MUM recognized for sustainability
Scoring the highest of any college or university so far for its cafeteria fare, Maharishi University of Management is truly sustainable; the “STARS” have confirmed it.
“We received ASSHE STARS’s highest rating for our cafeteria food,” said Lonnie Gamble, co-director of MUM’s sustainable living program. “With a 51 out of 51 possible points, it’s the highest rating that any college has ever scored.”
The college focuses on local food initiatives—partnering with around 20 local farmers— with its own greenhouse supplying most of the food used in its 100 percent organic non-GMO kitchen.
“We’ve decided this year to take it even further with our local food initiative,” said Gerrie Stood, MUM sustainable living department administrator. “We are really making local organic foods available in our dining hall instead of just finding the cheapest price; that’s truly sustainable when you support your local economy.”
Now the school plans to involve the community even more by partnering with Green Iowa AmeriCorps, which is coordinated by the University of Northern Iowa’s Center for Energy & Environmental Education. In September, MUM will receive five AmeriCorps volunteers who will work on various sustainable projects in the community as well as on MUM’s campus. The volunteers, whom the university will call “sustainability fellows,” will follow the AASHE Sustainability Tracking Assessment and Rating System as a guide.
Gamble said the STARS system is not so much a competition as it is a guide showing a college or university how it can improve.
“Five energetic young people will come from outside the campus, but some will come from the campus,” Gamble said. “They will work in the community and on the campus on projects like shared cars, weatherization, renewable energy, composting and local food initiatives.”
Green Iowa AmeriCorps partners with five other universities in the state; MUM is its sixth selection.
“They had been asking us to do this for a while,” Gamble said. “But we didn’t have the infrastructure to manage them until now.”
MUM’s sustainability fellows, like any other Green Iowa AmeriCorps volunteer, will conduct a series of tests for residents to ensure that their homes are energy efficient.
“Our goal is to make Iowa more energy efficient and more energy aware,” said Audrey Tran Lam, a Green Iowa AmeriCorps representative. “About 45 percent of household utility bills go to heating.”
Additionally, the fellows will provide energy testing, conduct residential home weatherization efforts and provide energy and new homeowner education to Fairfield residents.
“We paid a fee to partner with AmeriCorps to get the volunteers based at MUM. We provide the office space and the administrative and management support for them,” Gamble said.
“But they will be conducting programs for the entire community. They will be the boots on the ground making things happen.”
The ASSHE STARS program includes a wide range of sustainability categories, including the use of renewable energy, weatherization, recycling and a university’s commitment to its local community.
Gamble said MUM’s plan is for its new sustainability fellows is to incorporate all of those things and more at the university as well as in the community. This will inadvertently increase MUM’s STARS rating next year.
“We hope to implement all of these things with the AmeriCorps volunteers, he said. “We hope to make this an annual program.”