Smoothing Your Way to ND for the Environment

A perspective on partnering with others to quench more than a thirst for sustainability at Notre Dame. 

I always wondered what ND for the Environment was all about. Then, I had the chance to experience it first-hand. It was Alumni Reunion Weekend in early June during the “ND Explores STEM” event in McCourtney Hall. I and my colleagues Ginger Sigmon and Anne Berges Pillai were manning the ND Energy table with the ND Energy smoothie bike, front and center. Nearby were our colleagues from the Office of Sustainability and the Sustainability Minor. We had our informational brochures and posters laid out on our main table. Next to it was another table that held a large bowl of mixed berries, bunches of fresh bananas, bottles of fruit juice, containers of yogurt, a cutting board, utensils, and plastic gloves. My role was to make the smoothie ‘brew’ while Ginger secured the blender to the back of the bike, and Anne welcomed visitors who were waiting for their turn on the smoothie bike. 

You might be wondering, “What does a smoothie have to do with ND for the Environment?” Well, it goes something like this.

There aren’t too many people who don’t like smoothies, right?  So what better way to get someone’s attention than by inviting them to make their own smoothie on the ND Energy smoothie bike using their own physical energy!

This is where ND for the Environment comes in.

While waiting to pedal your way to a scrumptious smoothie or after you’ve created one, which takes about 30 seconds, you are greeted by the ND for the Environment team, comprised of members from the Center for Sustainable Energy (ND Energy), the Office of Sustainability, and the Minor in Sustainability, all eagerly waiting to tell you about the various programs and services that focus on the environment at Notre Dame.

Initiated in 2017 by the Alumni Association, ND for the Environment showcases the many ways in which the university is working to address environmental issues and helping to combat the negative effects of climate change on the environment. The original thought was to use Football Fridays as the primary venue since thousands of alumni and interested fans are on campus for home football games. This idea has since expanded to include other venues such as the Alumni Association’s Leadership Conference and Alumni Reunion Weekend.

Although this is not the only time you can experience ND Energy’s smoothie bike and learn about various programs and services focused on energy, the environment, and other sustainability topics. ND Energy partners regularly with student organization GreeND for its annual Sustainability Festival, which attracts students from all across campus interested in helping to reduce Notre Dame’s carbon footprint. This and other events sponsored by ND Energy’s Student Energy Board, such as the annual Notre Dame Energy Week, and Mendoza’s MBA Energy and Resources Club seem to always make room for smoothies.

The real point of this article is not solely to promote the smoothie bike, although it is oddly unique, but rather to let you know that when you do see the smoothie bike on campus, you can expect more than just a smoothie to quench your thirst. You can expect to learn about Notre Dame’s endeavors to conserve energy, combat climate change, and take the necessary steps to ensure a sustainable future for the next generation of students.

At this point, you might be wondering what programs and services are discussed by the ND for the Environment team. Below are just a few you can count on learning about as we welcome in the new football season and begin to think about Football Fridays at the Eck Visitors Center and other venues where the ND Energy smoothie bike will be front and center.   

ND Energy: a university research center dedicated to advancing energy-related research, education, and outreach at Notre Dame.

Energy Studies Minor: a multidisciplinary approach to energy studies for undergraduate students in all majors.

Student Energy Board: a network of students dedicated to providing outreach programs focused on major issues and topics in energy to the Notre Dame and local communities.

Sustainability Minor: a multidisciplinary approach to sustainability studies for undergraduate students in all majors.

Sustainability Alumni Network: a network of individuals to engage the broader community in sustainability studies.

GreeND: a student organization interested in advocating for sustainability studies, combating climate change, and conserving energy.

Office of Sustainability: a university department devoted to leading strategic efforts in sustainable operations, education and research at Notre Dame.

Sustainability Tour: mapping our impact from wind turbines in White Field to green roofs on buildings, sustainability is everywhere at Notre Dame.

Green Design: Notre Dame’s sustainable buildings policy that requires all new buildings to be up to LEED standards.

greeNDiscovery: a program that promotes energy efficiency and other sustainable practices in laboratories.

Green Guides: guides for sustainable catering and event planning and living on campus.

Game Day Recycling: single stream recycling awareness and distribution of blue bags.

RecycleMania: a friendly competition for colleges and universities to promote waste reduction and recycling activities to their campus communities.

Megawatt Madness: a friendly competition between dorms using a real-time energy dashboard to encourage competitors to find creative ways to conserve energy.

Sustainability Commissioners: students implementing educational initiatives on sustainable best practices within their dorms.

Green Ambassadors: individuals implementing sustainable practices within their own offices and departments on campus.

Old2Gold: the annual year-end yard sale of students’ unwanted items that are sold or donated to local charities.

Power Plant Carbon Reduction: the goal includes no coal by 2020.

Solar Array Installation: Kenmore Warehouse latest addition to sustainability efforts.

Going Geothermal: integration of geothermal systems into the campus’ district heating and cooling system.

New East Plant: advancing Notre Dame’s carbon reduction plan through chilled water storage and regeneration.

Smoothie Bike 2a
Christopher (Chris) Simms (’88) President-Elect of the Alumni Association Board took time during the annual Leadership Conference to demonstrate his support of the smoothie bike.

Smoothie Bike 3b St 1
During the Alumni Association’s Winter Sports Weekend, even our mascot took the time to whip up a scrumptious smoothie. 

Smoothie Bike 4 St 1Not yet tall enough, this Winter Sports Weekend participant still found a way to use his physical power to enjoy a smoothie!

ND Energy is a University Research Center whose mission is to build a better world by creating new energy technologies and systems and educating individuals to help solve the most critical energy challenges facing our world today. For more information, visit the ND Energy website at or contact Barbara Villarosa, Business and Communications Program Director, at or 574-631-4776.