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Innovations will be highlighted here, along with student feature articles.

Student Spotlight: Abraham Rowe

posted Jun 20, 2014, 12:02 PM by Bridget Flynn


Name: Abraham Rowe 
Year: Fourth
Major: History

How did you hear about the program?

I heard about it from fellow OES intern, Mae Kate Campbell, while planning for Ecolympics. I had heard about it way before in OES meetings, but didn’t know what it was or what it was for.

Were you excited about the program when you heard about it? If so, why?

Yes, I would say so! I think it is a nice way to acknowledge individual students who are thinking about their lifestyle and impact.

What prompted you to take it?

I had free time and it was fresh on my mind. Mostly, it sounded neat so I did it.

Why did you think it was important to certify your room?


The certificate advertises to other people and that’s important. Also, I learned about other stuff I could be doing through it.

Do you feel that the program is a good way to increase sustainability?


Yeah, but maybe as it currently exists the program needs to expand beyond participating members [in sustainability]. We should reach out to much younger people than college students, it would be really cool to “brainwash” kids. The certificates are good though, so is having your name on the internet.

Do you think it is helpful as tool to inform people or as encouragement?

Yes, because a lot of information is provided just when doing the survey. It’s useful because by forcing people to check boxes and think about daily habits and the ways in which they are using resources is a good way to promote change, especially if humans want to be ethical towards humans and non human animals in the future.

Could you envision a program we could do with kids?

Maybe talk to the elementary school. In general, children who are young are the right demographic to aim the program at.

Was the paper certification a motivation?

Heck Yeah! I am an HLEC in Harkness and have an awkwardly decorated door. Having more stuff [on my door] is a good thing.

Are there other things you would have liked to see on the form?

I would have liked to see more things about eating habits. I also felt penalized for walking rather than riding a bike, I would have had more points if I had also ridden a bike, but I rarely ride in cars.

Have you told any other people about the program?

Yes, friends and neighbors.

How would you increase outreach?

Get the program listed in the big book of forms and make first years do it. Also partner with RAs in all the dorms.

Tell me about your history in sustainability and what you are passionate about?

I feel passionate about things that are sustainability related, like animal rights, I think animals are awesome. I am strongly in favor of those things, and acting on them.

I think that in my mind that [animal rights are] related to sustainability because if you are to consider animals to be moral persons then certainly a sustainable world is one in which their life is maximized. Also, I work for OES here and run Ecolympics. I also work in the RPC and OSCA. The cooperative movement is sustainable because it directly challenges financial systems that are not sustainable.

What would your perfect sustainable campus look like?

It would be pretty stringent. We wouldn’t use heaters in the winter. I think moderate discomfort is acceptable. It would involve totally redoing the way that the college spends its money or supports itself also and would involve mandatory student work so that the college could spend less money or invest less in unsustainable things.

Do you have any thoughts on what would be a good way to increase sustainability on campus?

Get rid of hot water in showers and in washing machines.

What are some bigger things that people could do?


Participate in direct action and work to realize their own privilege and the ways they are indirectly oppressing other people.

Are you more interested in systemic or individual actions?


In my mind, attitudes need to be changed on the individual level or habits.

Is there anything you would like to add? 
No.

Student Spotlight: Mae Kate

posted Nov 15, 2013, 1:35 PM by Bridget Flynn   [ updated Nov 15, 2013, 1:38 PM ]


Name: Mae Kate Campbell

Year: First

Expected Major: Geology

Green Room Certified: Gold


How did you hear about the program?

I learned about it while researching Oberlin prior to applying here. I was on the Oberlin website looking at sustainability on campus and found it.



Did the program influence your choice in coming here?

Not really, but it is cool, and my main reason for applying to Oberlin was environmental.



What prompted you to certify?

I thought it was a really unique opportunity for students to see how they are sustainable and how they can improve. Also, I live in Kahn and my RA encouraged us. 



Why did you think it was important to certify your room?

I thought it was important to learn more about what I am already doing, since I am someone who is trying to be more sustainable. I wanted to try to work towards improvement in areas I was incomplete in also.



Do you feel that the program is a good way to increase sustainability?

Definitely. It makes students look at how they are living and what they can do to be more eco-friendly, which I think is helpful.



Have you told any other people about the program?

