Iowa City Press-Citizen: UI Sierra Leader Helping New Group Grow Quickly

Monday, November 28, 2011

By Emily Schettler
Iowa City Press-Citizen

Zach Carter’s mission for the Sierra Student Coalition can be summed up in three words: engage, empower, organize.

“(I want) to engage people, particularly my fellow students, with these issues of climate change and clean energy and to empower them with the organizing skills necessary to do something about it,” Carter said.

The Sierra Student Coalition is new to the University of Iowa campus this semester, but its members haven’t been shy, national SSC organizer Graham Jordison said.

Jordison credits the group’s success to the leadership of co-presidents Carter and UI senior Meredith Place.

“The group has grown from two to just having an event last week with more than 40 students,” Jordison said. “I don’t know of too many groups on campus that have grown that quickly.”

Carter, a 28-year-old Cedar Rapids native, spent three years in the military after high school, then another five years “just getting by” before he decided school was the place to go.

After two years at Kirkwood Community College, he started at UI studying mechanical engineering last spring.

“At the beginning of my school career, wind power really piqued my interest and made sense, so did solar energy,” Carter said. “Renewable energy just makes sense. That’s what led me to the Sierra Student Coalition.”

The student branch-off of the larger Sierra Coalition has more than 250 groups across the country working to promote cleaner forms of energy and a more sustainable lifestyle.

For Carter and the group at UI, that has meant advocating for an end to the use of coal energy on campus.

“In some of my classes, we talk about how bad coal is and then look out the window and see a coal plant,” Carter said. “I think universities have a responsibility to lead the way in producing clean energy.”

As part of the Vision 2020 plan, which outlines UI’s sustainable energy goals, the university calls for curbing coal use and obtaining 40 percent of their energy from renewable sources.