By Lindsey Stuvick
Ask anyone who knows me, and they’d probably agree that I’m an advocate. It’s in my nature to be sensitive to inequalities and unmet needs. And to me, the ultimate voiceless victim is the environment. That’s why I’ve dedicated myself to bolstering the campus sustainability movement through the Green Team, a student club of which I am co-president with Rosemary Squires.
The Green Team is much more than a club. Over the past year I’ve developed incredible relationships with people across campus, worked steadily toward a cause I care deeply about and put to practice countless theories I’ve learned as a regenerative studies graduate student.
In fact, the Green Team itself is an example of the university’s learn-by-doing approach. It started in Regenerative Studies 640, a graduate class on coalition building with Professor Denise Lawrence. As the quarter wound down, she encouraged students to carry forward the momentum from the class to start their own environmental coalition. Several students rallied to the cause and formed the Green Team in 2005. We are now an organization that is 50 strong with representatives across campus.
Sustainability is a big topic at Cal Poly Pomona. University President Michael Ortiz signed the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment in 2007 along with other college leaders across the country. Soon after, he formed the Climate Task Force, which got to work doing campuswide carbon emissions assessments and creating a Climate Action Plan. President Ortiz hired a sustainability manager to carry out the daunting task of reaching carbon neutrality in a matter of 30 years.
When I heard the details of the climate commitment for the first time in my Regenerative Studies 599 class on methods and applications, I could see the top-down campaign and wondered, “What about the students?” I wanted to see a complementary, bottom-up campaign to help our campus achieve emissions neutrality. It was then that I wanted a leadership position within the Green Team to help build a cohesive, voluntary movement by students to meet the Climate Task Force halfway.
Leading the Green Team and its numerous campus initiatives has been one of the best and most challenging experiences of my life. Admittedly, Rosie and I were novices at student organizations. But it might have worked to our benefit. Since we were new, everything we considered felt like a real possibility. We had no prior experiences to cloud our vision.
Throughout the year, we have worked aggressively, offering sustainability forums, community dinners, a full week of programming for Earth Week, and a lecture-workshop series on organic gardening and cooking seasonal foods. We also launched the university’s first local food fair.
I used to spend the majority of my time at the John T. Lyle Center for Regenerative Studies, but through the Green Team I’ve learned to work with other students, staff, faculty and organizations. The biggest lesson I’ve learned is how to lead from the inside out. I’ve come to realize that I can’t change other people. But I can surely change what I choose to do and how I choose to do it. I know now to act as the example others might follow.
Change is hard. I sometimes want to see more progress, more quickly. But I know every small step we take really adds up. Imagine what might be possible if everyone took a small step toward a more sustainable future.
It hasn’t been easy balancing graduate work, a part-time job and the Green Team’s ambitious outreach agenda, but I know our environment is worth fighting for.
I’m thankful for the opportunity to be a part of the Green Team and the greater campus movement toward carbon neutrality. What’s particularly heartening is seeing that the movement toward sustainability is starting to spread across campus. In fact, for the first
time, the incoming Green Team president is not a regenerative studies student but rather a biological sciences major. My time with the Green Team has truly been a learn-by-doing experience. And that’s exactly what I was looking for when I applied to Cal Poly Pomona.
Lindsey Stuvick is a second-year graduate student in regenerative studies and co-president of the Green Team.