Yes! I talked to friends after I completed it and asked if they had done it. We talked about our thoughts on the criteria and I prompted other people to certify their rooms as well.

 

What are your past actions and what are you planning to do?

Now that I have certified my room I am going to work on water use. It made me think about how precious a resource water is and how much I value it. I definitely need to work on my water consumption, though.

 

What would your perfect sustainable campus look like?

I would like to see Oberlin transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy, which I know is an ongoing process and requires a lot of coordination that the college is working on. I would like Oberlin to try to encourage other colleges to do the same. I want to “spread the love” and see everyone go towards renewable energy.



Any suggestions for the program or survey’s improvement?

A lot of people don’t take it seriously. I am not sure how we would increase the number of people invested in it, or have people have a better attitude towards it, or more respect towards the program, but that would be important to move towards. Working towards showing people what a difference their actions are making.



Do you have any suggestions as to what you would like to see in the future?

In terms of sustainability on campus it would be cool to see more sustainability and environmental education in courses that are not environmental courses. There are a lot of things that are not being taught with sustainability in mind, but it could be incorporated to increase student knowledge across the board.

 

Like an intersectionality of sustainability in other courses other than ENVS?

Yeah. My high school had an environmental literacy program. The point was to imbue as many courses as possible with environmental literacy. People graduated with a lot of knowledge about their impact on the earth and how to mitigate it. I thought that was really cool and would love to see that happen here.



Are there bigger things that people could be doing on campus?

Everyone should encourage people around them to be more sustainable. Even though it is sometimes difficult to bring up, it is definitely important to be vocal about it.  



What is your relationship to sustainability?

I have always been an eco-conscious person. I think having been born on this earth, I, and we, have a responsibility to protect it for future generations. I feel like I have a moral obligation. In some ways I am fulfilling it but there is still a lot I have to work on.



Are you more interested in group or individual action?

Both are important. Education especially is something that is really necessary to increase knowledge so people become more sustainable.  The program is definitely in that category; it provides a good marker of where you are and how you can increase whatever you are doing. 

Student Spotlight: Maggie

posted Jul 5, 2013, 12:43 PM by Bridget Flynn   [ updated Jul 5, 2013, 12:44 PM ]

Name: Maggie Heraty
Year: Third Year
Major: Environmental Studies
Minor: Geology
Active in sustainability 

How did you hear about the program?

I first saw a promotion for the program in the Office of Environmental Sustainability Newsletter.

 

What prompted you to take it?

I wanted to see what it said and what criteria it had because I worked for Ecolympics in past years and have done A LOT of thinking about how people could be green and how to make Oberlin sustainable on an individual level. Also, I live in Old B. It’s really small, so I wanted to see if other members of the co-op would do it too as a type of house bonding. I also wanted to remind myself of anything I may have forgotten to do in the past few months.

 

Have a lot of people in Old B. certified? Do you feel you had an impact in the house?

A few did because I told them to. I thought it would be awesome if we all did it. However, only 4 people certified. 4 out of 14 isn’t so bad; at least it is a beginning!

  

How did the questions compare to what you had worked on previously during Ecolympics?

They were good. I had already thought about a lot of the criteria before. I remember taking it and thinking nothing was missing. However, I want to emphasize that these are very small (but necessary) choices. I would like to look for a way to encourage people to make bigger change.

 

Why is sustainability important to you?

It has a lot to do with equity. I am an Environmental Studies major because our choices here in the U.S. have a lot of impact on peoples’ lives across sea. I think it is important to be conscious of that impact and to work to make it positive rather than negative. I am also concerned about climate change and don’t want the world to fall apart. Mainly it stems from a deep desire to protect people and the planet.  

 

Do you feel the program is a good way to increase sustainability on campus?

I think it is, at least on a small scale. I really appreciate that you can post a sign on your door that shows you are committed to something. I am involved in a lot of the sustainability groups and initiatives on campus already. I think it is really helpful for those who aren’t involved to have a reminder like the sign.

 

Do you have any thoughts on what would be a good way to increase sustainability on campus? Bigger things that people could do?

