Make lasting connections while taking action to help the environment by joining a sustainability-related student organization at Washington University in St. Louis.
Undergraduate Student Opportunities
This is a compilation of undergraduate student groups and St. Louis community organizations whose work overlaps with environmental justice initiatives and principles. Browse through these different categories to find an opportunity that suits you!
The term “food apartheid” describes a neighborhood that lacks access to fresh foods and grocery stores. Previously known as a “food desert“, food apartheids are determined by the distance to a store or by the number of stores in an area, accessibility, income level, discrimination toward communities of color, and/or availability of public transportation. These environmental groups address food security in our community and advocate for those that may not have adequate access to healthy food.
The Food Recovery Network at WashU fights to simultaneously eliminate food security and food waste in our community. With the help of volunteers, they safely recover food and ingredients, use them to prepare meals, and deliver them to their clients, who serve the most food-insecure groups in St. Louis.
The Burning Kumquat is an organic, student-run garden where members of Washington University come together to cultivate crops, learn farming practices, and sell produce to other WashU community members.
Challah for Hunger is an international organization that raises money and awareness for hunger through the production and sale of challah bread. For all the volunteers, and many of the customers, Challah for Hunger provides opportunities to be involved in a fun and dedicated community while addressing humanitarian problems and developing/practicing new skills such as baking and marketing. You gain business and leadership experience while engaging in the Jewish traditions of challah and tzedakah (justice), become involved in advocacy and other forms of activism, and more.
Nature & Biodiversity
Biodiversity is the multitude of living things that make up life on Earth. It encompasses the 8 million or so species on the planet—from plants and animals to fungi and bacteria—and the ecosystems that house them, such as oceans, forests, mountain environments, and coral reefs. Nature is in the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the food we eat. For lovers of nature, addressing climate change is one of their top priorities.
Gateway to the Great Outdoors (GGO) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing urban, low-income, at-risk youth with opportunities to interact with the natural environment through lessons and activities that instill a value of environmentalism, leadership, teamwork, science, and physical activity. The WashU chapter is dedicated to bringing outdoor education and STEAM education to students in St. Louis.
The WashU Outing Club Outing Club is committed to making outdoor recreation more accessible to the WashU community. They often take trips canoeing, foraging, and hiking around trails in Missouri and Illinois.
The WashU Wilderness Project believes the natural world provides a neutral space for facilitating life’s transitions, promoting personal growth, and discussing pressing social issues. Annually, the program culminates in multiple trips outside for incoming freshmen, with student leaders facilitating both hiking and rock climbing.
The Tyson Conservation Corps (TCC) is a student volunteer crew dedicated to conservation and ecological restoration. Students work with ecologists at WashU’s Tyson Research Center, as well as other professionals, to gain hands-on experience in the field.
As one of the most important pollinating agents in our ecosystem, honeybees are crucial for biodiversity all over the world. The beekeepers of WashU are in charge of keeping their bee colonies happy and healthy. They also educate the local community and student body about the benefits of domestic and native bees and the activity of beekeeping.
The WashU Bird Club seeks to connect members of the WashU community who share an interest in birds, birding, and the natural world. Through on- and off-campus birding excursions, they hope to inspire and cultivate a general appreciation for birds and their conservation, especially for birds in the St. Louis area.
Education @ WashU
WashU students are the bedrock of our institutional sustainability initiatives. Their knowledge, passion, and action are behind every aspect of our work to steward resources wisely and to minimize potentially adverse public health impacts from university operations. Take a look at these groups who work within WashU to raise awareness for environmental and social issues in our community.
The Student Environmental Council (SEC) is a Student Union executive entity and umbrella group that encompasses all of the student groups at WashU with an environmental focus. SEC advises and coordinates among Student Union, Student Groups, and the University to improve environmental affairs, including but not limited to sustainable operations, environmental justice, and conservation efforts.
The Student Sustainability Board (SSB) is the entity under the Student Environmental Counsil (SEC) that researches and promotes sustainability measures for University programs, events, and initiatives by offering consulting services and allocating funding.
The Congress of the South 40’s Sustainability Committee promotes sustainability on the South 40 through events and college council programming and manages the Eco Rep program. WashU’s Eco Rep program gives undergraduates the opportunity to promote sustainability within their Residential Colleges. In addition, Eco Reps focus on making College Council programming more sustainable. In the spring semester, Eco Reps serve as the team leaders during Green Cup, an energy-saving competition between residential halls.
The WashU Green Ambassador (WUGA) Program is a student-managed, peer-education program supported by the Office of Sustainability that orients new students to the sustainability initiatives on WashU’s campus. WUGAs play a critical role in training first year student to adopt behaviors that align with WashU’s culture of sustainability, behaviors that they will carry with them during their time at WashU (and beyond).
