SU aims to boost sustainability

| Contributing Reporter

Student Union’s Special Executive Task Force for Sustainable Events is devising a system that would offer incentives to student groups for hosting environmentally sustainable events.

The system, which is pending approval, would offer money or extra publicity to student groups that take measures to hold sustainable events.

Student Body President Jeff Nelson said that Student Union considered mandating sustainability to student groups and issuing penalties to those groups that were not sustainable, but decided to implement a system of incentives instead.

“We conducted a survey of the student body, and overwhelmingly students were not in favor of penalties and mandates,” Nelson said. “There was a lot of support for incentives.”

The plan that Student Union is considering would award credits to student groups that take specific actions to be more sustainable. Student groups could then redeem those credits for financial rebates or publicity resources, Nelson said.

“If a student group decides to buy T-shirts that are local, which would be considered more sustainable…they would get a certain number of credits for that action,” Nelson said.

Other measures that student groups can take to earn credits would include ordering food from local vendors, holding events outside to use natural sunlight instead of artificial light, buying smaller soda cans, and encouraging recycling.

Once a student group accrues a certain number of credits, it could redeem those credits for money toward the group’s next event or for prime space on the Underpass. While Category III student groups would not be eligible for financial credits, all student groups could obtain publicity credits.

Student Union also discussed the possibility of student groups holding raffles at events with prizes such as previous years’ T-shirts for students who came environmentally aware with their own water bottle.

“It’s sort of a dual benefit because we’re utilizing the old materials that we have that otherwise would just be thrown away or sitting in storage forever, and we’re also encouraging people to bring water bottles to events and reduce the usage of cups,” Nelson said.

Assistant Vice Chancellor for Campus Sustainability Matt Malten stressed the importance of implementing sustainability programs through SU.

“We strongly believe that the peer-peer interaction from students to their fellow classmates is really ideal,” Malten said.

In addition to SU’s efforts to increase sustainability, Chancellor Mark Wrighton released the draft Strategic Plan for Sustainable Operations. The University also announced a series of forums where students, faculty and staff may discuss the draft plan and sustainability measures.

“One of several reasons why we’re doing these forums is to give ourselves the opportunity to engage the entire campus community, including students, to help us achieve our goals,” Malten said.

Another goal of the forums is to hear students’ ideas and suggestions for increasing sustainability. The forums will take place on the Danforth, Medical, North and West campuses. Malten will also hold forums on the South 40.

Malten has worked with student events, primarily W.I.L.D. and ThurtenE, to address sustainability.

“The enthusiasm and the commitment that the students that we worked with to really make those events as green as possible has been tremendous,” Malten said. “I think we all agree that there’s always room for continual improvement.”

Students have reacted positively to the idea of sustainable events, Nelson said.

“Groups have been very receptive to the idea of sustainability,” Nelson said. “I think that it’s something they want to do already, and if we encourage it using incentives where they can get a little extra money to put toward an event later on or they can get a PR resource or something like that, I think it’ll just ramp up the adoption of some of these sustainable measures that we’re outlining.”

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