Students and faculty discuss sustainability options for UMass

By Jackson Cote

(Erica Lowenkron/ Daily Collegian)
(Erica Lowenkron/ Daily Collegian)

What was supposed to be a forum that would inform students about sustainable projects going on around campus turned into an intimate discussion due to lack of attendance. The discussion was held by University of Massachusetts sustainable staff and faculty members, as well as students involved in the UMass Eco-Rep Program, and centered on what sustainability avenues the university should pursue.

The discussion was held in the Integrative Learning Center on Wednesday night. Planned presenters, including representatives from Campus Planning, UMass Dining, Physical Plant and the UMass School of Earth and Sustainability, engaged in a casual, Q&A-style discussion with the Eco-Rep students who organized the event.

Eco-Reps is an academic course that educates enrolled students on issues regarding sustainability and environmental literacy. Students are then tasked with raising awareness about these issues with the rest of the campus community.

“Climate change is obviously a big thing we learn about,” said Tyler Sellner, Eco-Rep student and Fellow of the UMass Sustainability Fellowship Program. “ So sustainability, I think, offers a hope and a solution. I decided I’d like to be part of a solution to what we’re learning about.”

Brittany Florio, senior Sustainability Coordinator for UMass Dining and presenter at the forum, discussed the various sustainable initiatives she is currently overseeing, most prominently, UMass Fresh, a program that provides customized meals to students. Meals are prepared by the UMass Dining Culinary Team, who use local and organized produce from the UMass Permaculture Gardens and student farms.

“The benefits of UMass Fresh are to support the local farming community, to increase the UMass community access to regional food, and to address food insecurity on the UMass campus,” said Florio.

Darci Connor Maresca, assistant director of the School of Earth and Sustainability, is taking a more “behind the scenes” approach to campus sustainability. Maresca discussed the influx of job opportunities in the field of sustainability. She is working to establish an undergraduate major in sustainability, as well as a MS PHD Program, in order to provide students with the necessary level of education for these career positions and the skills to effect change in the field of sustainability.

“I’m really passionate about not just doing it because it sounds good, but doing it because the world needs people like this,” Maresca said. “Making sure we design a program so that when they leave they are effective change makers.”

UMass Eco-Reps’ next event is a day-long symposium for sustainability student leaders. The symposium will be hosted at the Integrative Learning Center on Nov. 5 and aims bring together over 100 students from 25 colleges across New England to further address campus sustainability issues, ranging from waste reduction to green housing.

Jackson Cote can be reached at [email protected]