The Daily Illini

Campus RSOs support various environmental causes

By Amanda Gecewicz

University students and faculty have joined together to combat environmental issues on campus in hopes of continuing the awareness raised by recent protests in New York City. 

On Sept. 21, more than 300,000 protestors marched down the streets of New York City in hopes of prompting world leaders to take initiative in preventing climate change. The University has taken its own initiative to raise environmental awareness by sponsoring organizations and taking actions to be more cognizant of where waste materials from research labs end up. 

“One of the biggest issues in the past was that people would dump waste chemicals down the drain (at research labs),” said Peter Ashbrook, director of the University’s Division of Research Safety. 

Waste Management now regulates the disposal avenues that customers use for chemical waste. Due to the initiative, the campus has become more eco-friendly by sponsoring clubs and organizations to participate in ongoing projects. 

Field and Furrow, established in 1935, is a registered student organization that aims to educate its members on agriculture and provide opportunities to get involved with various projects. The club is a part of SASES, which stands for Students in Agronomic Soils and Environmental Sciences, a national student organization affiliated with work in agronomy, crops, plants and sciences. 

The RSO will be attending the next SASES meeting, which takes place in Long Beach, California on Nov. 1. The event will include a speech contest and quiz bowls that members can participate in. This is one of the many national meetings the organization attends.

Taylor Greenstreet, vice president of Field and Furrow and a senior in Media, said that every meeting gives the group invaluable experience. 

“It’s really good to get out there as a club to see what other clubs are doing and how different parts of the country have different agriculture,” she said.

The organization’s philanthropy is Sola Gatia Farm, a community garden located in Urbana. The farm is dedicated to growing high-quality, natural produce, according to its website. 

Field and Furrow meets once a month and has various activities throughout the season that students can get involved in, which according to Greenstreet, can lead to potential employment opportunities. 

“Getting to meet different professionals in our industry is one of our club’s biggest focus because it has lead to various job and internship opportunities for our members,” she said.   

One persistent global issue — air pollution — has caused Students for Environmental Concerns (SECS) to take action in many facets, according to Drew O’Bryan, president of SECS and a senior in Engineering. 

The RSO is the oldest and largest environment group on campus, established in 1969. SECS consists of five working groups including the Beyond Coal Campaign, which focuses on getting the University to stop investing in coal companies. The other groups are Earth Week, a planning committee that hosts a week of environmental activities each spring semester; Environmental Education, a group dedicated to teaching environmental education at local elementary schools; Sustainable Business, the newest group that works to promote green and sustainable business in Champaign-Urbana; and Stable Landscapes and Food Groups, which sponsors Food Day on Oct. 26. The event will feature a panel of speakers and a local food potluck at Red Herring Vegetarian Restaurant.

O’Bryan said his position helps facilitate all five working groups, but the most active project is the Beyond Coal Campaign. The campaign is currently trying to get Chancellor Wise to support oversight of the University’s investments from its endowment fund. The most notable project in the last year aimed to get a majority student vote to remove investments for the use of coal. 

“In less than two weeks, we were able to receive over 4,000 petition signatures from the students to place a student body referendum on the student ballot for coal divestment. That vote was approved 6-1. That was the biggest achievement we had in numbers and visibility,” O’Bryan said. 

The biggest goal for SECS is to promote sustainability on campus and within the community through promotion of all five campaigns. Members meet every Wednesday at the University YMCA and encourage students of all majors to participate to help make the campus more environmentally friendly, according to O’Bryan.

Another major organization on campus that is working to combat environmental issues is The Wildlife Society. The purpose of the club is to take an active role in preventing environmental degradation and raise awareness and appreciation of wildlife values, according to its website. The organization participated in a river cleanup in September, and by the end of the excursion, the group had filled up multiple kayaks with trash, according to Isha Robertson, president of the RSO and sophomore in ACES. 

Robertson said the organization’s participation in the cleanup epitomized the group’s ideology. 

“It was a lot of hard work, but just looking at the wildlife around us and seeing what a difference cleaning up that trash made was worth it,” she said.

The next big event for the group is a trip to Peoria to visit its wildlife prairie park on Oct. 18. Members will volunteer for three hours and then have access to the rest of the park. The group will also go to the St. Louis Zoo at the beginning of November.

Amanda can be reached at [email protected].

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