Living the green life

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From left: Megan Hart ’15, Beth Armitage ’13, Ludwig Icevski ’16, Kai Kyles ’15

Amid the controlled cacophony of this year’s Move-In Day, first-year students were greeted by helpful students in green “Denison Sustainability Fellows” T-shirts. The Fellows were on hand to lug boxes, locate rooms, and point out recycling stations for bubble wrap and other move-in materials.

“As students and their families unpack, we’re helping to recycle things, like cardboard boxes,” says Beth Armitage, a member of the Denison class of 2013 and a Sustainability Fellow. “We’re saying hello, getting to know the new students and showing them how recycling works in the residence halls.”

Armitage is one of 15 spirited students who are designated Sustainability Fellows. They’ll be responsible for creating a heightened vibe and level of involvement with green activities across the campus, but especially in first-year residence halls. The Sustainability Fellows is a new program here, one that promises to push beyond the familiar mantra of “reduce, reuse and recycle.”

“Sustainability is more than being environmentally friendly,” says Jeremy King, Denison’s sustainability coordinator. “In a global society, we must constantly evaluate how economics of trade, access to resources, and social justice issues play into the overall equation.”

Residence halls will be home to a series of events centered on monthly themes. Some ideas under consideration are eco-fairs, clothing swaps, and friendly competitions for water and energy use.

“We want to help our community make changes that enhance sustainability, and we want to make those changes more an everyday part of life,” says Molly McGravey, assistant director for residential education and housing and the program’s coordinator. “So we’re focusing our efforts on first-year students and their resident halls. We hope that when they exercise ecologically and economically sound practices during their first year at Denison, students will continue to build on and develop that work during their time here.”

The program is ambitious in chronological scope as well. Four years’ worth of programming is being mapped out, each building on the next, so that by the time students graduate, they’ll be ready to join a global community with an awareness and understanding that will enable them to be active participants in sustainability.

And all these ideals will translate into accountable actions. Measurable outcomes are being built in, both for individual students and the college. Hard evidence of success will be evaluated through internal audits of consumption patterns, “sustainability literacy” tests, and surveys. That information will be evaluated and used to continually refine the program.

The Sustainability Fellows program is supported by Nia Judson McNeil ’85 and her husband, Collin. The McNeils are “pleased to make this commitment to Denison so that students, the community, and society can benefit from this opportunity to improve personal efforts and foster greater awareness of the need to be active stewards of the environment.”

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