Archive for category Sustainability Student Diary

Creating a Full Spectrum of Sustainability

Who is participating in the switch to sustainability?  In the fall of last semester, the Student Environmental Caucus changed their identity to the “Green Jacks” in hopes of framing sustainability in a way that inspires school spirit (NAU Lumberjacks) and expands the spectrum of sustainability at NAU.  The group went to tailgates and sporting events wearing our Earth Week T-shirts while handing out sustainably produced wine and recycling literature to the student and alumni tailgaters.  Along with WACBAT (the Weatherization and Community Building Action Team), we hosted a solar panel crowd-funding event for the local Murdoc Community Center, which communicated the relationships between renewable energy and the liberty of Flagstaff as a community.  So, sustainability issues inherently relate to us all.  This semester, the Green Jacks hope to take that idea and work towards an equal representation and participation of the student body when it comes down to the topic of NAU’s commitment to carbon neutrality.

One focus right now is Earth Week 2012 — which just so happens to coincide with International Week and International Volunteer Week.  We just started hosting weekly meetings in the NAU Health and Learning Center every Friday at 2:30pm (rm 2405/7).  Everyone is invited to attend, and in the first two weeks we’ve had representatives from NAU’s Learning Communities, the City of Flagstaff, and NAU Civic Service Institute — among other diverse attendees.  But that’s not enough.  The Green Jacks are fostering relationships with NAU faculty, staff and administration which can be maintained and strengthen as the university reaches for it’s goals of carbon neutrality by 2020.

Particularly, WACBAT is organizing an event on 4/20 called “Blackout Day.”  The idea is that various buildings and dorms on campus will shut off their power for a few hours — and everyone bikes/walks/buses down to a solar-powered concert.  We want the Greek community, all the dorms, and the ASNAU student government (and more groups) to sponsor the event – in addition to other Arizona universities (ASU, UofA, and Prescott College) hosting similar events at the same date and time!  The goal is not to just host an event, but to build on the notion that engagement as a student at the university level can foster effective civic engagemnt in Flagstaff and beyond.

There is a lot to say about full-spectrum sustainability and NAU’s goals, but fostering a broader group of participation this semester will hopefully defy the stereotype of mutual exclusivity pertaining to sustainability, and all else.

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Free Compliments Phase II

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.

Free ComplimentsWhile 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!

-Alex Gaynor

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