AASHE Student Diary Series: Greening Fraternity Practices at U Chicago
Ari Epstein, a senior at the University of Chicago, is featured in this installment of the AASHE Bulletin Sustainability Student Diary series for his efforts to make the Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity function on a greener level. As co-house manager of the fraternity, Ari writes about working with the university’s Office of Sustainability to reform in-house and party practices. AASHE welcomes questions and invites feedback on each Sustainability Student Diary entry. Submit diary entries of your own for consideration to email@example.com.
Before I became a SAGE Ambassador*at the end of spring quarter last year, I contacted the Office of Sustainability on behalf of the Alpha Epsilon Pi (AEPi) fraternity. Because of my interest in reforming in-house and party practices to be more environmentally conscious, the fraternity elected me to institute pro-sustainability changes as co-house manager of our South Campus house.
Members of the Office of Sustainability made my task very easy by providing advice on gradually implementing reforms in a large social organization like a fraternity, and gave me information on electronic, print, and city resources. Despite the lack of higher quality of photos in this series, I am pleased to share AEPi's successful sustainability reforms with the university community in order to generate interest among other large social registered student organizations to help reduce our carbon footprint and overall environmental impact, and to streamline existing sustainability measures like recycling.
Beginning shortly after my SAGE training, I introduced small changes to the fraternity by increasing in-house recycling, promoting awareness of electricity and water usage and starting an aerobic composting bin made out of a converted 45-gallon plastic trash can lined with wire mesh.
I now use old deli or produce bags to store fresh food scraps in the refrigerator until I bring down my weekly collection of waste and recyclables. Because I have a continuing ant problem and am cautious to develop a gnat problem, this system seems to work well.
AEPi Sustainable Practices for Social Gatherings
Once the school year began and more fraternity brothers returned to campus, I shifted my focus to fraternity-wide events like socials, parties, and the like. I often saw tons of aluminum cans and paper cartons lining the floors of rooms in which the fraternity hosted social activities, so I designated an old trash bin to be used only for recycling. I taped one of the SAGE recycling tip sheets to one side of the bin, while the other side has taped-on letters spelling "RECYCLING!"
I also tried to avoid the unpleasant task of resorting recyclables and non-recyclables during party clean-up shifts by placing recycling containers only where they are in highest demand. In order to avoid a space problem, I tried not to place recycling and garbage bins in the same rooms. Therefore, I placed recycling bins in the rooms where refreshments are served in recyclable containers, while I placed only garbage bins in the areas only serving refreshments in disposable cups.
Not only do AEPi members spend less time sorting during clean-up shifts, party patrons generally sorted items without issue in the rooms where I provided garbage and recycling bins without compromising space. Even more, other AEPi members donated old towels to use as mops and cleaning rags instead of paper towels. Since we started using the towels during Orientation Week at the end of September, we have yet to use more than one roll of paper towels during four different cleaning shifts that covered nearly 4,000 square feet of space.
AEPi is committed to being a model for how other campus organizations can become more sustainable. Contact Ari at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more about these efforts.
*From the University of Chicago Office of Sustainability's Katie Anson about the SAGE Program:
The University of Chicago is creating a culture of sustainability on campus through SAGE (Sustainable Actions for a Greener Environment) Trainings. In less than a year, over 100 students, staff and faculty have become SAGE Ambassadors. Armed with sustainability-related information, ambassadors are able to correct common sustainability misconceptions on campus, connect their peers to resources and act as environmental advocates on behalf of the Office of Sustainability. These 90-minute trainings provide a general overview of the university’s sustainability efforts and highlight actions that individuals can take in order to be a little greener in areas like energy and water conservation, alternative transportation, procurement, and sustainable food.
After these trainings, SAGE Ambassadors are charged with raising awareness, spurring dialogue and inspiring action in their dorms, offices and departments. SAGE Ambassadors have implemented numerous changes on campus, including greening the AEPi fraternity.
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