Sustainability Committee Chair Colin Higgins wants to implement a big campus event on Earth Day to spread environmental awareness[/media-credit]

The student government’s grassroots Sustainability Committee began to form potential campaigns to pursue this semester at a Tuesday night meeting. 

This is the committee’s first semester. The Associated Students of Madison’s Student Council created the committee last semester.

Although many ideas had been previously discussed, Sustainability Committee Chair Colin Higgins said new ideas were welcome for discussion.

Higgins said a previously discussed, feasible project for this semester would be working in favor of standardizing the appearance of recycling bins on campus. He added this would also include educating students on what can and cannot go into them, and increasing their presence on campus in general.

Higgins also discussed how engaging in environmental issues training would provide a great opportunity to teach students how to communicate with others regarding environmental issues.

“That [environmental issues training] will help students be able to talk to people without making them feel like we’re all going to die,” Higgins said.

Kevin Mauer, member of 350 Madison Climate Action Team, proposed working with ASM to further an energy audit campaign. He explained how getting university endowment funds moving away from the fossil fuel industry would be a substantial achievement.

“We want to show that this is a dirty industry with no future,” Mauer said.

Energy auditing is a nationwide movement college campuses are becoming a part of, Mauer added.

If the committee took this up as a campaign, got more faculty involved and followed a more institutionalized approach, the campaign would see a success transcending that of “just being obnoxious with students,” Mauer said.

There are resources to pursue this campaign, Higgins said, yet the project may be too big for the current semester and may be more successful if initiated at the beginning of the next academic year. Since this is the committee’s first semester, smaller projects may be addressed first, he added.

“It’s hard to tackle some of these campaigns in one semester, which is why we are aiming towards smaller projects,” Higgins said.

A committee member suggested the idea of building off events already happening, such as creating campaigns to make Earth Day a major campus event. The committee also addressed increasing the awareness of the connection between energy use and economic benefits, such as how being environmentally efficient with heating and electricity can save students money.

Another committee member proposed the idea of addressing the Greek community to further sustainability goals, particularly with increasing the recycling of cans and bottles.

“When you have 50 to 100 people in a house, there is a lot of waste,” the committee member said. “That would be a great place to expand to.”

Higgins said the committee is hoping to recruit new members, as well as conduct further outreach at the student council kickoff meeting tonight at 6:30 p.m. in the multipurpose room on the fourth floor of the Student Activities Center.

The committee will select campaigns and elect leadership roles at next week’s meeting.