Making Small Changes

Post contributed by Maiben Beard, Outreach Associate, Caroline Marshall Draughon Center for the Arts & Humanities

Since opening the doors of our new building, the Caroline Marshall Draughon Center for the Arts & Humanities at Pebble Hill has hosted over 200 events. From book talks and symposia to concerts and exhibitions, we engage the public in the arts and humanities through a variety of ways. Because we have a small staff and a large volume events, we’ve tried to find ways to make our events more sustainable—both for ourselves and the environment. Here are a few practices that we have put into place.

Food on table
Pebble Hill uses their own plates, bowls and cups at receptions after events to cut down on waste.

– We primarily publicize our events online through email and social media. Our monthly e-newsletter reaches a wide audience, and sending PDFs of event flyers to campus partners helps spread the word.

– We’ve purchased reusable serving trays, drink containers, and serving utensils.

– We host small receptions after all of our public programs. For most of these events, we purchase food from the grocery store. We try to group as many together so that we can make one shopping trip for multiple events. And having many events close together means we don’t waste food!

– Instead of relying on a caterer to provide paper products (some of which may be Styrofoam), we provide our own plates, cups, and napkins. The Staples “Sustainable Earth” brand offers many of these items in bulk.

If you’re interested in joining us at one of our events, visit the Caroline Marshall website or like us on social media.


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Why Planning for Accessibility Helps Everyone

Post contributed by Trace Donald, Director, Office of Accessibility

While getting my undergraduate degree in Management Information Systems in the early 90s, many of my senior level courses required group projects.  In two of my classes, I had a team member that was a quadriplegic.  In the early 90s, many of the buildings on campus lacked basic physical accessibility.  Our group realized very quickly that our homes and apartments prevented anyone using a wheelchair to enter, so most of our meetings were held at his home.  Most of our computer labs on campus were not accessible, so those of us that could use stairs printed our reports or compiled our programming code while our team member in the wheelchair waited downstairs.  Many of our meetings with faculty occurred outside their offices, because most were too small to accommodate a wheelchair.

Americans with Disabilities Act Logo
The passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act pushed universities and others to address their accessibility issues.

After the Americans with Disabilities Act was signed into law, the university put together a team to address the accessibility issues across campus.  Curb cuts were built, automatic doors installed, elevators added, and restrooms were renovated.  With those improvements everyone began to benefit.  Those pushing carts or carrying a load of books welcomed the installation of an elevator and the addition of an automated door.  By ensuring that your events or meetings are accessible, you might find that not only does it allow for people with disabilities to participate fully, but that others benefit from the accessibility improvements.  For example, providing electronic documents of handouts prior to a meeting allows a person with a disability the chance to use technology to read the handouts and along with others to prepare for the meeting.  Identifying the accessible path of travel to your event and using good signage is beneficial to those with and without disabilities.  Participants with physical disabilities and those carrying equipment or other supplies welcome a barrier-free path to your event.

The accessibility of your events, programs, and meeting is important and not planning for accessibility could lead to compliance issues, but the purpose of this article was to show that we all benefit from accessibility improvements, not just those with disabilities.  If you need more information on this topic, please contact me or visit the campus accessibility website and select the link “Improving Accessibility when Planning an Event or Program”.





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Education as Sustainable Ecotourism

Post contributed by Mackenzie Skiff, senior, Global Studies

Auburn University’s College of Human Sciences’ Study Abroad to Fiji is a great example of how ecotourism and community development can be reformed in a sustainable way. This past summer I, along with 12 other Auburn students, studied abroad on the island of Vorovoro, Fiji. For a month, we lived alongside the Mali tribe helping them build a Grand Bure as well as other smaller projects the community requested. This is the fourth year the trip has been functioning under Kate Thornton and the College of Human Sciences.

Vorovoro study abroad students
Students participating in the study abroad program in Vorovoro, Fiji.

Kate Thornton first discovered this community through her experience with Tribe Wanted. Tribe Wanted was an ecotourism business that brought people from across the globe to live on the secluded island of Vorovoro with the Mali tribe. The business idea was very successful, so there was a heavy flow of money put towards the project quickly without the infrastructure in place to continue the project long term. So as the funds and interest began to dwindle, so did the business and the Mali tribe was left to fix the issues and problems left over. This is where Kate and Auburn University stepped in.

