The Sustainability Steering Committee is a group on campus that is devoted to creating more sustainable practices at Lawrence. This column highlights some of their recent initiatives in order to educate students on sustainable options and plans available to them.
The Sustainability Steering Committee is wrapping up its initiatives for this term but is looking forward into next term to continue to address positive, sustainable changes that can be implemented at Lawrence.
Ultimately, the group’s long-term goal is to transform Lawrence into a zero-waste campus, but there are many steps that need to be taken in order to get there. However, there are small tangible things that students can do to help the university get to that point. Sophomore Adya Kadambari, a student on the Sustainability Steering Committee, spoke about campus waste and plastic bags in particular, “Plastic bags used to not be allowed in the Commons until COVID […] but now, when you swipe in, you just get handed a plastic bag and The Café just has them sitting out. Now we just have paper bags with handles, but by next term, we shouldn’t be having any of those on campus.”
Kadambari has been working with Lawrence University Community Council (LUCC) and the Sustainability Steering Committee to phase out single-use bags on campus so that, by the beginning of Winter Term, students will be required to provide their own bags should they want one. Kadambari said, “It may be difficult, but we were living way too conveniently by being allowed to take a new bag every time.” Additionally, Kadambari encourages students to use the clamshells that have been reintroduced in the Commons. Additionally, to remind students to provide their own bags, the Sustainable Steering Committee is working to get lawn signs to put up around Warch that prompt students to bring reusable bags and clamshells.
In discussing sustainability on campus, Kadambari said, “I care about being sustainable and changing the mindset that we all have where we consume so much and treat so many items in our life as single-use. We should never do that. We need to start being more aware of what we consume. People don’t want to change their behavior because it’s going to be hard, but we are living too easy now, and any change is going to be hard, but it’s necessary. I want to create some type of habit in the students of Lawrence that for some people would last forever.”
Going into the rest of the year, students should also look for new bike racks and a bike repair station around campus in Spring Term. These are being implemented as an incentive for students to use more sustainable forms of transportation rather than vehicles. Additionally, the Sustainability Steering Committee is working with on-campus clubs like Sustainable Lawrence University Gardens (SLUG) and GreenFire to incorporate composting more thoroughly on campus.
While the pandemic has forced many people to be less sustainable than they would like to be, Kadambari suggested that people turn to other places in their lives where more sustainable practices can be implemented. “Take this opportunity to look at other practices that aren’t necessarily COVID-related but are just so regular that we don’t even question them.” One example she suggested was looking at clothing. “People should start looking at where they buy clothes; people should look into thrifting clothes if buying is something that they want to do at all. Just start channeling that whole ‘things aren’t single-use’ mentality.”
While Lawrence is looking to be a zero-waste campus, the final goal is far away at this point. However, it’s not all hopeless. Kadambari said, “The Committee thinks of Lawrence as a smaller, more manageable community that we can be more accountable for.” Students can help reach this goal by making small personal changes and joining organizations like the Sustainable Steering Committee. The Committee is looking for more students to join, as student involvement is integral to making change.
Kadambari wants students to know looking forward to the rest of the academic year that there are grants available to them. Students can submit proposals for sustainable ideas to benefit the campus to Kadambari at firstname.lastname@example.org or any other Sustainability Steering Committee member. Grants are available up to $2,000 and are available to anyone who has a proposal that would help Lawrence become a more sustainable campus.