According to a new poll, 76% of Millennials say they are more environmentally focused than 24% of their parents’ generation who said the same thing. Kent State University’s environmental programs are increasing their sustainability objectives so students learn in a new way. Reporter Rachel Godin has the story.
Inconspicuously situated between Kent State University’s Cunningham hall and library is the foggy-paned Herrick Conservatory. Not only is the facility home to an international diversity of cacti and carnivorous and tropical plants; the facility is used as a hands-on learning classroom for botany and horticulture students.
Three specific sustainability initiatives have been adopted in order to increase student understanding about environmental sustainability’s importance outside a conducive greenhouse setting by allowing them to study sustainability inside the greenhouse.
According to Melissa Davis, Horticultural Facilities Director &
Herbarium Collections Manager, chose these initiatives based on what she thinks will best benefit students. These three sustainability initiatives include green roofs, aquaponics and native gardens.
The first initiative is a green roof, a form of alternative roofing made of plants that enhances insulation while decreasing costs of heating and cooling. It also serves as filter for air-born toxins and a habitat to animals.
The second green initiative is an aquaponic system. It demonstrates how man-made ecosystems can mutually sustain life. There are four steps to the system: (1) Fish in a bottom tank live and create waste. (2) A small pipe pulls waste-rich water out of the tank and pours the water into a rock bed. (3) The extracted water pours into a rock and soil bed, nourishing plants. (4) The rock bed and plant roots filter out the waste from the water. (5) The water, now containing essential nutrients from the growing plants, is safely returned to the fish tank. The result? The fish and plants live in perfect harmony. Plus, the fish and plants in the rocks are edible for humans.
The third green initiative, a native plant garden, will take place in the alumni garden located adjacent to the conservatory entrance.
Plants that are not native to the area will be replaced with plants that are. Since native plants help to preserve the natural ecosystems, require watering, help the native animal population and reduce or eliminate pesticide use, the native plant garden will be used as a resource for teaching sustainability.
Davis said that the facility hopes to update the physical greenhouse building for higher sustainability, but that right now the most important thing is to teach students about sustainability in a tangible way, rather than as abstract concepts.
Davis said she hopes students will apply these ideas and apply them in their consumer choices, education and careers in botany and horticulture.
If you’re curious to see how green ideas educate others, Davis said it is a little known fact that the conservatory is open to the public.