Innovations in Environmental Sustainability

(Aim Overseas)

University of Minnesota

My journey started when I left Sydney to Los Angeles. I stayed in Los Angeles for a week before my course, and it actually enhanced my educational experience. Los Angeles was very busy, with lots of people, traffic, noise, waste and air pollution. I had envisioned that Hollywood would be extremely glamorous, but I found that it was actually the opposite. Hollywood boulevard especially, was full of busy tourists, street performers, people handing out flyers, “free CD” scam artists, a large homeless population, and the occasional celebrity appearances.

The when I finally arrived at Minnesota, I immediately noticed a total difference between Minnesota and California. There was so much greenery, the air felt so clean, there was not nearly as much traffic and the locals were very friendly.

17th Avenue Residence Halls

I stayed at the 17th Avenue Residence Halls of the University of Minnesota, in the city of Minneapolis. This was a new building that has been designed to be very sustainable. The toilet water is recycled from rainwater, all the taps are sensor activated, there are plenty of windows for natural light, and some of the food is locally sourced on campus.

 

The course itself was very educational and eye opening. Most of the learning was done on the field, and away from a traditional classroom setting.In the first week, we had 2 days of orientation to get ourselves accustomed to the campus and the city. Luckily for us, we had a free day on the 4th of July, which is independence day in the USA. We got to experience this huge event, and were especially thrilled by all the fireworks.

4th of July fireworks at the famous Stone Arch Bridge

 

We then learnt about suitability at a local level by visiting many places in Minneapolis including many sustainable restaurants and businesses and a water research center for the Mississippi river.

An environmentally sustainable business. Also delicious.
Izzy’s Ice Cream- A sustainable business. Also delicious.

 

We also spent a day visiting an organic farm, and then comparing it to a visit to a ‘Native American Medicine Garden.’ At that garden, a Native American leader shared his story with us, and it was very eye opening. He described with raw emotion the hardships that his people have been through historically, and what they continue to go through today. He then went on to talk to us about the Native American way of life, and their relationship to the earth. This experience gave me a new outlook on life and sustainability, and helped me to understand the importance of including indigenous perspectives in the world today.

Organic farm

Native American Medicine Garden

Native American leader Francis Bettelyoun (right), giving us an eye opening insight into the Indigenous American history.
Native American leader Francis Bettelyoun (right), giving us an eye opening insight into the Indigenous American history.

 

A wild hawk appears.
A wild hawk appears at the medicine garden.

 

The following week, we travelled to a small town 4 hours north of Minneapolis, Morris, where we stayed the week. During this week, we learnt how sustainability is achieved in a rural small town such as Morris.

Corn ethanol plant in Morris
Corn ethanol plant in Morris
Algal biofuel research at the USDA research lab in Morris
Algal biofuel research at the USDA research lab in Morris
Solar garden in Morris
Solar garden in Morris
The group at the wind turbine at Morris!
The group at the wind turbine in Morris!

 

Another eye opening experience was when we visited an industrial dairy farm at Morris. The treatment of the cattle there was horrific to me and many other students, but I do not regret experiencing this.

New born calves are sent to New Mexico for 2 years, before they are sent back here to live indoors for the next 3 years before they are sold as cheap meat.
New born calves are sent to New Mexico for 2 years, before they are sent back here to live indoors for the next 3 years before they are sold as cheap meat.
A calf that has been separated from its mother immediately after birth, and will possibly never be reunited.
A calf that has been separated from its mother immediately after birth, and will possibly never be reunited.
The machinery used to milk the cows.
The machinery used to milk the cows.

 

Another part of sustainability we explored was ecological diversity, and this was mainly done at our visit to the Cedar Creek Ecosystem Science reserve, which is known as the birthplace of our knowledge of ecosystems.

Cedar Creek Ecological Science reserve

In the final week, our main focus was on climate change. There was also a visit to a science museum and more group activities, as we reached the end of our time together at Minnesota.

 The Mall of America- Largest mall in the USA, complete with an indoor theme park!
The Mall of America- Largest mall in the USA, complete with an indoor theme park!

 

The group after a long bike ride to one of Minnesota's 10'000 lakes!
The group after a long bike ride to one of Minnesota’s 10’000 lakes!

 

In conclusion, this was a wonderful experience that I think has helped me with my personal development, as well as giving me different perspectives on sustainability that I will use in my future career as a scientist. I would definitely recommend this to Build winter 2017 travellers!

 

Conrad McDonald

11981040

 

 

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