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Innovative Symposium Looks for Creativity and Beauty in Sustainability

Students learn about sustainable food systems while working in the campus garden.

February 11, 2013 – The University of Utah Office of Sustainability will celebrate the university’s commitment to sound environmental practices from Tuesday, Feb. 19 through Friday, Feb. 22 during the 2013 Focus the U on Sustainability events. Highlights include a sustainability teach-in and a documentary screening, with the featured presentation “Innovative Sustainability Symposium” on Feb. 21. All events are free and open to the public.

The goal of the Innovative Sustainability Symposium is to inspire students and community members to view sustainability as “elegant and positive,” says Stephen Goldsmith, a professor in City and Metropolitan Planning and one of the symposium’s organizers.

During the symposium, University of Utah President David W. Pershing will affirm the university’s dedication to sustainable initiatives and the adoption of sustainability as one of its core values. Myron Willson, director of the Office of Sustainability, will provide an update on university progress toward meeting the goals of its Climate Action Plan. During the symposium’s keynote address, author and biologist Janine Benyus, will inspire attendees to look for environmental solutions in nature’s processes.

Benyus’ address, “A Sustainable World Already Exists: Biomimicry and the Quest to Solve Global Challenge,” will examine how to resolve world issues by copying nature’s processes. She is a renowned biologist and the founder of The Biomimicry Institute. Her book, “Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature,” popularized the term ‘biomimicry,’ a discipline that studies nature’s best ideas and then imitates these designs and processes to solve human problems.

Focus the U on Sustainability includes other events designed to educate students and the community at-large about the importance of finding solutions that incorporate the Office of Sustainability’s tri-fold mission of economics, environment, and social equity.

One of these events is the fifth annual sustainability teach-in, where instructors from across campus incorporate sustainability, environmental management and climate change into their lectures.

Professors have signed up to teach students about topics as varied as economic externalities of pollution, sustainable urban design principles, law and environmentalism, and sustainable medical device design. Last year’s teach-in reached more than 3,500 students in more than 10 U colleges.

There will be a free screening of “Watershed” on Wednesday, Feb. 20 at 6 p.m., a Redford Center documentary focusing on the Colorado River. Students and community members can learn about water concerns by attending the film at the Post Theater, 245 S. Fort Douglas Blvd. The screening will be followed by a panel discussion with university and local water experts.

All events are hosted and organized by the U Office of Sustainability and supported by title sponsor VCBO Architecture. On-campus sponsors include the Sustainable Campus Initiative Fund, U Facilities Management, College of Architecture + Planning, Environmental and Sustainability Studies, J. Willard Marriott Library, MUSE Project, Natural History Museum of Utah, Environmental Humanities, Undergraduate Studies, Global Change & Sustainability Center, Honors College, Wallace Stegner Center, Sorenson Center, Red Butte Garden, and Dr. Christopher P. Hill. Off-campus sponsors include the Washington School House Hotel in Park City, Kuhl Mountain Clothing, and the Cultural Vision Fund.

For more details about how to get involved, contact the University of Utah Office of Sustainability at 801-581-7506 or visit:

Schedule of Events for Focus the U on Sustainability

Tuesday, Feb. 19-21
Focus the U on Sustainability Teach-In
: Professors and lecturers commit to including sustainability concepts in their curriculum.

Wednesday, Feb. 20, 6 p.m.
Watershed documentary and panel discussion
What: Free screening of the Redford Center’s Watershed documentary, which focuses on concerns for the Colorado River, followed by panel discussion of local experts.
Location: Post Theater, 245 S. Fort Douglas Blvd.

Thursday, Feb. 21, 9:30 a.m.-4:45 p.m.
Innovative Sustainability Symposium

9:30 a.m.
What: Women in science, engineering, and technology breakfast
Where: Aline Skaggs Biology building lobby.

10:30 a.m.-12 p.m.
Opening session, “The State of Sustainability at the U,” with Myron Willson and special guest U President David W. Pershing.
Where: Gould Auditorium, Marriott Library.

12:25-1:45 p.m.
“Call for Innovation,” with student presenters and a presentation by Phil Hamlett, creator of “The Living Principles: Creative Action for Collective Good.”
Where: Gould Auditorium, Marriott Library.

2:00-3:30 p.m. – Keynote address. “A Sustainable World Already Exists: Biomimicry and the Quest to Solve Global Challenges,” by biologist Janine Benyus.
Where: Aline Skaggs Biology building Auditorium.

3:45-4:45 p.m.
Creative collaboration session. If you had $10,000 to make the U more sustainable, what would you do?
Where: Gould Auditorium, Marriott Library.