Photo Courtesy of Illinois Climate Action Plan Website
This October, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is hosting its first ever sustainability summit followed by a month-long celebration commemorating campus wide sustainability efforts through a series of events including Green Quad Day, Research Symposium, waste reduction challenges, inter RSO partnership events and much more.
The Student Sustainability Committee manages the Illinois Green Fund, which has 1.4 million dollars dedicated to sustainability projects spearheaded by students, staff and faculty. They will be hosting the first ever Student Sustainability Summit — a month long celebration.
Morgan White, associate director of Facility & Services for Sustainability, said the month is driven by student leadership.
“There’s a national movement that makes October the campus sustainability month, and this year, we’re excited because the students are really taking the leadership and it’s really being driven at that larger scale by our student leaders,” White said.
Maria Maring, senior in LAS who is concurrently serving as the co-president of the SSLC and vice chair of SSC, said the goal with the Summit is sustainability.
“I wanted to increase visibility, and ultimately make sustainability is more accessible for people who don’t think about it daily,” Maring said.
Meredith Moore, sustainability programs manager at Institute for Sustainability, Energy & Environment, said one of the main challenges the organizers tried to overcome was to increase participation of the dormant community groups.
“One thing that we’ve learned, especially with the pandemic is making our event activities and programs, accessible to everybody,” Moore said. “We have a variety of in-person and virtual events throughout the month and whether you’re on campus or working remotely, we strive for active participation and involvement.”
White elaborated further and said one of the most important issues in climate change is engagement and that they need people not just to know it’s an issue, but to know they can do something about it.
“Sustainability summit is all about raising awareness, with the students, faculty and staff about what’s happening already, what they can do to participate and how much, how easy it is, to get involved,” White said.
Moore said the group might reach out to other departments.
“We’re even thinking to reach out to English, Math and other disciplines with a lot of people who likely are interested, but they don’t even know that these programs exist,” Moore said.
White said she anticipates challenges for a Green Quad Day. For example, to occupy all 30 tables, everyone would need to help.
Maring said it’s important to get involved.
“You’re only in college for four years and the past year and a half has been stolen from us; so take advantage of college opportunities when they’re there before you graduate,” Maring said.
This student sustainability summit is hopefully the first of many. Every single student pays $14 in their tuition as fees toward the SSC. So, every single student whether they know it or not is involved in sustainability.
“It’s, therefore, your responsibility to make your voice heard on the issue,” Maring said.
White described how this extended celebration will provide a stepping stone for future administrative sustainability decisions. White said they’re doing the campus sustainability celebration on Oct. 20 and that they always wanted it to be a showcase event since often Chancellor Robert Jones and the campus administrative decision-makers are participating.
“Sustainability is embedded in every single aspect of our lives whether we realize it or not, and if we all can do just one or two things, it will have a domino effect,” Moore said. [Thus, get involved in sustainability now because there is no avoiding it down the road.”
Editor’s Note: A previous version of the article said the Student Sustainability Leadership Council is hosting the Student Sustainability Summit in conjunction with the Student Sustainability Committee. The Student Sustainability Committee is the only organization hosting the summit. A previous version of the article said one million and a half dollars are dedicated to the Student Sustainability Summit. However, the exact amount is $1.4 million and is dedicated to sustainability projects spearheaded by students, staff and faculty — not the summit.