Because of Steven Knapp’s focus on sustainability, GW is a dramatically greener place than it was four years ago.
The University has encouraged students to become more involved in sustainability through programs like Recyclemania, the Eco-Challenge and Earth Hour. Separately, green-focused student organizations provide outlets for students to start green initiatives, such as the student-run co-op café and the GroW Garden on H Street. Students who want to pursue sustainable practices can earn a minor in sustainability starting next year.
These initiatives demonstrate that the University is dedicated to sustainability at both an institutional and student level. At a time when decreasing our footprint is critical, these moves are crucial in proving GW is fit for the future.
To futher fuse student and administrative efforts, the University should launch and fund a Student Sustainability Collective.
A student-run collective at GW would promote the administration’s ongoing sustainability efforts. Keeping a student-run arm of the sustainability office will empower the student body to take improving campus sustainability upon itself and promote larger undertakings than just recycling and eco-challenges.
This collective would emphasize student concerns that surpass the general sustainability goals already established by the Office of Sustainability. If students wanted a change in what is recycled – for instance, the University does not recycle Solo cups – the collective could focus its efforts on reaching that goal.
Keeping the collective student-run would allow students to lead their own initiatives. Student organizations work toward improving the environment through small sustainability projects, but with the help of the University and the motivation of student leaders, a collective could drive important change.
And in crafting such an office, administrators should look to the University of California – San Diego’s Student Sustainability Collective as a model. At UCSD's collective, students lobby for environmental issues and projects in which they are involved.
UCSD’s office simultaneously runs seven to 12 programs including topics like food policy, public health and civil and human rights. There are food and health student organizations at GW, but if students had their own University-funded collective, these green student organizations would have the potential to make a greater impact throughout D.C.
Sustainability does not have to be isolated to one student organization. A collective would foster a dialogue on campus among the various student organizations. As a partner with the University, it would also establish conversations with other students on campus.
And the student organizations could come to the collective for guidance on how to make their efforts more sustainable and to work with like-minded students, as well as to support and help plan green events.
Jillian Du, a coordinator for The Green Initiative Fund and a UCSD collective employee, said even at UCSD “everything is growing and developing,” but that working with your university is the best way to build lasting green initiatives on campus.
A collective would give Colonials the chance to see their green ideas blossom.
Alyssa Rosenthal, a sophomore majoring in political communication, is a Hatchet columnist.