Demonstrating environmental impact with a Summer of Sustainability

University of Nevada, Reno project showcases conservation efforts on campus and in the community through multiple events and exhibits

Demonstrating environmental impact with a Summer of Sustainability

University of Nevada, Reno project showcases conservation efforts on campus and in the community through multiple events and exhibits

Imagination and renewable efforts converge as the Summer of Sustainability kicks off at the University of Nevada, Reno. The series of events run from July through September and is designed to highlight the University's significant conservation efforts, which have been supported by a $951,000 grant received by the University's Academy for the Environment within the Office of Undergraduate and Interdisciplinary Research from the United States Department of Energy in 2009.

Since 2009, the Academy for the Environment has been hard at work on this demonstration project, helping to advance the University's sustainable efforts in places that would offer the most benefit. One example is the installation of energy efficient LED lighting in all three on-campus parking garages: Brian J. Whalen Parking Complex; Sierra Street Parking Complex and West Stadium Parking Complex.  

"With the replacement of existing light fixtures, the project has saved the University approximately $125,000 per year in electrical costs," Brad Taylor, University Facilities, Planning and Construction electrical engineer, said.

In addition to energy efficiency and conservation, the grant supported the initial installation of an extensive solar array system in 2010 at the University's Valley Road Field Labs and Greenhouse Complex. An effort to enhance the campus recycling program included the purchase of a cardboard baling machine which reduces the volume of cardboard for storage and cuts disposal costs, plus allows the University to receive money back for its baled cardboard.

The grant called for an education and community outreach component, and the Summer of Sustainability took root in partnership with the Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center, which was already planning a major community exhibit of artworks made of repurposed materials. The series of events also ties in Reno's advancements in the sustainability movement, including its electric bus charging station, local food sourcing and the wind turbines on City Hall.

"The goal of having a summer designated to sustainable efforts both at the University and in the community is to bring together the northern Nevada community to see and keep these initiatives going," Mike Collopy, assistant vice president for research and co-principal investigator of the project, said.

Kicking things off, an exhibit titled "Reused + Recycled = Art" opened July 1 at the Knowledge Center and continues through September. More than 100 pieces of art submitted by University students, Washoe County high school students and local artists are on display. Projects submitted for consideration were required to have at least 80 percent reused or recycled materials. The Knowledge Center helped kick start creativity among the students by distributing nearly 1,000 vinyl records to high school art classes. The records, part of a previous donation to the University Libraries, are incorporated into a number of pieces created by the students.

"This was a terrific way for us to help reuse materials we no longer had a purpose for," Mark Gandolfo, director of Digital Media Technology at the Knowledge Center, said.

"Reused + Recycled = Art" also features Bonnie Monteleone of the University of North Carolina at Wilmington who collects plastic from her ocean expeditions as a plastic marine debris researcher to use in her artwork, which includes a multi-panel piece based on "The Great Wave off Kanagawa" by Japanese artist Hokusai. A strong advocate for reducing plastic pollution, Monteleone will also be featured at an opening reception and presentation Sunday, July 13, at the Knowledge Center. The building opens at 1 p.m. for self-guided tours and Monteleone's presentation will be at 2 p.m. More exhibit viewing will follow until 5 p.m.

"She's incredibly passionate about the subject," Gandolfo said. "She's using art as a vehicle to communicate with people about her research and the importance of reducing plastic waste."

"Reused + Recycled = Art" and the July 13 reception and presentation are official Artown events.  

The Summer of Sustainability offers a number of events that invite community feedback and involvement including a Truckee River Cleanup, panel discussions and film screenings. For a complete list, visit  

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