Along with the help of Jenny Cahill and her organization Bridge the Gap Villages, the study abroad was established with the hopes of reversing the damage of Tribe Wanted and empower the people of Mali. This trip focuses on projects that empower the local people year round and not just while Auburn students are present. This is different than Tribe Wanted around the aspect of service. The Mali people served and worked for the tourists who paid to come for a week or so on the island.Auburn’s goal is for the students and faculty to serve the community of Mali and catering to their needs while respecting cultural values and traditions.

Students working with the Mali.
Bridge the Gap hopes to build genuine relationships with and empower the people of Mali.

Through slow growth and genuine relationships, the study abroad has built a water catchment system for the community to utilize in the dry season and a Grand Bure that the community uses for celebrations and meetings. Auburn tries their best to participate in projects that the community asks for and are willing to work on their time schedule. They are also intentional in using the resources that are available on the island first before bringing in outside elements. These precautions are all put in place in hopes of beginning a development that will benefit the Mali people the most. I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Vorovoro. The trip was a very humbling experience where I got to learn how to build genuine cross-cultural relationships and how important serving others is necessary for healthy development. I would encourage anyone to attend this trip whether in the near or far future. Vinaka Vorovoro! (Thanks Vorovoro)

Applications are now being accepted for the Fiji & New Zealand Study Abroad the Summer of 2018.

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Symposium Sustainability

Post contributed by Savanna Duckworth, Intern, Campus and Community Events

In Campus and Community Events, we take great strides to ensure our events are successful and sustainable. The most important steps to achieve these goals are taken during the planning process. During the planning of the This is Research Faculty Symposium this fall, our office used methods to obtain an accurate head count, maximize space and event flow, and reduce the amount of paper used to ensure that the event was as effective and sustainable as possible.

Visitors to the This is Research symposium
Having an accurate headcount helps ensure that food is not wasted.

Having an accurate headcount is important for a variety of reasons. Many events feature food, whether it is hors d’oeuvres or a full meal, and a headcount helps ensure that food is not over-ordered and helps eliminate waste. To acquire an accurate count of attendees, we used an online registration process developed by a member of the event committee through Qualtrics, a survey software which is available to students, faculty, and staff here at Auburn. This form not only makes it easier to determine the food order for an event, but can also help when planning budget and event layouts.

When considering a layout for an event, our goal is to maximize space and event flow. At the This is Research Faculty Symposium, faculty members present posters of their research findings that were usually displayed on easels. This year, we improved the layout by replacing the bulky easels with pipe and drape, hanging each poster from the bar above with small, unobtrusive hooks. Not only did the change make the event more aesthetically pleasing, it allowed us to combine the poster presentation reception with an expo reception, which helped reduce our budget and also eliminate food cost and waste.

This Is Research booklets
This Is Research booklets were made smaller this year to use less paper.

We also reduced waste by altering the printed program for the event. The program was once a large booklet, but this year, we moved most of the information online and created a smaller program. Since WiFi is available in the Student Center and handheld devices are so prevalent, the information is still easily accessible to attendees and the smaller program conserved paper. Since most of the information was digitized, it also had the added benefit of being easier to correct or update in the event of any changes.

In Campus and Community Events, we are always trying to improve our event planning process to yield a better event experience. By taking these small steps, we were able to make the This is Research Faculty Symposium more successful and conserve university resources. We will continue to find ways to make each of our events as enjoyable and sustainable as we can.


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Tailgating with a Purpose

Post contributed by Onikia Brown, Assistant Professor and Extension Specialist, Alabama Cooperative Extension Program

Alabama Cooperative Extension Program

“Hut 1, hut 2, hut 3…HIKE!” We play, we watch, we eat…..FOOTBALL! During football season, many of us spend 2-5 days watching football. Here is the football schedule for our favorite players and teams: Thursday, Jr. High; Friday, HS; Saturday, College; Sunday, NFL; Monday, NFL….again! While watching, we also eat….and we eat a lot!

