‘Building a Sustainable Society’ Webinar Provides In-Depth Insight on Sustainability in the United States

The Ball State College of Health and the American Dairy Association, Indiana Inc. sponsored “Creating a Sustainable Society,” a webinar series on modern sustainability practices on October 26. With speakers from several areas of expertise including architecture, agriculture and business, the series aims to explain the problems and solutions being implemented across the world to tackle climate change and industrial practices not sustainable.

The organized webinar was the second in a three-part series and included three presentations focused on sustainability. The first speaker, Robert Koester, professor of architecture at Ball State, is a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) accredited professional as well as the founding director of the Academy for Sustainability, the Center for Energy Research / Education / Service. (CERES) on campus.

Throughout his career, Koester has studied and taught energy efficient building practices and how they can be implemented. Koester said building new, environmentally friendly buildings would help reduce the carbon footprint, but would not completely solve it.

“The biggest opportunity we have going forward is to modernize all of the existing building stock,” Koester said. “If you look at the number of new buildings likely to be built, compared to the ones that already exist, it’s renovation… it’s a golden opportunity. “

Additionally, Koester spoke about the benefits of green buildings and how those benefits go beyond the materials used to build them. Koester said it benefits building occupants and the environment to implement green building practices.

“[LEED] has a positive impact on performance, productivity and value, ”said Koester. “The improved performance in hospitals allows people to leave rooms earlier, recover from surgery faster, etc., because they have a view of nature and better, healthier air to breathe. “

During the panel, Erin Fitzgerald, CEO of US Farmers & Ranchers in Action (USFRA), also spoke. Fitzgerald represents members of the agricultural industry who are trying to focus on sustainable practices. His work in the dairy industry prior to working for USFRA led to a voluntary sustainability initiative that adopted the goal of reducing the carbon footprint by 25 percent by 2020.

“[The agricultural industry] really lives the reality of climate change, ”said Fitzgerald. “Increasingly over the past 8-10 harvest seasons, our farms have experienced extreme and episodic events. ”

Fitzgerald said 83 acres of farmland are consumed for urban development every hour. She also spoke to the panel about the benefits that undeveloped land has in tackling the carbon footprint.

“I get excited when I think of the land, the air, the water, these [are] things we care about because 48% of the US landmass is in the hands of 2 million farmers, ”said Fitzgerald. “This is where 70 percent of all water is managed in the United States – 90 percent of all rain and snow falls on this land.”

As part of his presentation, Fitzgerald released a video showing how farmers are tackling climate change. Fitzgerald said the same farm featured in the video was hit by two tornadoes a few months after they were filmed.

“Fifteen percent of the American workforce is related to food and agriculture. And I truly believe that putting our strength to work can be a strength to [good]”said Fitzgerald.

The final speaker for the webinar was Sam Miller, Director of Undergraduate Studies for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the University of Notre Dame. During the event, Miller spoke about entrepreneurial opportunities that focus on reuse rather than reduction.

“There is a new way of seeing [sustainability] which I’m a big fan of – rather than focusing on eliminating waste and inefficiency and minimizing our footprint, let’s face it, boot prints in the garden are always harmful, isn’t- it won’t, ”Miller said. “Even if they are smaller boots, and, but handprints on the other hand, healing hands resting on the system in jeopardy, generates well-being.”

Miller said that while sustainability should remain the focus, reusing and adapting the problem can also be a healthy solution for our environment. He then shared examples of companies in the United States using innovative techniques to reuse rather than reduce.

The trio of panelists then answered viewers’ questions for 10 minutes before the webinar ended. No date is currently set for the next part of the webinar series.

Contact Eli Houser with comments at [email protected]

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