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Stories of Campus Sustainability Month

October was Campus Sustainability Month at WashU and in many other universities and colleges across the US. During October, the WashU community was offered a wide variety of events, ranging from festivals to conferences, movie screenings, tours, panel discussions, and more. With sustainability as a driver, the topics covered by these events were also very diverse: renewable energy, food access, global inequalities, environmental policies, were as many areas where participants were able to learn, think and discuss.

In this article, we’ll hear three accounts from participants who attended Campus Sustainability Month events. Thanks to the contributors who shared  their experiences with us!

October 24th: Trending Topics: Gina McCarthy

Contributor: Ingrid Archibald, Executive Advisor for Sustainability

Gina McCarthy gave an impassioned speech to students, staff, and visitors. McCarthy was the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency during President Obama’s second term. She led the EPA on the Clean Power Plan and focused EPA’s attention to public health concerns while she was in office.

She urged students to not give up hope, to not turn our backs on environmental and public health problems while Donald Trump and Scott Pruitt (current EPA Administrator) are in office. She said that we must reengage and fight harder than ever to make sure people’s rights are protected and that we continue to pursue robust environmental legislation. She emphasized that although times are not bright for EPA, we should not feel hopeless. She acknowledged the legitimacy of feeling upset, but she urged us all to move on from that stage. She did not discount our concerns or pretend that the Trump administration “isn’t that bad”. Instead, she was honest and realistic with us. She told us that as young people we must have perspective: four years is a long time, but the impacts of Trump will not last forever. What we must do right now is keep the Administration accountable, prevent them from doing too much damage, and plan for the future.

Many students left feeling reinvigorated for the future of environmental and public health. For many of us, it was encouraging to hear a leader tell us that we have not lost our power and that we should not lose our hope. She worked with a partisan Congress and she has worked with many conservatives in the past. She urged liberals to not turn their backs on those with whom they disagree; we all need to extend a hand and work with everyone, to ensure that the necessary steps are taken. We cannot pass successful environmental legislation without the support both of Republicans and Democrats–we cannot forget that this is necessary for lasting, resilient change.

After the speech, McCarthy continued to talk to students one-on-one at a reception. Over tea and cookies, she answered our questions and continued her message of empowerment and hope.

It was a true honor and privilege to bring Gina McCarthy to WashU. I cannot imagine anyone who could do a better job at making us laugh, think about the future, and feel reinvigorated to get out there and make change happen.

October 25th: Electronic Waste and Confidential Paper Recycling Drive

Contributor: Cassandra Hage, Sustainability Manager at the Office of Sustainability

The WashU community came out with enthusiasm to empty their stockpiles of electronics and confidential papers. About half of the participants came with carloads of materials in boxes and the other half was walk-up traffic. Kudos to the College Prep Office that wheeled a trolley full of documents across campus to the shredder!


  • 2,500 pounds of electronics were recycled
  • 3,800 pounds of paper were shredded

Did you miss this event? We are planning 2018 collection events in March (on the Danforth Campus at Knight/Bauer) and October (at the School of Medicine Campus). Save your e-waste items and confidential papers for proper disposal at the next drive!

October 26-28th: Global Inequality Conference

Contributor: Mackenzie Hines-Wilson, Communication Associate at the Office of Sustainability

As a part of Campus Sustainability Month at WashU, the Brown School of Social Work hosted a Global Inequality Conference to facilitate dialogue between WashU students, academics, and seasoned practitioners on issues surrounding global inequality.

As part of the conference, the Environmental Case Competition, held on Saturday October 28th, aimed to engage students through a practical exercise of conflict resolution. A week ahead of time, students had to form teams of 6 individuals, including a mix of both undergraduates and graduates coming from various disciplines. The teams were given a set of documentations about socioeconomic and sustainability issues in the Lake Victoria region of East Africa that borders Tanzania, Ghana, and Kenya. With the help of these materials, the student teams were tasked to reflect and propose hypothetical solutions to these very real problems, which they would then publicly present at the Environmental Case Competition.

Hidaia Salem, graduate student pursuing her Master’s Degree in Public Health with a focus on Global Health, participated to the Environmental Case Competition. She shared with us that, when she signed up for the conference, she wasn’t completely sure what she was getting involved in. However, the documentation that was provided allowed her and her team to better understand global inequality issues and to propose concrete solutions, aiming at unifying and empowering the targeted communities.

“We decided that our task force would be to facilitate capacity building by connecting different partners that already existed in the community,” Salem said. “They would get microfinancing for women’s organizations and mobile clinics to help fight disease and lack of sanitation. So, populations like fisherman that aren’t getting proper treatment and women that live in very remote areas could be provided healthcare. Overall, we wanted our pitch to be feasible, sustainable, and realistic.”

The Environmental Case Competition was a great way to conclude a three-day symposium that focused on collaboration and connection between various members of the WashU community, and beyond.