Change the game by adding or increasing your fruit and vegetable dishes; serve them up ripened! Kebabs are a great way to mix food groups and tastes; try your favorite lean meat with grilled pineapple. Don’t skip on the chips, instead consider having a multigrain chip with a vegetable dip like tomato salsa or guacamole. You will gain points from your guests for infused water; it’s just a fancy way of saying water with fruits and/ vegetables, you’ve probably had it before, just not at a tailgate!

When sharing dishes at the tailgate, be sure to keep your food out of the temperature danger zone (40 °F – 140 °F). Keep cold foods on ice and hot foods on a burner or warmer. Never leave food out of the refrigerator over 2 hours, or over 1 hour when it is 90 °F or hotter. When your team has won and there is food leftover, store the food in a shallow dish in the refrigerator within 2 hours for quick and safe cooling. The best rule of thumb for keeping food is, “When in doubt, throw it out!” To prevent food waste, make enough servings for your anticipated guests and encourage guests to take only what they will eat. Another idea to keep food out of the garbage can is to label the dishes with a name and main ingredient to keep people from “guessing” if they will like something!

When the points have been scored, and the games have ended, use these tips for your holiday gatherings!

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Green Events Reduce Waste and Encourage Sustainable Behavior

Post contributed by Joan Hicken, Coordinator, Waste Reduction and Recycling Department

Green Events logo
Sustainable events demonstrate your organization’s environmental leadership and set a positive example for others.

Auburn University’s Waste Reduction and Recycling Department is working to increase the university’s efforts to be more sustainable. We are committed to integrating sustainability into all aspects of campus life, including events. Sustainability is defined as meeting human needs in a fair, just and equitable way that enables future generations to meet their own needs, while protecting and maintaining healthy ecosystems in perpetuity.

Events are fun but they are also resource intensive and can generate a lot of waste. Having a green event demonstrates your organization’s commitment to the environment, the university and its Climate Action Plan. A green event raises awareness about resource conservation and encourages attendees to act more sustainably.

The intent of a green event is to minimize waste and boost sustainable behavior. The aim is to reduce the amount of resources being used, including material resources, encourage the reuse of resources that can be reused, and ensure that materials are disposed of properly, diverting recyclables from the waste stream.

When planning your event, consider waste prevention and evaluate opportunities to reduce the amount of waste created in the first place. For example, go paperless. Use electronic communication for invitations, registration, announcements and event updates. Waste prevention can provide both economic and environmental benefits.

Think about what wastes will be generated during your event and find out what can be collected for recycling. We currently accept plastic containers (like water and soda bottles, sport drink bottles, milk/tea/lemonade jugs), aluminum cans and steel/tin cans. Trash cans and recycling containers should be placed next to each other, convenient and accessible from any location at the event.

It’s easy to green your event:

  • Use electronic communication for invitations, registration, announcements and event updates
  • If you have to print, use post-consumer recycled content paper and print on both sides
  • Use reusable event décor
  • Limit giveaways and promotional items; make them meaningful and reusable: water bottles, mugs, tote bags
  • Avoid single-use items and excess packaging
  • Choose reusable items like plates, utensils, cups, napkins, tablecloths
  • Serve local, seasonal food; offer vegetarian options
  • Donate leftover food
  • Offer, promote and use recycling containers; inform guests of recycling opportunities

    Recycling and Trash Bins

    Trash cans and recycling bins should be placed next to each other, convenient and accessible from any location at the event.

Order trash cans and recycling bins for your event. The Waste Reduction and Recycling Department provides trash cans for a fee and recycling bins at no charge for campus events. Call 844-9461 for more information.


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Tiger Dining and Campus Kitchens Partner to Reduce Food Waste

Post contributed by Katie Peters, Marketing Assistant, Tiger Dining

Tiger Dining seeks to handle the food served on campus in the most sustainable and responsible way possible, from the beginning to end of the food service process. Our associates are reminded during food preparation to reduce food waste with our “Waste Not” reduction program which allows our associates to track, measure and reduce the amount of food waste by placing any food scraps into measurable containers.

Through a five year partnership with The Campus Kitchens Project, any unused food is donated from venues across campus. It is then portioned into meals for local churches, missions, and food insecure people in our area. Campus Kitchen Projects averages about 200-250 meals every week which has a huge impact on the community and lowers the amount of food waste being transported to the landfill.

Student Volunteers at banquet
Student volunteers with Campus Kitchens pose with attendees of the annual banquet.

