By Daniel Schemer, February 2009
In the last year, UMass Dartmouth has gone full-swing and wholeheartedly embraced sustainability as a significant course of action for improving the campus and reaching out to the community. Despite all the impressive steps, campus sustainability can't possibly thrive without the substantial student engagement. More and more students have been getting involved with all things sustainable, but campus-wide unity on the issue is the biggest goal for the Administration. Looking for students to take charge of doing the leg work and spreading the word are essential to reducing energy consumption and waste management on campus.
"There are a number of student groups already involved with this, so part of the efforts is trying to bring the groups together to find out where it is they have a common interest, can we do something together on a larger scale with a more coordinated effort, and is there enough of a movement specifically on this topic that maybe we need to form our own organization," said Jamie Jacquart, Director of Student Activities, Involvement, and Leadership (SAIL), about what is being referred to as the Green Navigators Program.
Groups like MassPIRG, the Social Change Society, Students In Free Enterprise (SIFE), and Student Senate have done or are doing their own projects on sustainability; the Green Navigators Program is a way for bridging those connections and engaging in more thorough student outreach. Grassroots work will include generating promotional material, tabling and talking to classes, organizing meetings and events, and/or conducting research on issues such as renewable energy, which means there's much responsibility for the enthusiastic participant. Incentives for Green Navigators include work study hours, course credit, and tuition waivers through the Connections Program.
"A perfect Green Navigator is really passionate about issues of sustainability, is willing to go door-to-door to peers about problems and what solutions we have, and is visionary enough to come up with new ideas," said Vanessa Wright, Representative for MASSPIRG at UMass Dartmouth and Co-Sponsor of the Program. Ms. Wright is in the midst of a hiring campaign for MASSPIRG in the hopes of recruiting for both the Green Navigators Program and for a Global Warming Conference in Washington D.C. occurring the last week of February.
The idea of the Green Navigators Program came to realization at the end of the last semester when the Office of Campus and Community Sustainability, SAIL, and MASSPIRG held meetings with various other student organizations and non-affiliated students to discuss ways for raising awareness of energy consumption and other sustainability issues. "We sent out invitations to meetings and had random students attending," said Mr. Jacquart.
Exchanging contact information led to maintaining student interest in the program. "Our natural systems are being decimated by human action, and I'd like to work against that," said Lauren Watka, a senior working on her double major in biology and French, who attended the most recent student collaborative meeting on the Green Navigators Program.
"My interest is social business and changing products to better suit society and the environment," said Joe Martelly, a senior Marketing major and member of SIFE, who was also in attendance at the meeting. He goes on to say that projects on sustainability are requirements every year for SIFE. "I see it as a new way for how economy and culture evolve."
Student relations are most valuable in the residential halls where many initiatives require more effective promotion for raising student awareness. "Students tend to listen to other students, so it's important to get that peer-to-peer contact," said Robin Brow, Operations Manager for Housing Facilities, Operations, and Services (HFOS). With the Energy Conservation Campaign on the Administration's collective mind, student awareness of ways to reduce energy usage is vital to its success. Door-to-door advertising of simple measures, like keeping windows closed, turning off lights when leaving your rooms, powering down computers instead of leaving them on standby mode, not leaving cell phone chargers plugged in overnight, and turning off vending machines when not in use, are being organized.
Promotion of recycling efforts is also being focused on strongly. The biggest example of this is the University's enrollment of the residential halls in the nationwide RecycleMania. The 10-week event runs through March 28 and has all residential halls engaged in friendly competition with both each other and the other 510 Colleges and Universities registered (we are the only participating school in the UMass division) for most amount recyclables collected and least amount of trash accumulated. Part of the promotion for this will be Sunday Night Dorm Storms, which will have RAs or other supporters knocking on dorm rooms with totes for collecting recyclables. "The door-to-door campaigns will make a huge difference. There is a much more aggressive campaign now for recycling. It's not about who recycles more, but who can waste the least," said Robin Brow. Prizes for the competition are yet to be determined.
Being a Green Navigator means maintaining a leadership role on campus and being enthusiastic about student interaction. "The biggest issue is education. Green Navigators is the best way to organize the initiative," said Lauren Watka.
"We need to turn the [sustainability] initiative over to the students and navigators, and spend time to work on the programs. Once that happens, we'll have success stories to write and talk about and publicize," said Jamie Jacquart.
For more information on the Green Navigators Program, contact the Office of Campus and Community Sustainability at (508) 910-6958 or SAIL at (508) 999-8880.