In general, getting people more involved in environmental events would, in my mind, almost more successful than changing small behaviors. In thinking specifically about Ecolympics, I think it is important to have a green survey go out because it gives concrete ideas about how to increase sustainability. I think it is a super useful tool on an individual scale, however I would like to find ways to incentivize people to go to more events throughout the semester.

 

What are your past actions and what are you planning to do in the future?

I did outdoors work in high school which jump-started my environmental activism and work. A bio teacher led the ecology club at my school and we did restoration clearing invasive species and learning how to manage prairies by doing brush fires. I also worked in an aquarium in Chicago. I learned a lot there about marine biology. I also took intensive classes in ecology and marine bio. Most of those clubs and the education programs focused on climate change, sustainability, and behavior change. That is how I got involved in environmental work. Here at Oberlin I am involved in various environmental groups and have been involved in Ecolympics since freshman year. This year I have been focusing on privilege in environmentalism. I am currently working to change the Environmental Studies department/program to involve privilege, anti-oppression, and inclusivity into the curriculum.

 

Is there anything else you want to add and anything you want to see happen in the future?

I would like to see OES doing more to make stronger coalitions. I know there are efforts with green teas, and I really hope that it takes off. A lot of events that happen on campus interfere with each other, especially with the environmental groups on campus. I would love for these events to be organized better, to create more dialogue. I would also like to encourage everyone to go further, read different articles, make people more aware, and increase activism on campus. I also think privilege needs to be talked about more in the environmental scene on campus. I think we need think tanks. We need to brainstorm different ways to make the environmental movement inside of Oberlin more inclusive and not as intimidating and scary to people who aren’t passionate about environmental stuff. I know we tend to come off as a bunch of hippie activists who aren’t approachable. 

Student Spotlight: Joelle

posted Nov 16, 2012, 8:25 AM by Bridget Flynn   [ updated Nov 16, 2012, 11:52 AM ]

Joelle Lingat

Joelle at the Detroit Immerse Yourself in Service trip in Fall 2012 with Alice Shockey

Name: Joelle Lingat

Year: Second Year

Major: Environmental Studies and CAST (Comparative American Studies)

 

How did you hear about the program?

I am an RA in Kahn and our area coordinator sent it out for our residents and the RAs to complete. Besides the fact that it is important to take account of your own impact on the earth, I thought it was a great way to lead by example.

 

Have you found that a lot of your residents have certified?

Yes! My residents ranked as the second highest in the Kahn sustainability competition, we had 529 commitments cumulatively.

 

Do you feel that you influenced your residents?

I like to think that I influence and guide them in some way. They are always interested in knowing what more they can do, what would be an even greater step they can take. They are really proactive about sustainability and help me to continue to be passionate as well.

 

Why did you think it was important to certify your room?

I think it was a really visible initiative. Oberlin is really unique in its commitments. It is hard to build coalition outside of the Oberlin circle because there are so many differences between people that require breaching. I think surveys are a really good way to build a common ground between people and a good way to take action without making people sacrifice their personal opinions. I thought it was important to expose people to this way of thinking and to foster even the smallest lifestyle changes.

 

Have you told any other people about the program?

I haven’t specifically publicized it outside of Kahn, but people see my certificate on my door and ask about it and that starts a conversation and prompts them to take action. I think word of mouth is really important in this case and engaging people in conversation about sustainability is such a pivotal step in changing how we act. On that point, I also work for the Resource Conservation Team (RCT), where we work to improve campus environmental sustainability. 

 

Do you feel the program is a good way to increase sustainability on campus?

Yes, I think it is a great way to increase sustainability. I think that it prompts people to think about the actions they take. However, I think that the program needs a follow-up because it is so easy to make commitments and then never follow through. So, I feel that it is a good pathway to open up other doors and goals and to get people thinking and talking about what they do and what they can do.

 

*The follow up survey should be out after Thanksgiving!

 

Why is sustainability important to you?

I have always thought it was important. When I was young, in the 5th grade or so, I had to do a science fair project about agriculture on the moon. I have always felt that I played a very small role in the course of human history. However, through taking action towards sustainability and through this greater movement of environmental justice I became empowered. Whether it is my own actions or motivating others, I know that my small roles are steps towards substantial changes. Also, sustainability applies to all people. We all live on this earth and we are all affected by whatever happens to it, even if those environmental implications are not equally distributed or felt. I think another important issue is equality and equity within the movement, which also motivates me to take action and create social change. In sum, I think environmental sustainability is part of a larger movement to revolutionize the way the world works. It is so important to be passionate and act on those passions and not let larger narratives paralyze you.

