Sustainability at SMU: “Red, blue and green all over”

SMU celebrated national Campus Sustainability Day in fall 2009 with Green Pledges, a game of Environmental Jeopardy and a Green Minute Video Contest. But the University’s go-green efforts haven’t stopped there, student leaders say.

Senior mechanical engineering and mathematics major Andrea Fernandez is the president of the SMU Environmental Society, a student organization that promotes a better understanding of environmental issues. She also helps lead recycling initiatives as part of the SMU Sustainability Committee, a group of students, faculty and staff that educates and advises the campus community.

Here she talks with senior journalism major and SMU News intern Mallory McCall about becoming a campus that’s “red, blue and green all over”:


What green campus activities can students support?

The SMU Environmental Society gathers every Friday for a great “Lights Out” event. We meet by the flagpole at 6 p.m. and go turn off the lights in classrooms, labs and lounges that are not used over the weekend. This saves money and reduces energy consumption.

Throughout the year we hold campaigns on issues such as water conservation and battery recycling. We also maintain a patch in the new campus community garden near Patterson Hall, where we grow vegetables to share with the SMU community and learn about gardening.

In spring 2010 we will participate in RecycleMania, a competition that promotes waste reduction activities on college campuses nationwide, with a goal of producing the largest amount of recyclables and the least amount of trash per student.

We also will help host the Awakening the Dreamer, Changing the Dream Symposium, which will focus on social justice, economics and sustainability issues and will be open to high school students and the Dallas community.

Why is it important for students to be environmentally conscious?

Our world is heading in that direction, whether by choice or by necessity, and we need to be ready for it. We, as college students, must look to the future. We need to keep up with countries such as Australia and Germany, which are incorporating green ideas in their way of life.

Technology today provides a very convenient lifestyle that hinders us from seeing the consequences of our actions. When you throw away trash, you have no idea where it goes. When you open the tap for water, you don’t know how the water got there or how it was cleaned.

We need to make transparent technology – technology that will provide the comfort and convenience we have today, but still make us conscious of what it took and what it cost to have it.

What did it mean for students to sign a Green Pledge on Sustainability Day?

A Green Pledge is a commitment to yourself that you will try to be more sustainable in your daily life. This involves turning off lights and faucets when not in use, moderating room temperatures, printing only when necessary and reducing trash. I was excited to hear students say they already do most of the things they were pledging to do.

For more tips for a greener college life, students can check out Global Stewards and Suite101.

What’s next in the campaign for a greener Hilltop?

We’re trying to get the Presidents’ Climate Commitment signed at SMU. By signing, we would be making a commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, continue support for LEED-certified buildings, provide public transportation, have a strong recycling program, use renewable energy and be an overall sustainable university.

The SMU Sustainability Committee is working toward a plan that will allow SMU to meet a climate commitment, not just pledge to work toward it. We need student support and excitement!

We need to realize that as students we will be responsible for the change that happens tomorrow and must be equipped to make decisions that will demonstrate sustainable responsibility.

- Mallory McCall ’10

Learn more about campus sustainability efforts.

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