Sustainability by design

Read the full story from North Carolina State University’s College of Design.

Students are gaining real-world experience while reducing waste in a new project sponsored by Eastman. The company challenged NC State industrial design seniors in the College of Design to create consumer products with sustainability top of mind. 

The students’ design concepts will help Eastman have deeper conversations with consumer brands who want to be more sustainable but may not know exactly how to launch such products. “The goal is to help more brands adopt sustainable materials in order to make a significant impact on the environment,” said Anders Ludvigsen, market development manager at Eastman.

Higher Education for Sustainability: A Critical Review of the Empirical Evidence 2013–2020

Probst, L. (2022). “Higher Education for Sustainability: A Critical Review of the Empirical Evidence 2013–2020.” Sustainability 14(6), 3402.

Abstract: Higher education for sustainable development (HESD) has grown into a substantial field of research and practice. HESD proposes that higher education will be central in a transition towards more sustainable socio-ecological systems. However, the debates on what should be learned in HESD and how this should be learned have remained conceptually controversial and empirically inconclusive. This review examined the evidence that specific pedagogies and content lead to specific “sustainability outcomes” among graduates. Three hundred and fifty-seven studies published between 2013 and 2020 were analyzed. The reviewed research was case-driven and often undertheorized regarding learning processes and outcomes. Despite its volume, the literature did not provide coherent insights into what should be learned and how. If the project of HESD is to be pursued further, more courage will be needed in creating novel forms of higher education, while more purpose and conceptual precision will be required in future research.

Purdue’s energy infrastructure contributes to climate change

Read the full story in the Purdue Exponent.

For Purdue to mitigate its contribution to climate change, some students say the university must find a carbon neutral way to power its campus.

A group of engineering students spent the last year developing a climate action plan for Purdue. The plan, which was released on Sunday, offers ideas for how Purdue can transition to be carbon neutral over the next decade while showing it is financially viable.

Mainstreaming Standardized Sustainability Reporting: Comparing Fortune 50 Corporations’ and U.S. News & World Report’s Top 50 Global Universities’ Sustainability Reports

Hamilton SN, Waters RD (2022). “Mainstreaming Standardized Sustainability Reporting: Comparing Fortune 50 Corporations’ and U.S. News & World Report’s Top 50 Global Universities’ Sustainability Reports.” Sustainability 14(6): 3442.

Abstract: Research has shown that sustainability reporting can positively influence organizational accountability and transparency. However, little research has been done to compare how sectors present their sustainability efforts. This research uses content analysis to examine how the two sectors leading reporting efforts detail their work. Specifically, sustainability reports published in 2020 were sought from the Fortune 50 and the top 50 institutions from U.S. News & World Report (USNWR)’s Best Global University rankings to examine compliance with the standard reporting frameworks and how the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals were presented. Results suggest Fortune 500 companies and educational institutions did not report sustainability in the same fashion, nor did either grouping follow a standardized reporting framework. For-profit corporations were more likely to publish a stand-alone sustainability report and more likely to address more of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.

The role of research at universities: Why it matters

Read the full story at Forbes.

Teaching and learning, research and discovery, synthesis and creativity, understanding and engagement, service and outreach. There are many “core elements” to the mission of a great university. Teaching would seem the most obvious, but for those outside of the university, “research” (taken to include scientific research, scholarship more broadly, as well as creative activity) may be the least well understood. This creates misunderstanding of how universities invest resources, especially those deriving from undergraduate tuition and state (or other public) support, and the misperception that those resources are being diverted away from what is believed should be the core (and sole) focus, teaching. This has led to a loss of trust, confidence, and willingness to continue to invest or otherwise support (especially our public) universities.

Granholm announces $3M for net-zero carbon research at HBCUs

Read the full story from the Associated Press.

U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm on Thursday announced that $3 million in federal funding would be directed toward historically Black colleges and universities, and other minority serving institutions, for research she said will further the Biden administration’s goals of carbon neutrality and help strengthen a pipeline from those schools into energy-related jobs.

Land acknowledgments spur controversies

Read the full story at Inside Higher Ed.

A controversial land acknowledgment led to a clash between a University of Washington professor and administrators. Native scholars say the practice has value but can be problematic without a commitment to supporting Indigenous communities.

Divert and convert: Campus project takes plastic from waste stream for fuel production

by Lisa Sheppard, Prairie Research Institute

A new Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC) pilot project is gearing up to remove 200 pounds of non-recyclable plastics from University of Illinois campus trash daily and convert it to 140 pounds of crude oil to power university vehicles. The project will demonstrate its benefits to the environment and campus and present unique learning opportunities for students.

Behind food waste, plastics are the second largest component of trash that ends up in landfills. From the U. of I. waste stream, an estimated 1.39 tons of non-recyclable plastics head to a landfill each day. In this two-year project, scientists are using continuous catalytic pyrolysis technology capable of producing 80 percent fuels from plastics #4–#6.

“We will be demonstrating the technology for distributed production of the most desirable fuel for use in university trucks and generating data to make a business case for a commercial-scale system capable of using all plastic waste produced on campus,” said ISTC research engineer Sriraam Chandrasekaran, project principal investigator.

The project is funded by the University’s Student Sustainability Committee, which is a group of students committed to building a more sustainable campus. By converting waste to fuel, the project will decrease the amount of trash in landfills and reduce the University’s greenhouse gas emissions and reliance on fossil fuels, as well as the campus’ carbon footprint.  

A critical element of the project is to involve graduate and undergraduate students in all aspects of the study, particularly those in chemical, mechanical, and environmental engineering. This project is ideal for independent study as part of a senior undergraduate program, Chandrasekaran said.

Students will learn about the technology, identify the parameters of the pyrolysis process for producing high fuel yields, and study the effect of continuous operation on various catalysts. Other tasks will include recording data on system operation and collecting and analyzing liquid samples. The research will also focus on different kinds of contaminants in plastics.

Outreach to the community is particularly important for the project. Chandrasekaran plans to have an open house to showcase the technology’s capabilities.

“The main idea is to show the community how the process works and why plastic recycling is so important,” Chandrasekaran said. “We will emphasize how much we can reduce carbon footprint through this technology, leading to a more sustainable campus. Once the process is underway, non-cyclable plastics can be considered and reclassified as zero waste.”

For more information about waste plastics and other projects, visit the ISTC website.

Media contact: Sriraam Chandrasekaran, 217-300-1477,

This story originally appeared on the Prairie Research Institute News Blog. Read the original.

Dare to repair: A hands-on exploration of sustainability & community

Read the full story from the University of Minnesota.

You can’t break something that is already broken. Understanding this piece of wisdom is the first step in the process of repair and part of the foundation for a new freshman seminar in the College of Design, DES 1408: Dare to Repair.

Aramark rolls out cool food meals on residential dining menus, identifies 350 lower carbon footprint dishes

Read the company news release.

Aramark is making it easier for students at 10 U.S.-based universities to make climate-friendly choices, by introducing Cool Food Meals on residential dining menus this semester. The Cool Food Meals badge identifies dishes with a lower carbon footprint and will appear on more than 350 menu items Aramark will serve in residential dining rooms.