Tiger Dining also supports Campus Kitchen Projects with annual banquets for local residents of Assisted Living Facilities. Senior Executive Chef Emil says, “We enjoy giving them the opportunity to have a special night on campus with great food and fellowship.”

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Parkerson Mill Creek: An AU Treasure Worth Preserving

Post contributed by Tom McCauley, Manager, Risk Management and Safety

As the warm weather considers giving way to Fall, as the trees begin to lose their leaves, as construction creates a new campus skyline and as students make their way down the Haley concourse, Parkerson Mill Creek which flows  through campus is often overlooked. Parkerson Mill Creek which is believed to originate near Toomers corner has been piped and built upon for years by the University.  Although occupants of Parker and Allison Halls have heard the ripple below the buildings from time to time, the main tributary of Parkerson Mill Creek does not show itself until Donahue drive at the Wellness Kitchen and Beard Eaves Memorial Coliseum.

Throughout the years, PMC has been poked and prodded, monitored and measured and unfortunately has been determined to have been negatively impacted by urban development and non-point source pollution.  Trash and sediment can be seen filling the crevices of the creek bottom while elevated levels of bacteria flow through campus unseen by the human eye.  In 2014, Parkerson Mill Creek received a much needed restoration as part of the Wellness Kitchen project.  The restoration effort entailed widening the floodplain so the streambanks could withstand high flows, removal of stream debris and overgrowth, seeding with native plants to combat the proliferation of invasive plant species and the creation of an outdoor classroom.

Policies administered by AU Facilities Management have been created to formalize the University’s position to meet our regulatory responsibilities while also preserving our natural resources.  The University Campus Master Plan serves as a guide to campus growth with storm water management and natural resource preservation serving as key components that will help shape campus for years to come.  Innovative storm water management measures such as bio retention basins or rain gardens are being installed throughout campus.

A bio-retention cell outside the new nursing building on South Donahue.
A bio-retention cell outside the new nursing building on South Donahue.

Multiple bio-retention cells can be seen surrounding the newly constructed Nursing Building on Donahue Drive are designed to utilize soils and herbaceous plants to remove pollutants from storm water runoff.  They also act as a floodplain by dissipating the velocity and decreasing the heat of storm water.  The installation of these type “low impact” measures further demonstrates AU’s commitment towards preserving our natural resources by protecting it where possible from the damaging effects of large rain events.

AU is often acclaimed for our academic successes and certainly highlighted for our championship teams but AU is and can be much more than that; we can be a leader in storm water management and natural resource preservation.  As a institute for higher education we should lead by example and should strive to protecting Parkerson Mill Creek and the watershed as a whole from the day to day damages seen on campus, preserve this natural resource by implementing the Campus Master Plan and by creating outdoor learning areas to promote the beauty that is the Loveliest Village on the Plains.

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Alabama Water Resources Conference

Post contributed by Auburn University Water Resources Center

Careers and research focused on water are vast. Whether you are interested in biology, engineering, or policy, there is a way to use your knowledge and skills to address water related issues. At Auburn University alone, there are nearly 20 different majors, a handful of minors, and various courses and certification programs related to water. This is great, but can be overwhelming for a student who is trying to chart his or her course. The Auburn University Water Resources Center (AUWRC) aims to help students by providing online resources that outline the various options for water-related studies. AUWRC also works to facilitate successful collaboration among Auburn University faculty and staff on multi-disciplinary, water-related research, outreach, and teaching.

Audience at a talk during the symposium react.
CommunicationsTalk: Participants in the AWR Symposium react during Dr. Waters’ presentation: “Commercials, Songs and Everybody’s and Expert: Thoughts on the communication of science.

A major way AUWRC achieves this goal is through its involvement with the Alabama Water Resources (AWR) Symposium & Conference. For over 30 years, representatives of agencies, universities, private consulting firms, nonprofit and other outreach organizations have been gathering at the Perdido Beach Resort in Orange Beach, AL during the second week of September to share research findings, successful applications of technology, outreach strategies, and to discuss the most pressing water issues of the day.

The 2017 AWR Symposium and Conference Agenda included a great array of talks from a diverse set of presenters. Some of the major themes included drought/climate issues, watershed management, aquatic ecology, and water policy/law.

