A visit with Greenfire

Ashley Dowdy

In recent years, Lawrence students have been encouraged to “Go Green!” in all aspects of their everyday lives. Greenfire – a student organization with a long and storied history – is central to Lawrence’s environmental efforts. The group encourages students to live their lives in the most sustainable and eco-friendly way possible.
Greenfire was founded in 1990 by Chris Naumann ’91 to raise Lawrentians’ awareness of environmental issues. In those early days, Naumann’s Greenfire promoted sustainability and environmental awareness through the establishment of campus-wide recycling, and started the tradition of Earth Day programming.
Naumann got the name “Greenfire” from the writings of Aldo Leopold, a famous American conservationist who stood up for environmental ethics. This year, Greenfire celebrates its 20th anniversary.
According to its mission statement, Greenfire “seeks to educate the Lawrence community about a variety of environmental issues while taking steps to reduce environmental impact.” Added senior member Sonia Emmons: “[Greenfire aims to] raise student awareness on large environmental issues, but on a smaller scale.”
The group is headquartered in Sabin House, across the street from the former Downer Commons. According to senior co-president Brit Oleson, Sabin House is a valuable asset to the Greenfire mission. “It’s nice having the core group members here because it’s easy for us to meet on a whim… It helps us stay closer to one another,” Oleson said.
The house makes a point of following sustainable practices. For example, several residents of Sabin House have pooled their money in order to cook meals together, co-op style. In general, the house serves as a resource for those would like to stop by and partake in good conservationist small talk.
Of the approximately 60 Greenfire members, 12 live in Sabin House.
The recent Earth Day festivities hosted on the Lawrence campus are an excellent example of Greenfire’s ideals in practice. The events included live music and activities such as recycled notebook making, a bottled water vs. tap water taste test and a “Barter Bonanza” in which people traded used items instead of throwing them away.
The highlight of Earth Week for many students was a highly-publicized visit by famed politician and consumer-rights activist Ralph Nader. This visit was organized by Greenfire, and aided financially by the Class of 1965 Grant.
Every year, Greenfire organizes the “Clean Plate Challenge” – the most recent one took place during winter term in Andrew Commons – in which students were encouraged to get smaller portions in order to conserve waste. The group also had a hand in dining services’ promotion of eco-friendly water bottles and food containers.
Greenfire is an organization that is open to anyone seeking like-minded environmentally
conscious peers. Group meetings take place on Thursdays at 9 p.m. in the Sabin House.