Practicing What You Preach: Sustainability on Columbia’s Campus

by | 3.6.2012 at 4:14pm
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By: Deborah Sachare

To kick off the spring semester, the Undergraduate Program in Sustainable Development brought together students working on campus-wide sustainability initiatives to speak with undergraduate students interested in learning more about on-campus sustainability activities and how to get involved.

My Seppo and Vighnesh Subramanyan discussed their work with Consilience: The Journal in Sustainable Development, an online journal dedicated to promoting interdisciplinary dialogue on subjects of sustainable development.  When asked about the topics that ‘sustainable development’ encompasses, My noted that Consilience takes pride in broadening its interpretation of the term to include as many aspects of the field as possible. Submissions include scholarly articles, opinion pieces, field notes, editorial columns and photo essays written by students, researchers, professors, and practitioners from across five continents, many countries of origin, and a variety of academic disciplines. The journal is run by a team of undergraduate and graduate students under the guidance of faculty from Columbia University, all of whom seek to provide a public platform that will encourage a global community to think more broadly, thoroughly, and analytically about sustainable development.

Columbia University EcoReps is a group of undergraduate students from Columbia College and the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences striving to improve the university’s environmental impact through hands-on programs and communication between the student body and the university administration. Aida Conroy says that EcoReps is unlike most student groups at Columbia University because it is structured under Housing & Dining. This unique affiliation allows the EcoReps to have a more direct dialogue with the heads of Housing & Dining and Facilities in order to accomplish their initiatives and goals. The EcoReps hope to encourage communication within the university and achieve environmental awareness through action. Current EcoReps projects include increasing composting on Columbia’s campus with the recent purchase of “The Rocket”, an in-vessel composting cylinder, that will allow for composting food waste and redesigning recycling bin tops.  The project has been pursued in partnership with Columbia University’s Design for America.

The event also featured Elizabeth Kipp-Giusti from Green Umbrella,  a network of environmental student groups on the Columbia and Barnard campuses. The coordinators of the Green Umbrella connect people and projects, serve as a nexus for information distribution, and compile a comprehensive weekly email with green events and opportunities locally on campus and on a global scale. The network of groups in the Green Umbrella include EcoReps and Consilience, as well as EarthCo, Barnard EcoReps, Students for Environmental and Economic Justice, Food Sustainability Project and many more.

What ties these three campus groups together is best stated by Consilience, namely their desire to provide a public platform encouraging a global community to think more broadly, thoroughly, and analytically about sustainable development. Consilience, EcoReps and Green Umbrella are just a sampling of the many groups at Columbia University working in areas related to sustainable development. For a complete listing of organizations, please visit the Earth Institute’s listing of Groups and Organizations, Columbia University’s Clubs & Organizations webpage, or Green Umbrella’s Groups webpage.

This was the first of five brownbag luncheons scheduled for the 2012 spring semester, all of which take place on select Fridays from 12:00PM-1:00PM in the Alumni Center located on 113th Street between Broadway and Riverside. These events are designed for undergraduate students interested in Sustainable Development and are hosted by the Undergraduate Program in Sustainable Development. All undergraduate and graduate students in the Columbia and Barnard communities are welcome to attend.

Columbia’s Undergraduate Program in Sustainable Development is an interdisciplinary program that addresses sustainable development through an understanding in the interaction between natural sciences and social systems, offered through the Earth Institute in partnership with Columbia College and the School of General Studies. Participating departments and schools of the Sustainable Development Major and Concentration include the Department of Earth and Environmental Biology; the Department of Earth and Environmental Engineering; the School of International and Public Affairs and the Mailman School of Public Health.

To learn more about the Major and Special Concentration in Sustainable Development, or to register for our upcoming “Brown Bag” events, please visit our website or contact Jessica Crespo, Program Coordinator, at jcrespo@ei.columbia.edu.

Deborah Sachare is an intern for the Office of Academic and Research Programs at the Earth Institute. She is a student at Barnard College and will graduate in 2014 with a degree in Environmental Policy.

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