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. It is this commitment to sustainability that has earned Coe a place in The Princeton Review Guide to Green Colleges four years in a row.

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 President David McInally has been active at the national level in the organization.
  • 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 is currently near the end of a project with the Energy Service Group to reduce overall energy usage on campus. This involves 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.


Infographic - Food

  • 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.
  • Tom Wieseler, former Director of Dining Services, was recognized as the 2012 Iowa Recycling Association's Recycler of the Year. Thanks to his efforts, 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."
  • Students are now required to use Nalgene bottles or their own water bottles in the cafeteria - no disposable cups.
  • After doing waste studies, "The U" has been trayless since May '09 graduation.
  • Coe Dining Services is part of "The Better Tomorrow Plan," Sodexo's global promise for sustainability.
  • Dining Services updated our department's Sustainability Statement. Click here to see what we are doing for the Environment, Local communities and in Nutrition, Health & Wellness.
  • Dining Services is in year three of computing their EPA Diversion Rate (going from 20% to 61%) and is newly certified by the Food Recovery Network for their efforts in food donation.
  • Dining Services worked with the Coe Environmental Club to start the Coe Garden, which grows vegetables - some of which are used in the cafeteria, especially during the summer.


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.
  • 2021 Campus Race to Zero Waste participant badgeKohawks recycled 30.87 pounds per capita during the 2020 RecycleMania contest, earning fifth place among colleges competing nationwide. To learn more about the 2021 contest, now titled Campus Race to Zero Waste, visit www.recyclemania.org. The total weight of recycled paper, cardboard, bottles and cans collected during the contest will be divided by Coe's student and staff population to determine the pounds recycled per capita.


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.


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.


Infographic - Extracurricular

  • Coe Environmental Club
    • Student-run organization active in Coe's movement towards environmental sustainability.
    • Launched the project called CoeBIKES! The program uses donated bikes that are available for students, faculty and staff to check out and use free of charge. The college received a $1,000 grant from Rockwell Collins to use for repairs, locks, paints, and helmets.
    • Developed Coe's permaculture garden.
    • Carries out and sponsors educational events.
  • Coe Sustainability Council
    • Group of faculty, staff, and students who coordinate environmental activities and initiatives on campus.
    • Oversees implementation of Coe's participation in ACUPCC.
    • Headed by Bill Brause, Coe's Sustainability Coordinator
  • Opportunities for volunteering and internships in the Cedar Rapids Community