 

What are your past actions and what are you planning to do in the future?

I am changed my lifestyle choices: what I eat, what I don’t eat, what modes of transport I choose to take, etc. That is how I started out. Now, I am getting more interested in making institutional changes and how to create systems that impact change even on the unconscious level. It is hard to push ideas onto people, but if the systems we live in are geared towards sustainability it is easy for people to make the sustainable choice. Really, I believe I have gone from microscopic view to a macroscopic view, from seeing the trees to the forest. For example: I work with the RCT on reuse initiatives like the Free Store, composting in dorms, etc. I’m searching now for ways to create equality within the environmental movement. It is not very diverse in a variety of levels, and I hope to make it more accessible to other groups and marginalized communities to get them involved so their demands will be met.

 

Is there anything else you want to add and anything you want to see happen in the future?

I would like to see more intersectional conversation with a lot of people with different backgrounds and interests. I think action is prompted by conversation, and it would be the first step to facilitate actions across the board. 

Student Spotlight: Anna & Lauren

posted Oct 2, 2012, 6:02 PM by Bridget Flynn

 

The first student spotlight article features a pair of roommates who both certified their rooms. One certified with 45 (the maximum!) commitments - thus receiving the Platinum ranking. The other certified with 35 commitments, receiving a Gold ranking.

Name: Lauren Branson
Year: Third Year
Major: Law and Society with a philosophy and politics minor

Name: Anna Saltzman
Year: Third Year
Major: East Asian Studies with a politics minor

How did you hear about the program?

Lauren: I found the program posted on the Oberlin Source homepage and thought it would be a good way to evaluate my own progress towards  sustainability.

Anna: Lauren showed the program to me. I was so excited that I applied right away.

 

Why did you decide to certify your room?

Lauren: I lived in Kahn my freshman year. Kahn fostered a community based on environmental sustainability. Certifying my room was a way to reconnect to that type of community.

Anna: For me, the room certification was form of self-evaluation, a test to see how sustainably I am living. I was very curious to see how I ranked within the program criteria, and where I could make changes.


How has the program benefited you and what have you learned from it?

Lauren and Anna: The ideas presented in the checklist were interesting. We found that many of them were things we did intrinsically. The checklist, to us, contains a lot of common sense things that we – and many others – do already.

 

Have you told other people about the program?

Lauren: Yes, I’ve told other people. The program is about educating others. It shows them the simple things that they can do to live more sustainably. It is so important to talk to people about the program and get them interested. Educating people about what they can do even on the most basic level is key.

Anna: I’ve told other people also. The program is a good way to create individual initiative and incentive to live more sustainably. It is a good way to initiate peer-to-peer education and build a strong community base where people are doing these things without even thinking about them. Instead of yelling at people about using plastic water bottles, I tell people about the program. It’s a good way to create conscious change without making people feel guilty.

 

Do you feel the program is a good way to increase sustainability on campus?

Lauren: I think the program is a great way to increase sustainability on campus. It makes everything so easy, and the certificate with the different levels provides an incentive and turns it into a game to see how far you can challenge yourself and how the small things you do can make a big difference.  My friends and I are even in a competition now over who can be the most sustainable.

Anna: Unlike the Ecolympics, this program really challenges you to think your actions all the time. The Olympics are not geared towards long-term change, just a month. Sitting there, checking off the boxes really makes you stop and think about the way you are living on a daily basis. It changes things up a little bit and really makes you as an individual conscious about sustainability.

 

What unique things are you doing to be more sustainable inside and outside of your room?

Anna: I bring a coffee mug with me everywhere I go. It’s simple and also cost effective, most places will give you a discount, and for a college student on a tight budget it’s definitely helpful!  Being thrifty really causes you to live more sustainably.

Lauren: I worked at Barnes and Noble over the summer. They didn’t recycle. After a lot of pestering I convinced them to recycle all the paper they were throwing away. I was really proud of myself for that. I also like crafting to give new life to an item. For instance, I re-upholstered an old chair (pictured). Up-cycling is one of my passions. 

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