As a student ambassador of sustainability at the notoriously green Northern Arizona University, I am regularly exposed to the ideas of sustainability. This exposure and the large sustainability community involved has moved me to think in depth about the next level of campus sustainability. There is only so much that can be achieved by a core group of green students that are dedicated to sustainability. I imagine a healthy campus where there is no division between the green students and the student athletes, Greek life, ROTC students, etc. Our mission is thus to creatively include the uninvolved. Based loosely on the ideas expressed by Volkswagen’s Fun Theory we strive to find ways to “preach to the non-choir.” The first initiative currently in play is known as Free Compliments.
While it is, in our eyes, largely an experiment, the idea is sound. The idea, on its most basic level, is that a compliment while walking to class early in the morning might spark a better day and a healthier campus in the long run. A healthier campus, ideally might lead to a more sustainable campus. Secondarily, we have developed a space in which open conversation is encouraged and people can find out about other campus sustainability news and information.
As the project has moved on, other personal benefits have developed. For example, I’ve been told some very moving things and been involved in some very moving conversations with people I would never have otherwise conversed with. This last Wednesday, one fellow (whose name I wish I knew) waltzed up and started, “Hey man, I have dealt with anxiety and depression my entire life and…” We were thinking ‘oh no, we are making people depressed.’ To our surprise, he then finished “its stuff like what you guys are doing that help me deal with it.” Things like this, which are not uncommon, are what make it so easy to meet the sunrise every Wednesday and battle the chill of Flagstaff’s winter.
This week the project entered Phase II. Phase II means we have free hot beverages for students on their way to class who have their own reusable container. While the free beverages were not emptied this week, the word has been spread! We are hoping that there is greater public participation as the weeks progress.
See you on the University Union pedway next Wednesday from 8:15 to 9:15 AM with your reusable mug!