Editorial: Pitt must work to establish sustainability office

Students and faculty members gathered Wednesday at the William Pitt Union to discuss the importance of environmental sustainability. Mark Dixon, producer of the documentary “YERT (Your Environmental Road Trip),”  headlined the symposium. Dixon passionately advocates the pursuit of “your environmental road map.” He wants individuals to think deeply and proactively about not only what they use, but also how they use it.

University students have taken to this message. 

Especially in the past year and a half, students and student groups have worked to actualize environmentalist plans, which prompted the University to make considerable progress. Pitt has led sustainable efforts, including plastic bag quotas and real food calculations, the latter of which concluded last Friday. Now, the University is altering positions within the school administration to implement more widespread environmental policy.

On Tuesday, the Student Government Board introduced a bill that calls for the creation of a University office dedicated to sustainability. The office would help student environmental groups with green initiatives under the coordination of a current administration staff member and with assistance from the SGB environmental chair. 

Student activists have made similar calls for a sustainability office in the past, but with little efficacy. It is now time for University administration to match this student enthusiasm for sustainability with action.

The University’s action would align Pitt with many other ACC schools, such as the University of North Carolina and the University of Virginia, that have already opened offices dedicated to sustainability. 

Despite student groups’ efforts, true and lasting sustainable initiatives can only develop with the support of top University officials. Students should be commended for their efforts in recent years to promote responsible environmental policies. But now the University must respond from the top, namely through the implementation of an official University sustainability office.

By doing so, Pitt would represent the effectiveness of a true joint venture between students and administration. Student leaders are excited about this prospect. Jess McDonald, a senior majoring in environmental studies, summarized this idea: “There is definitely room for improvement, but I believe that Pitt students and the Pitt administration are ready to really get to work. Since great strides were made in just this last semester, there are even more amazing projects yet to come.” 

Ken Arble, also a senior majoring in environmental studies, put it clearly: “An Office of Sustainability would help to bring administration and students together.”

With the efforts of student leaders and the backing of school administration, Pitt can prove a national leader and compete with its ACC counterparts in addressing the increasingly relevant issue of environmental sustainability.