Contrary to popular opinion, sustainability is not just recycling and hugging trees, according to members of the Student Sustainability Center.
Since it was launched in 2009, the Student Sustainability Center has been incorporating economic, social and environmental approaches to the sustainability initiatives of the Colorado State University and Fort Collins communities through a multi-faceted mission.
“People’s perceptions of sustainability seem to get wrapped into just the environment,” said the organization’s Associate Director of Outreach Jack Van Vleet. “We want our organization to get into other issues that are not what you’d perceive at first thought to be part of sustainability.”
Recent pursuits of the organization include the CSU Nitrogen Footprint Project, which compiles data to create a comprehensive nitrogen footprint for the University; a Sustainable Futures Fair, which helps students explore career opportunities in sustainability-related fields; the “Leave the Plastic, Plant a Tree” campaign, which aims to reduce single-use plastic bags on campus; and a comprehensive Student Sustainability Database, which includes information about clubs, projects and initiatives taking place on campus.
“We try to target students for our main events, although many community members attend our panel discussions, both on and off campus,” said Chris Fuller, the organization’s event coordinator. After seeing success with events last year, the group is looking to repeat events like the Sustainable Futures Fair this year, and increase the number of gatherings they hold on campus during the school week, Fuller said.
Additionally, the group is promoting awareness of sustainability-related social justice issues such as the Fort Collins homeless community’s recent protests of the urban camping ban. Other SSC events include movie screenings and panel discussions about sustainability-related issues.
While the group has had success attracting students to events, Van Vleet said the organization has “not quite hit the magic bullet yet,” in terms of ideal attendance. Hoping to see more student engagement in community events, the SSC succeeded in reducing the entrance fee for CSU students to the annual Sustainability Living Fair this September.
The Green Bulletin, the SSC’s weekly newsletter, acts as a round-up of upcoming events through the SSC and its partners, with additional resources for students wanting to get involved.
Van Vleet said the Bulletin allows the organization to unite the many aspects of sustainability.
Helping to make connections is a big part of what the SSC does for its members, who may feel lost when part of such a diverse movement. As Van Vleet said, the group is all about “helping people find their niches.”
Upcoming SSC events include a booth at the 16th Annual Sustainable Living Fair at the Old Fort Collins Heritage Park Sept. 12 and 13. According to Leah Norman, the group’s associate director of engagement, SSC members plan to give away free tickets to the event on the Plaza in the upcoming week.
According to Norman, additional upcoming events include visiting a landfill to learn more about what happens to trash after it is thrown away.
“For most people, it’s out of sight, out of mind,” she said.
It may be that this level of engagement and curiosity drives members of the SSC to practice persistence in their search for a more sustainable future for the University and the surrounding community.
Van Vleet admitted that it can be difficult at times, even in the sustainability-minded community of Fort Collins, to find others as dedicated to environmental causes. “I’m the weird ‘Green Warrior’ guy of my friends,” he said.
Collegian Sustainability Beat Reporter Julia Rentsch can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @julia_rentsch.