Students are a major focus of this conference. They are encouraged to compete in both oral and poster presentations that focus on their research or outreach experiences with water. This past year, students studying Soils, Crops and Environmental Sciences, Biosystems Engineering, Fisheries and Allied Aquaculture, and Forestry and Wildlife Sciences represented Auburn University well in these competitions, winning and placing in both categories. Students are eligible for a discounted registration rate.

Attendees of conference discuss poster.
Presenters discuss their poster topics and answer questions during the conference Social Hour.

Participation in the conference is an excellent way for students to not only gain valuable information, but to also meet professionals from water-related fields (which could translate into a job opportunity following graduation!).

The 2018 AWR Symposium and Conference will take place on September 6-8, 2018 at the Perdido Beach Resort. Information regarding abstract submission and registration will be posted on the conference webpage. The call for abstracts is announced in early spring, and the deadline for submission is at the end of June. So mark your calendar and start brainstorming on your next and greatest presentation topic!

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Transportation in Auburn

Post contributed by Brandy Ezelle, Traffic Engineer and Bicycle Coordinator for the City of Auburn

When most people think about transportation, they think of cars and trucks, and maybe even trains and planes. Unfortunately, they don’t often consider the non-motorized modes of walking and bicycling as valid forms of transportation. The City of Auburn is working to change that.

Photo of Group at Bike Month Proclamation
A group of citizens gather with Mayor Ham in recognition of Bike Month.

The City of Auburn has been designated a Bicycle Friendly Community by the League of American Bicyclists since 2000.  This distinction is due in part to our network of more than 35 miles of dedicated bicycle facilities. Although our bicycle network is still under construction, you can navigate to almost anywhere in town utilizing bicycle facilities and low-speed, low-volume roads or sidewalks.

There are many benefits that make walking and bicycling a rewarding way to travel.  You can improve your health, reduce traffic congestion, minimize your carbon footprint, and save money all at the same time. For me personally, the most significant benefit is improved health.

I’ve always been an active person, but with a family, a full-time job, and other commitments, it’s difficult to find the time for exercise. My five-and- a-half mile commute to work typically takes 15 minutes by car.  By bike, it takes only 10 extra minutes.  By riding my bicycle to work and from work, I get 50 minutes of cardiovascular exercise while only taking 20 minutes out of my normal routine. Incorporating exercise into my daily commute actually frees up time I can spend with my family instead of at the gym.

Even so, making the decision to commute by bicycle is a daunting prospect for many. They see and recognize the benefits, but just can’t figure out how to get started. Fortunately, there are opportunities in Auburn to help you make the shift from four wheels to two.

For people who do not own a bicycle, you can borrow one from the City absolutely free and use it as your own. You can even take it on some of the weekly group rides to become better acquainted with Auburn’s streets and where to ride. Once you’re ready to challenge yourself, use the City’s Bicycle Routing Tool to help determine your best route. As a cyclist, you don’t always follow the same routes that you would by car because you may want to utilize bicycle facilities, bypass high-speed roads, avoid traffic, or maybe just steer clear that big hill! This September, the War Eagle Bike Share currently used on campus will be expanded throughout the City of Auburn, giving you even more free ways to travel by bicycle.

Logo for Travel with Care
Do you know your #IntersectionInteractions?

Safety is one of the most significant concerns for many would-be commuters.  The City of Auburn and Auburn University work together to educate all road users through the joint initiative Travel With Care.  Each year, this transportation safety campaign addresses common transportation issues that cause the most accidents.  This year’s campaign concentrates on smart, safe #IntersectionInteractions and will take place September 8-15. Between cars, bicyclists and pedestrians, staking your claim on the street is an ongoing battle. But it shouldn’t be. Instead of focusing on what other people should do, know what YOU need to do to be a responsible traveler.

Auburn is a great place to call home. Compared to bigger cities like Birmingham, Atlanta, or New Orleans, our streets are safe and navigable for all modes of transportation. So next time you think about going to the park, campus, or downtown to eat or shop, consider taking a walk or ride. It may take an extra five or ten minutes, but think about the impact that choice can have on your wellbeing, including the reduced stress of fighting traffic jams and parking problems. Live it up, enjoy life, and take a walk or ride to your destination.

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