Nov. 5, 2012

Students promote sustainability on cross-country bus tour

Robert Barker/University Photography
Lansing High School students Kailee Rookes and Melissa Genung build a living wall out of plants as part of a Cornell University Sustainable Design outreach event, Nov. 5.
Robert Barker/University Photography
Rick Fedrizzi, president of the U.S. Green Building Council, was on campus to help send off the CUSD students as they started their nine-day cross-country journey from Rhodes Hall.
Robert Barker/University Photography
Katie Mayer '14 and other CUSD students board the San Francisco-bound bus.

From water efficiency to indoor air quality, messages on making schools safer and healthier are going coast to coast starting Nov. 5, when eight Cornell students began a six-city bus tour conducting sustainability-themed outreach projects along the way.

The inaugural Students@Greenbuild Bus Tour is being steered by Cornell University Sustainable Design (CUSD), a student project team that promotes green education through design-and-build projects. The journey is being undertaken in collaboration with the U.S. Green Building Council's Center for Green Schools. The entire effort is part of the Center for Green Schools' "Green Apple" Initiative, which promotes healthy, safe schools.

"Sustainability is one of the issues that is at the forefront of our generation, and I think we should all take it seriously," said Kai Keane '14, a CUSD student leader also serving as the team's videographer. "I'm excited to meet other students who are also involved and excited about the same issues."

Throughout their nine-day trek in a 100 percent carbon-offset bus, the students and Center for Green Schools staff, starting in Ithaca, will make their way through State College, Pa.; Akron, Ohio; Champaign, Ill.; Denver, Colo.; and Salt Lake City, Utah.

At each site, they will join with college students to conduct a K-12 service project. Each project will be related to the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification standards for buildings -- from water efficiency to sustainable site planning and indoor environmental quality. With University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign students, for example, the Cornell students will host a science fair at Jefferson Middle School, focusing on the LEED category "Energy and Atmosphere."

"If there's one reason I'm doing this, it's to empower younger groups of students to feel that they have the opportunity to take on the challenges of sustainability that we face today," said Jesse McElwain '13, CUSD's director of development and trip organizer.

The Cornell students will be joined by students from other colleges along the way. Their group will swell to about 25, ending at the Green Building Council's annual Greenbuild International Conference in San Francisco, Nov. 14-16. There, the students will recap their journey, and CUSD will give presentations on its ongoing projects, including a sustainable community in Nicaragua and development of sustainable systems for the Cornell NYC Tech campus.

The Cornell students' sendoff from Ithaca Nov. 5 was preceded by their first outreach event, with Lansing High School students. The younger students' daylong visit included a tour of the Lake Source Cooling facility led by Cornell facilities staff, and two interactive projects: First, the high school students learned about indoor environmental quality, and later they built "living walls" out of plants.

Rick Fedrizzi, president, CEO and founding chair of the U.S. Green Building Council, was on campus to wish the CUSD students bon voyage as they boarded their bus outside Rhodes Hall.

The students first met Fedrizzi when he visited campus earlier this year.

Fedrizzi was immediately impressed with CUSD. "It seemed so organized and connected to what we wanted to accomplish, and I thought, 'Wouldn't it be great if we could get all these students out to Greenbuild?'" he said. From there, the idea of the bus tour was born.

The tour is also being supported by Cornell Systems Engineering and the Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future. Follow the students' journey via their website, which will include live updates and videos.