Sustainability Conference 2012, Los Angeles

SMU students are attending a conference organized by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education during October 2012 in Los Angeles.

Inspiration and invigoration

An update from Gwen, a sophomore double major in civil engineering and Spanish:

Gwen in LA in front of a monumental sculpture

Me in front of a cool sculpture on our way to the convention.

I’ve been so inspired and invigorated today! After pulling myself out of my cushy queen-size bed at 6 A.M. (9 A.M. in Dallas, so not so bad!), I met up with my 3 student colleagues and we headed out to our conference site 15 minutes away. From there on out it was a whirlwind of amazing discussions and collaboration with other schools and their sustainability perspectives.

I heard presentations from students who grew their own food, banned water bottles on their campuses, created bio-digesters for their schools, committed themselves to 20% sustainable food by 2020, and built greenhouses on their campuses. My favorite idea was a group that bought a smoothie-making stationary bicycle and sold smoothies in Mason jars to students in order to raise funds for their organization.

My two fellow Environmental Representatives, Jewel and Jingjing, were overflowing with ideas for our programs! We want to fix the sprinkler system, work more with our food provider, and raise awareness on campus. Jewel and I may even be dressing up as water-bottle monsters at Boulevards and running around telling people to recycle things….

Gwen's photo of a water-bottle-monster presentation inspiration

Water-bottle monster inspiration.

One of our best new ideas came from the non-E-rep of the group, Zach, who wants to start an energy/water-saving competition among the fraternities on campus. Speaking with other people who have actually made changes at their universities has proved to me how possible and necessary change is at ours.

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The urgency of sustainability

An update from Zachary, a junior environmental studies major:

Zachary in L.A. for the AASHE 2012 sustainability conferenceWe arrived in Los Angeles on Saturday to attend the AASHE (Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education) Conference. After spending time on Hollywood Boulevard, we got straight to work on Sunday. All the workshops were extremely inspiring and motivating. It’s awesome to engage with thousands of other students and faculty who are as passionate about sustainability as I am.

One of the biggest lessons that I am taking away from this conference is how urgent it is to adopt a sustainable lifestyle. Even if you don’t believe that global warming is happening, sustainability is necessary for thriving life on a planet with finite resources. Sustainability is an attractive in several ways, and many businesses are already profiting from the utilization of sustainable methods.

With one day left in Los Angeles, I look forward to absorb as much information as I can in these last couple of workshops. I am thankful for this opportunity to engage with other environmental enthusiasts and appreciate all the people responsible for funding this trip. And of course, thank you to Dr. Bonnie and Raj!

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From LA: A different beauty

An update from Jewel, a sophomore environmental science major:

Jewel and Gwen with mint and lavender seed packetsIt’s not a secret that SMU prides itself on its beautiful campus. Our grass is always green and our petals are always perky.

I love that about SMU, but at the AASHE conference in LA I’ve found feasible ways to do something at SMU that I love even more: sustainability. We could walk past a tree on campus and pick a peach to eat. The rain that periodically floods the Boulevard could flow down garden beds into a rainwater harvest system. That water could be treated by flowering plants in a greenhouse. The food waste from Umph could be composted in our community garden, and the herbs, vegetables, and fruit grown there could go back to Umph.

We could have fresher food and cleaner water. And get this – it would be saving us money. You might think the savings would take decades, but at other schools these sustainability investments pay themselves back in just a few years. (check out Emory and UMass Amherst).

When we grow food and clean water on campus, we lose those transportation costs, gain independence, and create opportunity for students to really take ownership of their campus home.

Our campus is lovely, yes. But I see beauty as a more holistic ideal, where the pretty flowers have the greater purpose of making SMU sustainable.

It takes quite a bit of brain/man power to make these ideas reality, but honestly, it’s just such a worthwhile goal. For inspiration during the planning process, Gwen and I will grow mint and lavender on our windowsills.

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A different dream in LA

An update from Jewel, a sophomore environmental science major:

This is my first time to visit California, and the weather has lived up to expectations. It’s so pleasant! On Saturday, we spent a lot of time outside while exploring what draws many people to Los Angeles – the iconic Hollywood Boulevard. I liked seeing the stars on the sidewalk and people performing publicly. Oh, what a wonder, those dreams of fame.

My three friends and I have a different vision for our time in LA. All day Sunday, we attended sessions about environmental topics at the AASHE conference. I was excited to learn what programs other colleges have, and how those could start at SMU. I am particularly interested in community gardens and cooperatives. One college composts its dining hall waste for use in the student farm, which in turn supplies food for the dining hall. I was impressed. I am also seriously eager to plant my free basil seeds, but I should probably wait until after the plane trip back to Dallas.

After only one day of the conference, I’m dreaming of ways we can create the ultimate sustainable SMU.

“If you can’t predict the future, invent it.”
Hunter Lovins

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