Overall Rating Expired
Overall Score Expired
Liaison Aaron Durnbaugh
Submission Date Jan. 17, 2014
Executive Letter Download

STARS v2.0

Loyola University Chicago
IN-1: Innovation 1

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete Expired Aaron Durnbaugh
Director of Sustainability
Office of Sustainability
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Title or keywords related to the innovative policy, practice, program, or outcome:
Solutions To Environmental Problems (STEP) Interdisciplinary Courses and Outcomes

A brief description of the innovative policy, practice, program, or outcome :

Solutions to Environmental Problems (STEP) courses bring together students, faculty, staff, and community mentors to engage in interdisciplinary discussion and action around issues of environmental sustainability. Our approach emphasizes the following steps:
1) Educate students from diverse backgrounds on the nature and causes of environmental problems
2) Expose students to potential solutions
3) Put solutions into action locally

Our courses explore the ecological, historical, social, political, and economic contexts of global environmental problems. Our courses prepare students to become environmental leaders in their field of study through multi-disciplinary lectures, labs and field trips, readings and discussion, and group projects.
The STEP courses are designed to move from topic to topic based on student input. Since fall of 2007, The Institute of Environmental Sustainability has offered three iterations of the STEP course: Biodiesel, Food Systems and Water.
STEP: Food Systems
A significant portion of IES's STEP Food Systems course focuses on the design, implementation, and evaluation of small group projects. These student-led projects are hands-on and offer real-world experiences that contribute to the course's overall goal of producing workable solutions to problems in our food systems. During the semester students work with faculty mentors and/or community organizations to develop their projects.
Multi-disciplinary Lectures:
• The origins of agriculture
• Plant breeding and genetic engineering
• Trends in human nutrition
• The U.S. Farm Bill
• Global social impacts of U.S. agricultural policy
• Environmental impacts of industrial agriculture
• Sustainable urban agriculture and local food distribution in Chicago
STEP: Biodiesel
This is an interdisciplinary course, taking an innovative, experimental approach to teaching. In order to get the project going and keep it going, a wide range of knowledge is needed in business, biology, chemistry, environmental science, communication and politics. No other class is able to offer such a comprehensive insight into one subject, making it a unique and powerful practice in teaching the students.
Lectures provide an overview of their subject area as it applies to petroleum use and alternative energy, particularly biodiesel. The students learn the whole process:
• How to convert leftover grease into fuel.
• Economic and environmental benefits and constraints of biodiesel.
• Politics involved in using alternative fuels.
• Business strategy to aid the implementation of the project.
• How to market the use of renewable fuel sources as a progressive step in higher education.
The lectures provide necessary background information for the students to further pursue the research of biodiesel.
STEP: Water
The STEP: Water course engages students with learning opportunities presented by a multidisciplinary group of faculty and on-the-ground experts. Students will study current and historical, global and local issues regarding water conservation, and have the opportunity to initiate and lead campus projects pertaining to those issues. The course has the following attributes:
• Water sanitation
• Economics of water
• Freshwater ecology
• The Great Lakes resource
• Global, national and local water policy
• Water and the materials industry
• Public health and water-born infectious diseases
• Spiritual implications of water
• Historical significance of water (globally and locally)
• Water and agriculture
• Water and warfare
• Sustainable water use
• Social justice and water access issues

Course Strategy
Based on these considerations, the course employs the following major pedagogical strategies:
• Multi-disciplinary lectures offered by LUC Faculty from numerous departments and local experts and innovators
• Supporting texts provide context and discussion material for topics
• Discussions allow students to ask questions, to collectively explore ideas, to hear from their peers, and to elevate their understanding
• Lab activities allow students to develop practical and technical skills for solving environmental problems
• Field trips allow students to observe and communicate with practitioners in the field
• Students maintain a reflective journal throughout the course to synthesize their experiences and understanding
• Students work in small groups on semester-long service and/or research projects
• Groups work with faculty mentors and/or community organizations
• Students present project results at a STEP Public Forum
• Many of these projects become institutionalized


A brief description of any positive measurable outcomes associated with the innovation (if not reported above):

STEP’s CONTINUING PROJECTS:
Water: Student Projects & Areas of Investigation
• Aquaponics and sustainable fish farming
• A pilot living machine for waste nutrient removal
• Emerging contaminants in drinking water and aquatic ecosystems
• Irrigation and rainwater collection
• Water conservation policy on campus

Food Systems: Previous topics/projects:
• Developed the business plan that led to the launching of the Loyola Farmers Market in 2011
• Investigated best sustainable farming techniques and operations which were implemented on the Loyola Student Farm at Loyola's Retreat and Ecology Campus
• Explored and identified the need for an apiary to be part of Loyola's educational food system programs
• Campus food production plan which resulted in the Urban Agriculture Demonstration Gardens Project that donates fresh, healthy food to those in need
• Mobilized and coordinated students to create a new student group, the Growers Guild
• Created an edible landscaping plan and mapped existing and newly planted edible flora (cultivars and native)

Biodiesel Lab
Hands-on experience comes while in the lab, where students learn the process of making biodiesel. From collecting the waste vegetable oil from the university's cafeterias to titrating the free fatty acid content, students are expected to learn and experience how to physically convert a waste product into a renewable fuel.
The Biodiesel Lab is primarily run by student fellows and students in our Biofuels Lab Course. These students oversee the production and sale of:
• Biodiesel
• BioSoap
• Tiki Torch Fuel
• Biodiesel Processors


A letter of affirmation from an individual with relevant expertise:
Which of the following STARS subcategories does the innovation most closely relate to? (Select all that apply up to a maximum of 5):
Yes or No
Curriculum Yes
Research Yes
Campus Engagement Yes
Public Engagement Yes
Air & Climate Yes
Buildings Yes
Dining Services Yes
Energy Yes
Grounds No
Purchasing Yes
Transportation Yes
Waste Yes
Water Yes
Coordination, Planning & Governance No
Diversity & Affordability No
Health, Wellbeing & Work Yes
Investment Yes

Other topic(s) that the innovation relates to that are not listed above:
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The website URL where information about the innovation is available :

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