East Quad on the Coe Campus

Environmental Sustainability (Coe Green)


Coe College is committed to environmentally friendly practices and sustainability. As an educational institution, Coe recognizes its responsibility to provide leadership in this area, appearing in The Princeton Review Guide to Green Colleges and earning top finishes in the Campus Race to Zero Waste recycling challenge.

What are we doing?

Coe Green Poster
Campus Map


Infographic - Energy

  • Coe College was a charter signatory of the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment, joining more than 665 campuses around the country. This commits Coe to measure, and, over time, reduce our climate impact. 
  • Coe has reduced the college's carbon footprint in significant ways.
    • Coe switched from heating the campus with coal to natural gas, which resulted in a decrease in the college's carbon output of 19%. The new steam plant, which is shared with St. Luke's Hospital, was built to LEED standards.
    • Coe completed a project with the Energy Service Group to reduce overall energy usage on campus. This involved a detailed inspection of campus infrastructure, repair and replacement of inefficient components, and validation of the results. The costs will be paid for by future energy savings.
    • The remodel of Peterson Hall utilized the latest in high-efficiency electrical motors and controls to make the science building’s ventilation system both safe and thrifty with electricity usage.
    • 1,114 384 kW solar panels were installed on the roof of the Clark Racquet Center in 2017. The installation also included a monitoring display system to track the energy production.
  • In January 2021, Coe College began working with Fusebox, a utility data management company, as part of a grant awarded through the Iowa Energy Office. Together, Coe and Fusebox are working to understand and improve the college’s energy footprint by analyzing monthly electric, solar and gas data. Through this process, data-backed strategies are formulated for reducing energy use and peak demand across campus, without needing to invest additional capital into new equipment.


  • Coe was selected by Iowa Blue Zones to implement a campus master plan to incorporate edible landscaping throughout the campus. Iowa State University’s Community Design Lab is providing design assistance. Coe's Environmental Club, with the help of Professor Susan Wolverton, initiated planning, fund-raising, and implementation for a permaculture garden on campus near Armstrong-Douglas.
  • Coe Dining Services had been composting all food waste since 2005.
  • Coe is one of six Iowa institutions participating in the EPA's Food Recovery Challenge, which "seeks to reduce the environmental impact of materials through their entire life cycle, including how they are extracted, manufactured, distributed, used, reused, recycled, and disposed."
  • After doing waste studies, "The U" has been trayless since 2009. All to-go food is placed in reusable (not disposable) containers.
  • Coe Dining Services is part of "The Better Tomorrow Plan," Sodexo's global promise for sustainability which aims to protect and restore our environment, support local community development, and promote nutrition, health and wellness. 
  • Coe Dining Services donates any leftover food we can't use to feed the homeless at Green Square meals site - a local Feeding America site. 
  • Dining Services worked with the Coe Environmental Club to start the Coe Garden, which grows vegetables - some of which are used in the cafeteria!
  • New this year, dining services has worked with Coe Green to provide campus-grown microgreens in our salad bar. 
  • Campus Catering is dedicated in using eco-friendly disposable serviceware, when appropriate.
  • In 2015, Dining Services opened the new semester with dedicated cold and hot vegetarian stations.


Infographic - Food

  • Coe offers mixed recycling for all paper and plastic. Bins are located throughout campus.
  • Coe was recently awarded a grant from Keep America Beautiful for additional recycling bins. Coe was one of 37 colleges recognized nationwide.
  • Work study opportunities are available for students who wish to get involved with campus recycling.
  • Dining Services recycles all cardboard, plastic, cans, glass and paper.
  • More than over 6,000 pounds (greater than 3 tons) of computer and network equipment are recycled each year. All of Coe's outdated technology is recycled by a licensed company that disposes of monitors, printers, computers and network equipment in an environmentally safe way.
  • Recycling Small CampusCoe joined more than 200 colleges and universities in the Campus Race to Zero Waste challenge with the National Wildlife Federation and won first place for per capita recycling among small colleges in 2022. Kohawks recycled 35.46 pounds per person. To learn more about the 2021 contest, now titled Campus Race to Zero Waste, visit www.recyclemania.org. In 2023, Coe won second place in the challenge, while increasing its per capita recycling amount by one pound to 36.45 pounds.