The WashU Energy Alliance exists to create a network of students, faculty, and staff at Washington University who have the desire to engage in respectful dialogue about energy. You can join their mailing list here.
WashU Vegan is WashU’s first plant-based club and seeks to promote and create enthusiasm for vegan, vegetarian, and plant-based lifestyles at WashU and encourage people to make more sustainable choices. The club aims to foster community among students and encourage people to make more sustainable choices through vegan-related programming and events.
To be a member of WasU means to be a citizen of St. Louis, and to be a citizen of St. Louis means giving back to the city. Learn more about St. Louis’s particular environmental justice issues by checking out or joining these groups, which all do important work in the St. Louis community.
Green Action members participate in regional and national sustainability movements, maintaining relevancy and awareness of current events, politics, and issues through programming that engages the community and promotes environmental advocacy. They are the advocacy body behind Fossil Free WashU, a campaign to divest the university endowment from the fossil-fuel industry.
V.E.R.D.E. (Volunteers for Environmental Restoration, Development and Education) fosters greater awareness about environmental issues among school children and participates in environmental restoration events around St. Louis.
Access STL is a student group that advocates for reducing car dependency and improving transportation equity in St. Louis by fighting for transit, cycling, walking, and financially sustainable development. Their work includes direct activism, volunteering, and working with local leaders and politicians to build a better future for our city and its communities.
The sharing economy is a model that encourages the sharing of goods and resources within a group of people, allowing materials to be more fully and effectively utilized. This approach reduces the need for individuals to purchase new materials and avoids the associated unnecessary waste from production and disposal. Look into these groups to find how you can participate in the WashU sharing economy.
SWAP’s mission is to promote reuse within the Washington University community through the free exchange and affordable sale of donated goods. SWAP has both a storefront (the Trading Post) operated during the school year and an annual Move Out Collections Program (SOS) and Move In Sale.
WUpcycle promotes sustainable fashion practices and environmental awareness by encouraging and teaching ethical techniques and discussing the challenges of the fashion industry. Every week, they host creative workshops focusing on upcycling and sustainability. Anyone is welcome!
Not all groups that do environmental justice groups have to be “green groups” or fall under the jurisdiction of WashU. Check out these groups below which have more career-focused missions but still address issues of environmentalism and equity.
ESA SEEDS STL is the St. Louis-based chapter of the Ecological Society of America SEEDS (Strategies for Ecology Education, Diversity and Sustainability) program for undergraduate students at St. Louis area institutions of higher education. The SEEDS program is aimed at engaging students from marginalized and underrepresented backgrounds (in STEM) in hands-on opportunities and experiences in ecology and environmental sciences.
As the premier green task force on campus, Net Impact strives to give students the opportunity and skills to make environmentally and socially responsible change happen on campus. Net Impact grows and strengthens a network of leaders who believe in the power of business to create a positive social, environmental and economic impact.
Graduate Student Opportunities
While undergraduate student groups tend to be more robust, graduate students still have more than enough opportunities to advocate for their communities either with their peers or with bigger organizations. Aside from local St. Louis organizations that need your help, check out these student groups formed by graduate students for graduate students to find your place.
Hosted by the Graduate Center and open to all graduate students, the WashU Grad Nature Trippers are dedicated to providing all levels of outdoor enthusiasts the opportunity to meet and pool their combined knowledge and go on adventures. The club provides environmental service opportunities and promotes outdoor and environmental education through workshops, organized outings, and presentations, expanding access to the outdoors.
The Sustainability Committee works to make the medical school campus more sustainable and environmentally responsible by focusing on the interventions of interest to our members as well as working closely with the undergraduate Office of Sustainability and WUSM’s Sustainability Action Team.
WUSM Krebs Cyclers club aims for bike enthusiasts of all abilities to come together and ride. Promoting fitness and team spirit, this organization has bimonthly rides around St. Louis and surrounding areas. They also train and fundraise as a club for events like Pedal for the Cause. As long as you bring your bike, any level of experience is welcome!
The Wilderness Medicine Interest Group (WMIG) aims to connect students with nature by coordinating group outings, to educate medical students in wilderness first aid by facilitating workshops, to create opportunities to develop meaningful relationships with faculty members outside of the classroom, and to sharpen wilderness medicine skills by participating in MedWAR.
The Energy & Environmental Law Society (EELS) explores the intersection of law and the environment through educational speaking events, community service projects, and collaboration with other campus groups, as well as by promoting sustainability in the use of law school facilities. EELS aims to prepare and inspire students to enter the increasingly complex fields of energy and environmental law.
WashULaw’s Student Animal Legal Defense Fund (“Animal Law Society” or “SALDF”) provides educational events about animal rights issues, advocates for students on campus, brings speakers to campus, provides free vegan food, encourages careers in animal law, and more.