Sustainable student groups seek ‘green’ campus space

Updated: Oct. 18, 2016 at 12:07 a.m.

Sustainable students are banding together to advocate creating their own space on campus.

Leaders of sustainable student organizations are authoring a memo to administrators outlining their reasons for establishing a “green” space, which they plan to call “The Treehouse.” Students said having a dedicated space will enable the members of environmentally minded groups, like Green GW and the GroW Garden, to easily collaborate on projects and would represent the University’s commitment to sustainability.

The Treehouse would be a location for members of sustainability organizations and students minoring in sustainability to come together to meet, hang out, study or plan events, according to a draft of the memo.

Izzy Moody, the vice president of Green GW, co-authored the memo with Kayla Williams, the co-president of the GroW Community. Nikolas Michael originally thought of the idea. Moody recently pitched the idea to the University’s sustainable student and administrative leaders at a meeting last month. The committee’s members said they hope to receive official endorsements from sustainable student organizations and start planning their pitch by next month’s meeting.

“To have a physical space where sustainable orgs could come together to share excitement about ideas and issues related to sustainability and even resources would be amazing,” Moody said. “So many students in the popular minor don’t have a student base, or a group to connect to, so having a building would allow those who are ‘floaters’ to have a home base as well.”

Moody said sustainability organizations, like Green GW and members of the GroW Garden, have to hold meetings in various rooms across campus. Students in such groups have less of a connection or sense of community, and they have trouble collaborating without a dedicated space, she said.

The preliminary plans for the building include a kitchen for monthly cooking sessions hosted by the GroW Garden, office space, a lounge area and a library dedicated to materials about sustainability, according to the memo.

Students in these organizations said they hope the building will have sustainable features, like solar panels and a rainwater-harvesting system.

Student space on campus is limited, and groups have found themselves shifting around and fighting long battles to move into desired locations. Just last month, GW Veterans announced they were given space in a townhouse on F Street a year and a half after pitching the idea for a military resource center.

But those student groups that do have permanent meeting spaces tend to have stronger senses of community, Moody said.

“Just from my experience of being here last year and seeing how disconnected these groups were proved how much we could really benefit from having a space like the MSSC or Hillel,” Moody said referring to the Multicultural Student Services Center. “That way we can work to be productive together.”

Kurie Fitzgerald, a University spokeswoman, said staff regularly engage with student leaders about campus construction projects.

“The University strives to achieve a balance between various student needs,” Fitzgerald said in an email. “There’s a robust dialogue that ensures we design/renovate buildings that include the types of spaces that students seek.”

Sustainability was considered in recent additions to student space, such as the sustainable features in District House, renovations to the Shenkman Hall food court and affinity housing in District House, Fitzgerald added.

“This space allows for GW-registered student organizations, athletic groups and academic organizations, including FoBoZero (Green GW), to create their own living community around their particular needs and interests,” Fitzgerald said.

Michael, who came up with the idea for the student space, said he started discussing the project with peers after they had spent about a year involved in the sustainability community on campus. The Multicultural Student Services Center was an inspiration for the project, because the physical space helps members of different multicultural student organizations bond, he said.

“We could learn a lot of lessons from them, both in regards to this project and in how to make sustainability more welcoming and inclusive to all communities,” Michael said.

Logan Malik, the chairperson of the Student Association’s student life committee, said he has been helping the group by scoping out potential spaces. Malik has looked at vacancies in academic buildings and townhouses around campus, but so far, he has not found any front-runners, he said.

Malik said the potential costs for houses could pose the biggest obstacle for securing a space.

“It’s a little tricky with space at GW, and it’s going to be one of the areas where we get the most pushback,” Malik said. “We’re in a city and on prime real estate, so it’s expensive.”

Malik said he discussed the project and finding a space with Meghan Chapple, the director of the Office of Sustainability. Chapple suggested finding an interim space to start the project and to eventually move out to a larger space, Malik said.

“Having a physical presence on campus is such a good way of advertising,” Malik said. “The big challenge is proving to administrators, who already regard space as such a valuable commodity, that this is important and worth space.”

This post was updated to reflect the following correction:
The Hatchet incorrectly reported that Nikolas Michael co-authored the memo. He came up with the idea for the project but did not pen the memo, Kayla Williams did. We regret this error.

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