By Micha Bennett for the School of Global Environmental Sustainability
Much has changed for students at CSU. Social distancing measures and the transition to remote University operations have presented a wide variety of challenges, but also opportunities for innovation. Like many others, the Eco Leader program at CSU has stepped up to the challenge of adapting its end-of-semester routines to the online environment.
The Eco Leaders are a group of peer educators in the residence halls and Aggie Village who help raise awareness about sustainability issues. Eco Leaders engage campus residents in sustainability areas such as waste reduction, energy conservation, social responsibility, sustainable transportation, environmental justice, and composting. They also take two classes offered by the School of Global Environmental Sustainability as part of the program requirements. Students take GES 130: Introduction to Sustainability Engagement in the fall and GES 330: Sustainability in Practice in the spring.
GES 330 focuses on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, and require students to present to each other the significance and local impacts of each goal. Additionally, the class requires an independent project and, usually, an in-person poster presentation. This year, each Eco Leader has instead created an infographic to illustrate the processes and outcomes of their project, which you can view on the EcoLeaders home page.
Lia Moon is an Eco Leader majoring in neuroscience and minoring in Japanese. Her independent project is a cookbook intended to help students and residents carry on their sustainable food habits when they move off-campus. The cookbook includes twenty recipes and ways to mitigate food waste, which ties into the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal 2: Zero Hunger.
“I’d suggest everyone to take a look [at the Sustainable Development Goals] because some of the goals I wouldn’t have associated with sustainability,” said Moon. There are 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals with topics ranging from climate action and clean water to gender equity, economic growth, and more.
Moon continued, “I’m passionate about [sustainability] because it’s something that each and every person can take a part in… I also feel like I’m fortunate enough to be able to think about sustainability and not focus on if I’m going to have food to eat tomorrow. That’s another reason I care about this, because I have no good reason not to and if I can afford the time and energy to do so, why not?”
Maile Wood, an Eco Leader majoring in psychology with a minor in linguistics and culture, focused her independent project on sustainable transportation. Working closely with the CSU student government’s Office of Environmental Affairs and CSU’s alternative transportation team, the project is to develop a carpooling/rideshare system for students on and off-campus.
Wood said that the physical shutdown of many college campuses has slowed down their work a bit, but they are still making progress where they can.
“We are currently researching a program or apps that have likeminded goals, and that will be compatible with CSU,” said Wood. “We were originally hoping to roll out the finalized program during the start of school in the fall of 2020, but are now waiting on decisions regarding if classes will be on campus. But, we wholeheartedly hope to start in August!”
Moon anticipates graduating in 2023 and Wood is set for 2022. While neither has concrete plans for what they want to do after graduation, both are sure that sustainability will be an important part of their future.
Wood hopes to do some travelling after graduation.
“Through GES 130 and GES 330, the classes we take as Eco-Leaders, I have learned a lot about ecotourism, and how to travel more sustainably…Sustainability will always be a passion and priority for me,” said Wood.
Moon spoke about all the ways sustainability is connected to her life and the lives of others.
“The crazy thing about sustainability is that it’s in everything, no matter the occupation,” said Moon. “I don’t know what I want to be or how I’m going to use the degree I’m working towards, but I do know I’ll be able to bring up this perspective wherever I go.”
Challenge sparks innovation. It’s a concept well known by CSU students. After all, learning and growth come only when we are pushed out of our comfort zone. Whether it’s adapting to online classes or addressing grand sustainability challenges, the students of today are learning the skills they need to be sustainability leaders of the future.