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Sustainability initiatives are gaining momentum on Indiana Tech campus

November 7, 2019

Every year, Indiana Tech students proudly cheer on the Orange and Black, the collective name for our university’s high-achieving athletic teams.

Now, there is another team on campus—a green one—that has gained a great amount of student support in a short amount of time.

After resting dormant for some time, Indiana Tech’s Green Team was resurrected this school year by Dr. Carrie Duke, assistant professor of English, and Amy Shank, assistant professor of biology. The group expects to be approved as a university-recognized student organization in the near future.

“Professor Shank asked her students if they wanted to start the club and Colleen McCurtis really stepped up and did a fabulous job of promoting the idea and encouraging other students to join,” Duke said. “Colleen is such a great leader for the club because she’s energetic, organized and passionate about the environment.”

McCurtis, a junior biomedical engineering student from Inkster, Michigan, is the club’s president. Her recruitment efforts have helped the Green Team expand to 29 members, and they are still generating interest from students, staff and faculty.

“I hope students learn how to live an eco-friendlier lifestyle, whether they join the club or not. Some people are skeptical about how even the little changes they make can help change the world; we would like to show them,” Colleen said. “We want to provide our campus and surrounding community with educational, interactive and fun environmentally-beneficial opportunities and activities. Promoting sustainable and green practices, working with and volunteering for other environmentally focused businesses/initiatives and experiencing nature—firsthand—are some of our main goals.”

Indiana Tech Students from the Green Team advocating sustainability by planting trees on campus

Firsthand experience with nature is what some members of the Green Team got on a late-October afternoon when they helped out on a Residence Life initiative to plant four red maple trees (generously donated by Vision Scapes of Fort Wayne) behind the Indiana Tech sign on the southwest end of campus. Residential assistants Nicholas Brandt (junior energy engineering major) and Chandler Updike (senior mechanical engineering major) both share a fervor for sustainability and conservation and organized the student-led push toward environmental consciousness.

While time constraints keep Brandt from being a member of the Green Team, he is a strong advocate for the success of this group.

“It is undeniably crucial that we see a student-sponsored initiative for environmental stewardship,” Brandt said. “It is my hope that members of the Green Team will enjoy themselves by doing what they love: promoting a sustainable future for the environment. Along the way, they will likely forge some unexpected friendships and have some unforgettable experiences. In the instance of our tree planting in October, they also will have the satisfaction of a physical legacy on-campus!”

According to Duke, who was a horticulturist for 10 years before becoming an English teacher, the Green Team plans to get involved in community-wide initiatives, such as volunteering for the Little River Wetlands Project, and doing neighborhood cleanups. Other initiatives involve the promotion of recycling and composting, reducing energy use on campus and participating in fun activities like hiking and exploring nature at local parks.

The Green Club was created by Indiana Tech’s Sustainability Council, which was founded nearly 10 years ago to bring faculty, staff and students together to consider programs, policies and projects related to conservation of energy and other resources.

Indiana Tech Students from the Green Team advocating sustainability by planting trees on campus

The council is chaired by Melissa Lavin, psychology lecturer; and includes Duke; Shank; Julie Good, associate professor of biology; Mark Hunsberger, director of procurement; Joe Meyers, maintenance technician; John Renie, associate professor of mechanical engineering; Brad Shank, associate professor of business administration; and Bonnie Wilkins, director and associate professor of health information management.

Over the past three years, the Sustainability Council has been instrumental in:

  • Having 90% of Indiana Tech’s dorms retrofitted to LED lighting. This saves the university thousands of dollars per year.
  • Working with Tech Fresh (Indiana Tech’s dining service) to eliminate the use of styrofoam and styrene disposal dishware in favor of sustainable dishware choices like bamboo, cornstarch and ceramic dishware.
  • Having user-friendly filtered water fountains installed on campus, which has diverted thousands of plastic bottles from the waste stream.
  • Convincing the university to begin using copy paper that is comprised of 30% recycled paper.

In 2017, the Sustainability Council was recognized for its waste reduction efforts when it was presented with the 3R Award for non-profits by the Allen County Solid Waste Management District. Its mission has hardly stopped since then.

Junior biomedical engineering student Colleen McCurtis is president of Indiana Tech’s Green Club.

“In the past year, the council has hosted numerous events that promote sustainability around our campus and within the community. Some of these events have included recycling workshops and demonstrations, neighborhood clean-ups, cardboard box recycling during student move-in and documentary and movie nights,” Lavin said. “We will be hosting another movie event in November, and we’re looking forward to many more exciting events on campus in spring during Sustainability Week in March and Earth Week in April.”

For more information about Indiana Tech’s Sustainability Council and its achievements, visit


Photo 1: Members from Residence Life, the Sustainability Council, the Green Team and Buildings & Grounds came together on Tuesday, Oct. 29, to plant four trees on campus.

Photo 2: Sustainability Council chair Melissa Lavin, left, works with students during the Oct. 29, tree-planting.

Photo 3: Junior biomedical engineering student Colleen McCurtis is president of Indiana Tech’s Green Club.