Panel to discuss sustainability in the face of COVID-19

A sustainability panel, organized by the Sustainability Steering Committee (SSC), will be held virtually via Zoom on Nov. 1 from 4-6 p.m. The panel aims to raise awareness about global climate change and how to maintain sustainability on campus during the pandemic.

A panel of experts made up of Gregory Griffin, Director of Student Activities and Greek Life, Hailey Johnson from co-operative farm Rising Sands Organics, Assistant Professor of Philosophy Chloe Armstrong, senior Jim Yang, student representative from Lawrence University Environmental Organization (LUEO), and junior Gillian Buckardt, student representative from Greenfire, will speak at the event.

The panelists will provide suggestions about how individuals can live sustainably while still staying safe on campus and off campus, discuss Lawrence’s current practices and answer any questions from attendees. After the panel, the attendees will be watching a documentary called “Human Element.” 

According to Grace Subat, the Sustainability and Special Projects Fellow, concerns were raised about the lack of sustainability on campus in the context of the pandemic after SCC members received photos from the head custodian about massive amounts of single-use containers and plastic bags accumulated in the trash at Ormsby, Plantz, Colman and Trevor Halls within 24-hours. While understanding the necessity of safety protocols, the committee wants the Lawrence community to acknowledge how everyone’s choices could affect the environment. 

In order to provide comprehensive responses during the panel, Subat and other event organizers attempted to include voices from the students, faculty, staff and community, as the SSC considers sustainability in both campus life and community life. 

According to Subat, the documentary focuses on everyday Americans and how their life has been changed due to climate change. Subat believes that the documentary will raise direct awareness about global environmental issues to the Lawrence community. Even though people might be separated under this pandemic crisis, Subat said, climate change is still occurring around the world. 

“This [climate change] is still going on,” Subat said. “We are all connected through where we live, the planet Earth.” 

The SSC is also working on recycling and minimizing-waste programs on campus. According to Subat, the SSC is currently working on banning or adding a fee on the plastic bags at Bon Appétit to encourage students to use reusable bags. The SSC is also funding several student projects, including additional composting buckets in residential halls led by LUEO and a filament recycling machine in the Makerspace in the Seeley. G Mudd Library. 

From the end of Jan. to the end of March, the SSC will be hosting an event called “Campus Race to Zero Waste,” which is a nationwide event for higher education institutions. The institutions will be competing in many categories such as diverting recyclables from landfills and composting, as well as a variety of others. 

While the SSC is implementing its efforts on sustainability, Subat encourages students to get involved in sustainability on campus. 

“The best thing [the student body] can do is thinking about sustainability at least once a day.” Subat said. “If they have any questions or ideas, they should reach out to student organizations or the SSC. We are all in this together.”