Interns promote attitude of sustainability on campus
Published: Tuesday, March 19, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, March 19, 2013 01:03
“Green” is an often politically charged term that the Office of Sustainability at A&M works to neutralize, while encouraging and equipping students with the means to help sustain their environment.
The office promotes sustainable practices in everyday life — most recently the installation of water refilling station across campus. Interns in the Office of Sustainability will host two on-campus conferences on water conservation Wednesday and Monday.
“We are taking the opportunity to make sure the students know where these stations are so they cannot waste resources on water bottles,” said Cam Bartzen, intern and junior environmental studies major. “We also want to discuss the importance of water sustainability and put into perspective just how valuable a resource it really is.”
The office is celebrating its five year anniversary this month and Kelly Wellman has been head of the office since its formation in 2008. She makes an effort to refrain from using the common phrase “going green” when describing the purpose and function of the office.
“Going green is not necessarily a bad statement,” Wellman said. “We just tend not to use it here because it can be something that politically polarizes people. Being sustainable is an idea meant to cross political ideologies because when you’re being sustainable you’re balancing the needs of people, planetary resources and financial resources.”
The office describes sustainability as responsibly preserving the planet’s environmental, social and economic resources to promote the full prosperity of future generations.
“People tend to make the jump from sustainability to recycling,” Wellman said. “While recycling is a very important piece of sustainability, serving as an example of conserving a resource, it is a very small sliver of the overall picture.”
Ben Kalscheur is a water management and hydrologic science graduate student and sustainability graduate assistant. His undergraduate degree and masters in sociology allows him to utilize his expertise toward the study of social sustainability.
“The basic idea is to shed light on how living sustainably can reduce some of the suffering felt by others,” Kalscheur said. “Furthermore, there is a critical concept that environmental problems always come back to people, because what we do to the environment ultimately impacts our quality of life and the life chances of others.”
Sustainability efforts become a challenge when people feel they are being asked to sacrifice something, which Wellman said isn’t something Americans like to do.
“In the American business system we expect a quick payback,” she said. “With sustainability initiatives you have to have a larger perspective.”
Every semester the office recruits five interns who receive credit hours for promoting an attitude of sustainability on campus and in the Bryan-College Station community.
The office reaches out to a variety of different degrees when picking its interns to encourage different perspectives.
Ashlea Gutierrez, senior communications major, is the first of her degree to intern at the sustainability office.
“I oversee all of the marketing and public relations for the office,” Gutierrez said. “Not many people know about our office and its goals, so I help to make that happen.”
Gutierrez said the discipline of all the students and faculty involved in the office separates them from many other organizations with a similar cause.
“We are hand chosen by the experts,” Gutierrez said. “It is our job and we take it very seriously. It’s not an option.”
One of the most recent projects of the Office of Sustainability was the installment of the refillable water stations — made possible through a grant by the Aggie Green Fund — where students can refill water bottles instead of buying a new one.
While the Aggie Green Fund has increased sustainability efforts on campus, Wellman said, one of the fund’s important contributions is the way it affects student attitudes.
“The Aggie Green Fund provides funding for projects that are both visible and tangible,” Wellman said. “The Fund makes projects possible that otherwise may never