From SEAC to GRIP: Introducing campus environmental groups

As the College of William and Mary pledges to keep our environment clean and happy with the newly instituted Committee on Sustainability, I have a few pledges of my own for this new blog, to keep you readers happy with environmental goings-on on campus and otherwise.

1. I believe in the history of the environmental movement as an activist effort. I will work hard to cover the people’s fight for environmental change.

2. I promise to cover research at the school in both the sciences and humanities relating to the environment.

3. I believe environmentalism is closely tied to other issues. In the social realm, it relates to social injustice, poverty and hunger issues. In the science realm, “environmental science” unites physics, chemistry, biology and geology.

4. If I miss something (good or bad) that needs coverage, tell me! I promise to give it a little blog space.

Don’t expect tips on how to reuse toilet paper rolls. I like a good popsicle-stick craft too, but the College has some serious environmentalism happening right now. To ignore it for toilet paper tips is garbage – literally.

So, freshmen, here’s a recap on what’s been happening environmentally on your new campus the last few years:

2006 – 2007: The College had a small group of activists, the Student Environmental Action Coalition, starting to take notice of environmental problems on campus. SEAC (pronounced “seek”) traditionally earned very small victories, and this year they replaced Styrofoam take-out containers with biodegradable containers in the dining halls. They also ordered and distributed reusable mugs for use at the dining halls, the Daily Grind and for Blowout.

2007-2008: The College’s grade of a D-minus for sustainability went up to a C, from the Sustainable Endowments Institute. The categories “Administration” and “Climate Change and Energy” received F’s, earning the College some negative press. However the dining halls began to see improvements. They implemented more local foods, collaborating with farmers. The Farmer’s and Gardener’s Club tilled land behind the Caf, and the Campus Garden was born; the Caf supposedly uses its vegetables.

Talk began of creating a “sustainability office”, a new division of the school administration, which many other schools had implemented by this time.

2008-2009: That office came to fruition, as the new Committee on Sustainability. It was part of an overall 10-year sustainability plan for the College.

This is a bare-bones outline of recent improvements, mostly relating to the administration. But hopefully you can see you are in the midst of an environmental upsurge at the College. You have the chance to be involved in positive change. If you are interested in continuing the efforts on campus, here is a guide to College environmental groups.

Student Environmental Action Coalition (SEAC) – SEAC is the largest, and it now serves as an umbrella organization to several groups, including the Farmers and Gardener’s Club, which tends to the Campus Garden and volunteers on local farms, and Roots & Shoots, an education-based program that sometimes works with Matthew Whaley Elementary School.

SEAC itself is a great place to find support if you have a campaign in mind. But most start smaller, by volunteering for tabling or for “House by House Greening.” This is a new activity, and it involves a clip board and being bossy, so you know it’s fun. Using a pre-made checklist, students can roam through a willing Williamsburg resident’s house, seeking ways to decrease the building’s carbon output through minor changes, like switching to CFL bulbs or installing power strips.

Green Revolution in Progress (GRIP) – GRIP is the newest organization, and it aims to raise awareness of environmental issues on campus, primarily by organizing events featuring speakers and documentaries relating to environmentalism.

Humans for Animal Liberation and Vegetarian Alliance (HALVA) – HALVA throws VegFest, a vegetarian potluck festival, every April, and they aim to raise awareness about vegetarianism.

The Committee on Sustainability – This is the College administration’s relatively new office designed to implement environmental improvements on campus. They need student input, and their website invites students to apply for positions on the committee. The Steering Committee has two undergraduate members, and there are many working groups as well.

Surely, there are more organizations (“e-mail” me!) but I hope this is a starting point for a year of student involvement. Only you can add “2009-2010” to the timeline for next year’s blogger!

Peace & Love until next time.


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