Student Leadership Award 3432
This paper was a recipient of AASHE's Award for Student Sustainability Leadership.
Four years ago when I arrived at DePauw I fell in love. However, I quickly realized that campus sustainability programs were sparse and disconnected. As a result, sustainability wasn’t much of a buzz word. There was undeniable interest within the administration as well as an untapped enthusiasm within the student population. We had a strong recycling program in addition to numerous individual efforts, but with no network to connect them both fronts could only achieve so much. There was no “Office for Sustainability” and no first-year orientation initiatives like Start Green. Most importantly, there were no connections between disciplines on a fundamental understanding of sustainability. For these reasons, I set out to make those connections, hoping to develop networks and provide resources for students. Looking back, I realize I was actually helping to establish the foundations for what would become campus sustainability at DePauw—foundations that I have been both honored and excited to have helped shape.
Before working as a Sustainability Intern, I started pursuing my passion by taking courses in the closest applicable major of Environmental Geoscience. At the same time, I helmed an effort to revive an environmental club. By the end of my second year, with a small group of dedicated students and the significant contributions of Douglas Strodtman ’09, the DePauw Environmental Club (DEC) became a recognized organization. As one of the founding members and co-Presidents of the club, I next aimed to create a presence on campus by organizing StepItUP, and later expanded this idea to include the Greencastle community with “Talk Green at the Blue Door”—an opportunity for both university and community members to gather at a local café to discuss environmental issues. Remaining an active member of DEC, I worked on campus awareness programming as well as composting, recycling, eco-feminism, and environmental justice campaigns. In 2008 the DEC petitioned the new President Brian Casey to sign the Presidents Climate Commitment. In September of his inaugural year, I was present when President Casey signed the ACUPCC, setting campus sustainability and environmental concerns as an institutional priority.
My first opportunity to pursue sustainability in the classroom was with Dr. Jen Everett in Environmental Ethics, who placed an emphasis on the educational value of public projects. With classmate Lauren Schaefer ’09, I developed Start Green, an initiative to incorporate sustainability and environmental discussion into first-year orientation, ideally cultivating more conscious citizens. I continued the project with Tiffany Briery ’08. That summer through Spring 2009, I acted as one of two Sustainability Interns—newly created positions from a growingly conscious university. Working the entire summer with Dining Services, Facilities Management, first-year programming and Residence Life & Housing to implement Start Green, we funded and passed out BPA-Free Nalgene water bottles with informational brochures. Steve Santo—General Manager of Sodexo—donated reusable tote bags and together we coordinated a 100% compostable dinner followed by an on-site compost demonstration. For Orientation 2009, we will sharpen the focus on environmental issues by dedicating an entire session to sustainability while continuing traditions. As the Fifth-Year Sustainability Intern, I will work to develop a version of Eco-Reps to further encourage sustainable living practices.
Having built the necessary networks, I set the next goal: to see campus sustainability institutionalized. Recognizing my student term as fleeting, I determined to leave DePauw a changed institution. As a Sustainability Intern, I co-authored DePauw’s first Sustainability Status Report and played an integral role in the design of DePauw’s Sustainability Initiative, providing what would become the infrastructure for sustainability at DePauw. Sustainability has also served as a bridge between the University and Greencastle, where recently both have made great strides towards more sustainable practices; for example, Greencastle won the Indiana Association of Cities and Towns Green Community Award in 2008 . A significant part of my job was enhancing community relations via environmental issues. I took a leading role in Greencastle’s Community Sustainability Committee where I worked to establish a community garden and coordinated a joint community-university project called the “DePauw Move Out Initiative.” For one week we collected items like dry food, furniture, electronics and appliances. We were able to accumulate enough to help the Humane Society, Family Support Services and more within the Greencastle community, a success I expect to only grow with time. Already, the Move Out Initiative has become a model of cooperation and mutual enthusiasm between Greencastle and DePauw. The Community Sustainability Committee has since transformed into a Sustainability Commission through City Hall with nominated members. As a Fifth-Year Sustainability Intern, I have been nominated to serve on the Commission, during which time I hope to advance sustainability in Greencastle and to continue enhancing relations with the University.
Environmental issues do not stop at the gate of the university or the borders of the town—they are a global concern, and so I have also taken a great interest in sustainability on an international level. In January 2009, I was able to become the Project Intern for a sustainability service trip to Costa Rica. Our service projects included turtle conservation, sustainable agriculture initiatives and environmental education efforts. Part of my job was to help link international conservation efforts and sustainability abroad with our local and national efforts. In an effort to help share what we learned about international conservation, we developed a presentation that I gave at the Greencastle public library upon returning home.
Sharing such a learning-teaching relationship with our Costa Rican hosts only furthered my belief that the very essence of sustainability is based on connectivity—not just on our understanding of the relationship between the environment and people, but on the link between others and ourselves. Four years ago, I set out to make connections, develop networks, provide student resources, and build a foundation for campus sustainability. I did not know at the time that it would become my life’s passion to pursue these initiatives. I have had the honor of becoming the face of sustainability at DePauw; being featured in stories on DePauw’s website, interviewed on our radio station, spotlighted in our newspaper; and ultimately honored as one of three finalist of the senior class of over 600 for the Walker Cup—an award given to the senior that contributed most to advance the interests of DePauw University. In addition, I was awarded the Alice G. Ross award for outstanding contribution to the co-curricular life of the student body in support of the academic mission of the University for my work promoting campus sustainability. I have found my calling—to work on environmental issues within higher education and to devote my life to sustainability. As David Orr states in his book, Earth in Mind: “A calling is about the use one makes of a career. A career is about specific aptitudes; a calling is about purpose.” In my sustainability work, I have found great worth and even greater purpose.