainability champions.
Through undergraduate research, our students are hands-on in addressing environmental issues, whether studying a nearby urban wetland or discovering a way to clean rivers and lakes. Learn about some of your opportunities below.
This interdisciplinary minor encourages students to explore the physical environment from various perspectives, including literature, theology, biology, and art.
Students learn diverse approaches to understand, relate to, and responsibly manage the natural environment. All students complete a capstone project that provides hands-on experiences in conservation, preservation, and restoration.
Conserving resources and reducing our environmental impact is a long-standing priority at St. Ambrose.
In the spring of 2021, SAU became a certified Bee Campus USA® affiliate, making it one of only three colleges in Iowa recognized by the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation for taking steps to protect and conserve native pollinators. Read this story about becoming a Bee Campus.
In past years, we've created pollinator gardens, renovated the Lewis Hall greenhouse, installed water bottle filling stations, and renovated and constructed energy-efficient buildings, including the Wellness and Recreation Center and McMullen Hall. There are no trays in our cafeteria, and students take to-go meals in a returnable and reusable container.
There are recycling bins in every residence hall and building. We recycle carpet when it is removed, and if we demolish or renovate a building, anything that can't be reused or repurposed is donated. For instance, before demolishing five nearby homes in 2017, we invited the nonprofit Gateway Redevelopment Group to salvage anything it wanted. The all-volunteer group removed trim, windows, kitchen cabinets, wood flooring, doorknobs, and more. Gateway then sold what it salvaged, using the money to restore abandoned homes in the Hamburg Historic District, just south of campus.
We've found new ways to conserve resources. Storm runoff is now stored within 19 underground retention tanks around campus that, at surface level, are masked as aesthetic rock gardens. During the summer, groundskeepers pull as much as 1,500 gallons weekly from the tanks to water flower beds and plantings.
Other efforts on campus, while basic, have cumulative effects, saving St. Ambrose thousands of dollars annually: low-flow showerheads in residence halls, low-energy light bulbs replacing regular bulbs, and energy management systems on many facilities' heating and air-conditioning units.
Finding ways to conserve energy and shrink St. Ambrose's carbon footprint – even as the campus grows – are being implemented every year.
What You Can Do
Sign the Sustainability Pledge and commit to reducing your environmental impact as a member of the St. Ambrose community.
Those who complete the pledge form will receive a placard signifying their commitment to environmental stewardship!
Do you have an idea to share or a topic or project you'd like explored further?
Email email@example.com to connect with the leaders of the Sustainability Committee.
Here are a few ways to get started:
- Join Green Life or the campus Sustainability Committee!
- Instead of throwing away clothes you no longer wear, donate them to the Davis Closet or the Career Center Closet.
- Take part in Bee the Difference Day, and with your peers, help campus tackle neighborhood projects.
- Or volunteer on a Campus Ministry spring break service trip. Past trips have included cleaning trash and debris from the Mississippi River, renovating and upgrading homes for people living in poverty, and helping build a school in Kentucky and more.
Here are some of the small changes you can make, as recommended by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), that collectively can make a big difference:
- Nutritious, safe, and untouched food can be donated to help those in need. (Consider donating it to the Green Life end-of-the-semester food drive or directly to the River Bend Food Bank)
- When buying meals, grab only what you need. Too often extra ketchup packets and napkins go to waste.
- Change your printer settings to make double-sided pages. Use small point fonts when possible and use the "fast draft" setting when possible to save ink
- Turn off or unplug lights during the day to save energy and help lights last longer.
- Donate used (but still operating) electronics for reuse. This extends the lives of valuable products and keeps them out of the waste stream for a longer period of time. Recycling one million laptops saves the energy equivalent to the electricity used by more than 3,500 US homes in a year. (The Waste Commission of Scott County offers an Electronic Waste and Electronic Reuse Program.)
- For every one million cell phones recycled, we can recover 35 thousand pounds of copper, 772 pounds of silver, 75 pounds of gold, and 33 pounds of palladium.
- Buy used instead of new. Find everything you need from clothes to building materials at specialized reuse centers and consignment shops. Often, used items are less expensive and just as good as new.
- Look for products that use less packaging. When manufacturers make their products with less packaging, they use less raw material
- Show your commitment to a clean environment by volunteering in a cleanup effort in your community. (Join us each year for Bee the Difference day.)
- Share the ride and the road. Public transportation and carpooling reduce pollution.
Source: EPA website