Sustainability group grows under new leaders

By Margaret Young

Published: Monday, September 19, 2011

Updated: Monday, September 19, 2011

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Justin McCallum / Tufts Daily

The Tufts Sustainability Collective, which includes Tufts Bikes, is prepared for a new year of growth after its founders have graduated.

There comes a moment in the life of every student group when it must say goodbye to the proud parents that fostered it from infancy and strike out into the world of the Tufts community on its own. For the Tufts Sustainability Collective (TSC), that moment came early — a few months after its birth last spring, when its two co−founders graduated.

Sally Sharrow and Signe Porteshawver, who both graduated last spring, joined forces last year to create the collective as an umbrella organization that now encompasses four student organizations: Tufts Bikes, the year−old Tom Thumb's Garden, Students for a Just and Stable Future, and the Sustainable Action Squad (SAS) — formerly known as Tufts Against Plastic (TAP).

When spring came and Sharrow and Porteshawver were preparing to graduate from Tufts and TSC, however, the group was well prepared for the transition, according to new TSC co−coordinator junior Katy Kidwell. Last year Porteshawver and Sharrow oversaw the metamorphosis of the Environmental Consciousness Outreach (ECO), now defunct, as it became the TSC as it's known today.

Sharrow and Porteshawver realized that the format of ECO, which served the same function as TSC, was ineffective and lacked interest from the student body. They spent the 2010−2011 school year restructuring and creating TSC, according to Kidwell.

"Sally and Signe were running [ECO] and they realized that there were a lot of really good ideas and not a lot of action. So they had the idea to organize it in this way, and devoted all of spring to rewriting the constitution, changing the name and contacting the branches," Kidwell said.

Having seen TSC through this transition, however, it soon came time for Sharrow and Porteshawver to graduate and leave TSC in the hands of new leadership.

Luckily for the collective, Kidwell and senior Jibade Sandiford were poised to take over as co−directors at the beginning of this year. "I learned the whole thing, so that's why I ended up being the co−director this semester. They [Sharrow and Porteshawver] were lucky that they found people who were present through the transition," Kidwell said.

Sandiford said that he, Kidwell and Porteshawver worked over the summer to ensure that TSC kept up the momentum it generated last year. He credited the co−founders with laying the groundwork for the collective's success so far.

"Signe is still in the area, so over the summer we launched a website and fleshed out a vision for this year," Sandiford said. "They did a great job of putting a base down and now it's just running, and I'm just maintaining it," Kidwell added.

TSC provides financial and volunteer support for the organizations it houses, as well as organizing its own programs and providing funding for students who come to them with ideas for projects involving sustainability. "The collective is an established group which can provide people with a great idea with the means to get started," Kidwell said.

This year, TSC will once again host a sustainability roundtable discussion among student groups, staff, faculty and administrators concerned with Tufts' environmental policies. Additionally, TSC will be hosting smaller events throughout the semester. "We have a lot of events going on, bringing in all of the new groups as well. [There will be an event] almost every week this month," Sandiford said. Kidwell said that TSC plans to host an event with members of the Office of Sustainability's Eco−Reps program, as well as promote the harvest week in the dining halls, since it is focused around local food sources.

According to Kidwell, the member group with whom TSC is most closely associated is the Sustainable Action Squad. "All of the branches function completely separately, but the Sustainable Actions Squad is kind of our thing, so we organize [it]," Kidwell said.

SAS itself is relatively new, having evolved from the TAP campaign last year. TAP is the student group responsible for working with the administration to remove the Poland Spring water bottle cooler from Hodgdon Good−To−Go and help make reusable water bottles more accessible to students. According to the TSC website, "SAS evolved from Tufts Against Plastic, the student−led initiative to get water bottles out of Hodgdon Good−to−Go and get affordable Nalgenes into the hands of students."

According to sophomore and TSC executive board member Anna Lello−Smith, the transition from a plastic theme to a more general theme of sustainability has served to broaden the focus of the group.

"It has broadened from this one campaign to a general support network which they'll pick a specific campaign for each year or semester," Lello−Smith explained.

The format for the TAP campaign came from an Experimental College course taught by Office of Sustainability Program Director Tina Woolston. Woolston's class was responsible for initiating trayless dining in Dewick and Carmichael and for encouraging the implementation of default double−sided printing in the library.

When the TAP campaign became larger than the confines of the class, it moved to fall under TSC, Kidewell explained. "Since the campaigns [from Woolston's class] have been so successful, we are modeling our campaigns after the class."

According to Sandiford, TSC hopes to apply this format and curriculum not only to its campaigns, but also to training for current members. "Essentially we have built into SAS a framework in which we teach members who want to learn how to run their own campaign and organize, based off of the ExCollege class and applying Tina Woolston's curriculum," he said.

Through this approach, TSC will have a means of grooming its members for leadership positions so that the organization can get off to a strong start each year. Kidwell and Lello−Smith both said they hoped to see incoming freshmen assuming responsibilities in TSC in the coming year. "It seemed like there was a lot of interest at the GIM so hopefully we'll get some new freshmen who would be interested in taking on a leadership role, and maybe leaders from some of the braches will want to take on a leadership role. Also, hopefully we'll have a new generation that will be able to take on a role," Lello−Smith said.

Additionally, TSC hopes to become more of a presence on campus. "We're trying to increase our visibility. We want people to know what it is and that these changes that some people don't even notice are happening with small events, table at the farmers' market, and other little things," Kidwell said.

TSC expects that it will find support coming to them from the top, as University President Anthony Monaco has taken sustainability under his wing as an initial priority for his tenure.

Sandiford and others wrote a letter to Monaco during the summer break, encouraging him to become involved with sustainability efforts on campus. Monaco replied to the letter, saying that he would be interested in chairing a committee on sustainability.

Sandiford said that he wants to work with Monaco's administration to form a task force with students, faculty, and staff.

"I am looking forward to working with [Monaco]. He has shown a sharp contrast to the end of [former University President Lawrence] Bacow's presidency, showing that he wants to hear from students," Sandiford said.

Sandiford hopes that this interest indicates a less passive take from the administration on sustainability efforts on campus.

"It is important that although the school has been proactive, it has not taken an assertive voice form the administration," he said.

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