Sustainability article image
Sustain ability
By Beth English '07 MALS, UNCG magazine editor
Photography by Chris English, photography editor and
David Wilson, assistant photography editor

With a stout heart, a mouse can lift an elephant.
-Tibetan proverb, A World Treasury of Folk Wisdom

It was a smaller crowd than some may have expected.

The signs had promoted the event well — “You're invited — no impact kick-off! Drop in between 6:30 and 8:30 p.m., music building, room 217. Questions answered! Ideas! Inspiration! (And cupcakes. Always cupcakes!)”

But at the appointed time only two students, both representatives of campus media, sat in desks on the front row. Sarah Dorsey, director of the music library, sat in the front row as well.

Jessica Trotman, sustainability education and outreach specialist, munched the last of her dinner chips while she chatted with the students.

Trey McDonald, in the green shirt, and Jessica Trotman, right, practice what they preach, using sunlight to illuminate their office. Trey McDonald, in the green shirt, and Jessica Trotman, right, practice what they preach, using sunlight to illuminate their office.

The goal of the evening was to kick off a week-long series of events for “No Impact Week.” First up — screening a portion of the “No Impact Man” documentary, in which a New York writer and his wife and young daughter commit to a year of no-impact living. That meant riding bikes or scooters to work, giving away their television, cutting off the electricity and even going without toilet paper.

After the beginning scenes of the movie, Jessica asked everyone if they had made any changes to live more sustainably.

“Sustainability is social justice,” she said. “It's the light bulb you turn on. It's the food you eat.”

Sarah, a member of the sustainabilty committee on campus, noted in some ways it's getting easier and easier. Just take a look at how many people are bringing in their own reusable shopping bags at Harris Teeter, she said.

Discussion ranged from recycling clothes to BPA (a chemical in plastics) to the Pacific gyre, where two large currents meet and ocean trash collects.

One of the students said she has been interested in sustainability since high school. When she recently went to visit a friend, she was bothered that the apartment didn't seem to offer recycling. She took the plastic back to campus with her to recycle.

It's a step.

Use natural light whenever possible. It does wonders for saving electricity and improves your mood!

At Tate Street Coffee House, Jessica and sustainability coordinator Trey McDonald, the other half of the Office of Sustainability, chatted about their hopes and goals for the fledgling office.

“A lot of areas (on campus) don't know that we exist,” said Trey.

Jessica agreed. "I talked to an introduction to environmental studies class and half knew we had a sustainability office. I was happy.”

In some ways, that might not be too surprising. The office is, after all, only a year and a half old. But it's an office with a big goal — help the university become carbon neutral by 2050. A more immediate goal is to reduce energy consumption by 30 percent by 2015.

Their mission is to help people shift their behavior so that a lot of it happens naturally. But first, they have to get everyone's attention.

“We're here to provide the ideas and the spark,” Trey said. “We have 18,000 students, more than 3,000 employees and two of us. It's impossible to lead all the efforts across campus. The math doesn't quite add up.”

So they plant the seeds and provide the support. But the work must happen on the individual level.

Add an indoor plant to naturally improve air quality. It can also serve as your low maintenance pet.
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