Another Successful Expo: 2021 Sustainability & Energy Expo Recap
At the Institute on the Environment, we know that many students across the U of M are working for environmental sustainability, justice and equity. The 2021 Sustainability & Energy Expo provided another reminder of the substantial span and impact of students’ work, as undergraduate, graduate and professional students from across the UMN system came together to share their projects and progress in sustainability, energy and equity fields.
Each year, the Expo is hosted by the UMN Energy Club and Sustainability Education. Sustainability Education is grateful to the Energy Club volunteers for the time, thought and hard work they contribute to the Expo each year. After all, the student-led nature of this event is a large part of its success.
Presentations this year spanned a variety of topics. Students covered projects and experiences including dual usage solar, green building infrastructure, stories of personal growth in sustainability work, household composting technology, and activism around issues like the Line 3 pipeline. You can read the presenters’ abstracts here.
As is the case each year, it was difficult for judges to identify winners across such a strong pool of presenters. However, this year Sustainability Education and the UMN Energy Club are excited to congratulate the following Expo winners on their work and presentations:
- Community Solar by Meili Gong, Alex Hawkins and Nate Twardock
- Exploring the Benefits of Dual Usage Solar Installations by George Masson, Katie LeGare and Lily Heiting
- Subtle Green: The Fragmentation of Sustainable Infrastructure by Franco Garcia
- Bioplastic Compostability in Household Systems by Leta Albrecht and Katherine Tomaska
- The Morris Model: A Community Partnership for Progress by Sam Rosemark
After student presentations, presenters, judges, and attendees from the wider UMN community gathered to listen to Dr. Waziyatawiƞ, Ms. Diane Wilson, Dr. Marie Schaefer and Ms. Lea Foushee speak about the connections between indigeneity and sustainability and the lessons that can be taken from Indigenous ways of living to create a more just and equitable future.
The panelists addressed threats to manoomin (wild rice) from genetic modification and sulfate ore mining in Northern Minnesota. They also explained food relationships, particularly the contrasts between traditional Indigenous diets and harvesting practices and today’s agricultural systems. The four panelists also challenged listeners to hold institutions like the U of M accountable for past injustices to Native and Indigenous people, in addition to listening to and learning from indigenous perspectives. Many attendees felt this was a powerful and hopeful conversation with which to end the week.
The 2021 Sustainability & Energy Expo was made possible by the support of co-sponsors across the University of Minnesota system. The Expo planning team is grateful for the support of our co-sponsors, the Institute for Advanced Studies, UMTC College of Biological Sciences, UMTC College of Design, UMTC College of Liberal Arts, UMN Crookston Center for Sustainability, UMN Rochester, UMTC College of Science and Engineering, and the UMD Office of Sustainability. Additionally, prize money for Expo presenters was provided by Tennant Company, Evergreen Energy and Minnesota Chamber of Commerce WasteWise.
We’re also grateful to our judges, who are an incredibly important part of making the Expo a valuable experience for students. Judge Jonna Korpi from UMD captured the enthusiasm that makes our judges’ contributions so meaningful when she said to students, “I volunteer to do this so I can get re-energized by all of your cool work.”
Stay tuned in late 2021 and early 2022 for information about the 2022 Expo! We can’t wait to learn with you next year.