Infographic - Water

  • In 2020, Coe was nominated by the city of Cedar Rapids and received the Stormwater and Urban Watershed Partner of the Year Award.
  • Coe has a rain garden, located near Hickok Hall, which infiltrates runoff from the roof back to groundwater rather than sending it to the storm sewer. Additional rain gardens were installed in the Alumni House garden during the summer of 2015, and near the flagpole in 2018.
  • Renovations and new construction are incorporating low flow faucets, urinals, and toilets to minimize potable water waste.
  • The Senior Class gift of the Coe Class of 2015 was for the installation of a patio utilizing permeable pavers. The patio, which is located near Hickok Hall, demonstrates the use of this technology which allows water to infiltrate rather than running off.
  • Eighteen water sensors have been purchased to track rainfall and adjust sprinkler use accordingly. The sensors will automatically turn off the sprinklers during rain and are expected to reduce the amount of irrigation water usage by 30 percent.
  • Coe's green roof reduces stormwater runoff while providing a habitat for wildlife and pollinators. Plants grown at Roof Top Sedums in Davenport, Iowa, will be installed by a local contractor.


Infographic - Landscape

  • Coe has a pollinator garden that was created in partnership with Iowa Big. The garden is filled with native plants that are meant to help attract pollinators such as butterflies. This garden also creates cover for birds, helping increase the biodiversity of birds around campus.
  • Coe started a tree nursery in 2018, planting 55 saplings that they will grow for two to three years before being planted around campus. A mix of oak, maple and ornamental trees were chosen for hardiness and aesthetics.
  • Graduating senior, Evan Perry, created the Coe College Tree Archive in the fall of 2022, which is a completely up to date record of Coe's trees, intended to collect valuable environmental data, promote engagement with Coe’s urban forest, and ultimately shape how the Coe community views its trees. Explore Coe's urban forest here: https://coetreearchive.github.io/


Infographic - Academics

  • Coe offers Sustainability Scholarships to incoming first year students who show passion and concern for our environment.
  • Coe Wilderness Field Station
    • Located five miles north of Ely, Minnesota, it is adjacent to the largest and most pristine wilderness area in the eastern half of the United States.
    • Coe assumed operation after the Associated Colleges of the Midwest (ACM) decided to discontinue operation of the field station. By doing so, a portion of the 2.5 million acre Superior National Forest has been preserved.
    • Groups paddle directly by canoe from the field station to the edge of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in about two hours, or to Ontario's Quetico Provincial Park in about eight hours.
  • Coe Environmental Science
    • Offers a rigorous education for preparation for careers in natural resource management, environmental monitoring, and graduate work in the field, while also solving environmental problems in the community.
    • Students can work with Trees Forever to inventory the urban forest in Cedar Rapids utilizing GIS and GPS technologies.
    • Students study microbiological processes involved in bioremediation of hazardous metals in the subsurface environment.
    • Students assess eastern Iowa water quality and find ways to address water pollution problems.
  • Coe Environmental Studies
    • One of Coe's newest programs offers students in any major the opportunity to add broad study of environmental issues to their program of study as a collateral major.
    • Program features coursework in environmental ethics, environmental economics, environmental literature, and environmental science.
    • The capstone seminar brings together students from a variety of disciplines to focus on a complex environmental problem. The most recent group generated a Stormwater Master Plan for the campus.
  • Coe College Tree Archive
    • As part of a student project in an environmental rhetoric course, all trees on the west side of campus were identified and mapped. The project collects valuable environmental data, promotes engagement with Coe's urban forest and shapes how the Coe community views its trees.