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Students, staff discuss Tufts’ sustainability

Published: Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Updated: Wednesday, March 30, 2011 08:03

Representatives from over a dozen student organizations last night joined faculty members from across the university to discuss methods of improving sustainability at a roundtable meeting.

Members of Engineers Without Borders (EWB), Students for a Just and Stable Future and Tom Thumb's Garden, among others, joined staff from Dining Services and the Office of Sustainability to brainstorm short-term and long-term environmental goals for the university in an event organized by the newly restructured Tufts Sustainability Collective (TSC).

The group also discussed a draft resolution they plan to submit to the Tufts Community Union (TCU) Senate. TSC co-Director Signe Porteshawver, a senior, and TCU Senator Jibade Sandiford, a junior, wrote the draft, which calls for the university to make campus sustainability a priority.

TSC co-Director Sally Sharrow, a senior, hopes the resolution might draw the administration's attention to the issue of sustainability, she said.

"Part of the idea is making it clear that [sustainability] is a priority of students and a priority of the student body," Sharrow said at the roundtable. "That will hopefully echo up through different levels of the administration."

The representatives suggested a diverse range of goals for the university's sustainability evolution. Sophomore Rose Eilenberg, an Eco-Rep who represented the Tufts Energy Forum at the roundtable, expressed her desire to see the reemergence of themed housing for environmentally minded students.

"I think that it would be a great way to foster a community and be a central place for programs to be held," she told the Daily after the roundtable.

EWB representative Drew Fuchs, a sophomore, called for the university to update buildings on campus to align with higher standards of environmental consciousness. He voiced a desire to engage students, especially engineers, in the changes.

"I would like to see [the school] getting students to do research projects that would be applied straight to the buildings, so getting students working on ideas to help the school," he said.

Other proposed goals included eliminating plastic water bottles from campus, incorporating environmental concepts into freshman orientation, implementing composting in campus dorms and eateries and setting a comprehensive sustainability development plan for the campus.

Eco-Reps co-Coordinator Jessica Madding, a senior, supported the idea of creating a president's sustainability challenge that would, in the same vein as the President's Marathon Challenge, recruit University President-Elect Anthony Monaco in encouraging students to change the campus' mindset about sustainable practices.

"I think the president has a lot of power for directing the university's vision and what the culture is centered around," she told the Daily. "It takes some huge figure to get everyone thinking about the environment."

Sharrow is also hopeful that the university will shift its focus to green initiatives.

"It's a really exciting time, this transition to a new administration," she said. "I hope that [Monaco] will become a sustainability president, that he'll really take the initiative in making sustainability a priority."

Madding agreed, adding that the administration is moving in the right direction in terms of sustainability.

In addition to the draft resolution to be presented to the Senate, the groups present began planning a letter to Monaco conveying its wishes for the future green initiatives.

Director of the Office of Sustainability Tina Woolston was impressed by impetus for cultural change shown by the collected students and staff.

"I really like that students are interested in having a paradigm shift, and are interested in an action plan, which is something that our office has been planning on doing for a while," she told the Daily after the discussion.

Woolston added that the number of attendees conveys the student body's concern and desire to make a change.

"I'm really thrilled that enough people were here and interested and willing to make their voices known," she said.

Sharrow said she was encouraged by the progress made at the roundtable. 

"I'm really hoping that all of the people who came will be able to make connections with each other and find causes in common that they can pool their resources and work on together," she told the Daily after the discussion. "I hope that people see this as a group of people with a common cause, and feel really supported by each other."

TSC aims to host another roundtable before the end of the semester, according to Sharrow.

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