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Students to discuss goals for sustainability with Coleman

By Jennifer Calfas, Daily Staff Reporter
Published November 28, 2012

The Student Sustainability Initiative will present its agenda for the 2012-2013 school year to University President Mary Sue Coleman Monday, outlining its efforts to meet the University’s goals for sustainable living.

The agenda reflects the group’s efforts for fulfilling aims outlined under the Campus Sustainability Integrated Assessment, an organization created by Coleman and the Sustainability Executive Council. The IA, created by the Graham Sustainability Institute and the Office of Campus Sustainability, was commissioned by the SEC to raise awareness of the commitment to sustainability on campus.

The SSI developed four campus sustainability themes: climate action, waste prevention, healthy environments and community awareness.

LSA senior Megan Pfeiffer, one of four undergraduates on the SSI Board, said the agenda establishes specific actions within each goal of the Integrated Assessment to involve students in the sustainability effort.

“We decided that we wanted to set forth our own goals for the year so we can be not only held accountable for these things at the end of the year, but to tell the administration that we are equally as committed to pursuing sustainability on campus,” Pfeiffer said.

Thirty-five student leaders met in September to discuss the agenda, and six student organizations have pledged to help work toward the agenda’s goals — including the Greek Life Sustainability Team, Compost Michigan and the Environmental Issues Commission of the Central Student Government — according to Pfeiffer.

Pfeiffer said she is in contact with more than 50 student organizations, and those groups were set to finalize their pledge on Friday.

Andrew Horning, the director of the Graham Sustainability Institute, said the institute serves as a channel for students to propose ideas to the administration and develop more student and faculty input in decision-making.

“It seems like virtually every new creative sustainability initiative on campus starts with a push from the students,” Horning said. “I think the fact that students continue to do that effectively and orderly as possible is exactly what we want. The more thoughtful the students are, the better the chance they have at succeeding.”

Horning said the combined effort of the student organizations will make sustainability on campus more achievable.

“All the student groups are only going to be as successful as they are able to work together,” Horning said. “Trying to weave a fabric through all of these groups will bring success.”

Horning added that he hopes student and faculty cooperation will complete the University’s sustainability goals by 2025.

Leah Zimmerman, a Rackham student in the Herb Institute for Global Sustainable Enterprise and a student sustainability board member, said the board will probably be unable to complete each of the goals within the school year because they were designed for long-term implementation.

“We did want to set some reach goals, and some big picture goals that we really want to work towards as students,” Zimmerman said. “We also included some language in the agenda that would suggest where we want the University to go. Obviously that is limited because the focus is on student efforts, but we included stretch goals for student groups.”

Pfeiffer said the SSI is looking at each individual goal and applying them to the student body accordingly.

For waste prevention, the SSI is working with Music Matters, MRelay and TEDx University of Michigan to make their events waste-free next semester.

“They’re all large events that are happening and affect a huge amount of students in the student population,” Pfeiffer said.

She added that working with these student organizations would provide the opportunity for feedback for next year’s agenda.

“We can look back and see why we weren’t able to make all of these events waste-free,” Pfeiffer said. “We would be able to work with the administration to make it easier for students to compost and give them the infrastructure to do so.”

LSA junior Kevin Kononenko, the adviser to the Greek Life Sustainability Team, said he attended the meeting in September and immediately joined the initiative.

“I felt like their goals were right in line with our goals, especially in waste prevention,” Kononenko said. “We defined what goals were realistic and what way we could work with the administration.”

Kononenko said GLIST created a recycling campaign called Trust for Cups that launched in October, in which eight fraternities signed to increase the recycling rates of their houses. The houses aim to have 35 percent of their waste be recyclable.

Each fraternity house has a recycling operation consultant that educates the sustainability chair of the house on the process of recycling, according to Kononenko.

“The biggest thing that we shoot for is to have leadership in the fraternity houses,” Kononenko said. “The leaders will then take the stuff they have learned and bring it to the entire fraternity.”

Pfeiffer said the work in waste prevention gives every student an opportunity to get involved with sustainability.

“I think it’s a huge opportunity for students from all over campus, who aren’t just involved with sustainability, to actually care about the environment,” Pfeiffer said. “It’s like the saying, ‘We all live on Planet Blue.’”