Environmental work showcased at Student Sustainability Symposium

By Nate Kreichman

Inaction is one of the greatest challenges for the environmental movement, said Mark… Inaction is one of the greatest challenges for the environmental movement, said Mark Collins.

“One of the things that separates environmental work is it rarely draws spectators, it draws people who want to get involved,” said Collins, Pitt’s environmental studies program coordinator. “The single biggest force at the University is inaction. If you actually harnessed all that energy, that changes everything. So I would say that’s the biggest issue, getting people off the couch.”

At Friday’s fifth annual Student Sustainability Symposium, student groups showcased environmental work being done across the community. The agenda included a keynote address from City Councilman Bill Peduto, question-and-answer sessions with school administrators and employers, student presentations and a “Sustain-a-bowl,” which highlighted student environmental groups.

The event was originally scheduled to be held at the William Pitt Union, but was moved to the Student Center at Carnegie Mellon University because of current safety and security issues at Pitt.

Organizers said about 100 people attended the event, which went from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Collins said he was thrilled about the turnout in the face of campus disruptions, and the level of commitment to green issues at Pitt that it displayed.

“We were about, I kid you not, 20 minutes away from canceling this whole thing,” Collins said. “You talk about people being committed, it sums it up when you have to do it like this. You have to show up, you have to be involved, you have to be adaptable. You must care.”

The symposium presented an opportunity to raise awareness, educate and engage students regarding a variety of environmental issues and campaigns on campus and in the community.

In between panels and presentations, participants walked among the various booths that student groups set up for the “Sustain-a-bowl,” showcasing environmental action across campus and beyond.

Junior Justin Lozano, president of Pitt’s Greenpeace chapter, said that the ultimate goal of the Student Sustainability Symposium is to show Pitt students’ efforts in taking action to protect the environment.

“There’s a very wide range of messages that each group has. However, every group is very supportive of each other’s efforts in trying to protect the Earth and educate others about how they can take action,” Lozano said.

Ward Allebach, a professor in Pitt’s environmental studies program, teaches a class called Sustainability.

Both during presentations and the Sustain-a-bowl, Allebach’s students presented projects they worked on for class. These included campaigns for recycling and planting trees in Oakland as well as making Pitt athletics more environmentally friendly. They started with Pitt’s women’s soccer game that night by promoting more sustainable practices, like recycling, at sporting events.

Allebach praised the event and all the students’ efforts.

“This is not an academic exercise, this is people who are tangibly doing things at Pitt in the community, and it’s really important work,” Allebach said. “Big institutions don’t just turn on a dime. It’s because of students like this that change is able to happen at a big institution like Pitt.”