At St. John’s, a culture of sustainability emerges

Since joining other New York City area partners in former mayor Michael Bloomberg’s challenge to reduce university carbon emissions by 30 percent by 2030, St. John’s has pledged to reach that goal by 2017.

St. John’s has achieved a 21 percent carbon reduction from the base year, 2007, and is on target for a 30 percent reduction by 2017. This is a very promising outcome, and behind the numbers is a concerted effort from students, faculty, staff and departments throughout the University.

Within the St. John’s community, a grass-root culture of sustainability has emerged on campus. On April 22 of this year, the Earth Club and Students for Global Justice organized an event to celebrate Earth Day, with the theme “Conscious Consumerism.” Their goal was to raise awareness of ways we as consumers impact the planet and how we need to take responsibility for that impact.

By bringing organizations from inside and outside of St. John’s to Earth Fest, the event strived to give participants a bigger picture of our interconnectedness with the environment.

“We did raise awareness about topics like hydro-fracking, composting, recycling, fair-trade, vegan and local topics affecting our bodies, communities and environment that are rarely discussed on campus,” said Paula Weiss, president of Earth Club.

Some presenters at Earth Fest included SJU Wellness Department, Sustainability Department, PEARLSxDEMONS Pop-up thrift store, the Queens Botanical Garden’s NYC Compost Project, NYC improv poet Allan Andre, NYC Youth Poet Laureate Ramya Ramana, rap-artist Jay Supreme, GLOBE, a local farmer’s market and many others.

The success of Earth Fest, however, was the result of months of planning. It was also a beginning for a bigger student movement to tackle some existing challenges.

“The general direction is to create a community of students to be a part of environment-related discussions, events and services… We’re also shifting our focus to recycling,” said Weiss.

“[Earth Club]’s recycling committee started a research project to gain knowledge and understanding of St. John’s Single Stream system. We noticed that the term ‘single stream’ doesn’t fully explain the way items should be disposed of, and creates more confusion. As a club, we hope to address St. John’s poor recycling habits and inefficient infrastructure through design proposals , educational campaigns, and policy changes.”

Regarding the theme of Earth Fest this year, Weiss said, “We’re all incredibly interconnected with the environment and the global society through our consumption and the first step to making a positive impact is to understand where you could be making a negative one. Conscious consumerism is about being informed and making decisions about your consumption and disposal with a sense of responsibility… Our school has so much potential to create events that reflect the culture we would like to see in this world. It is up to us as students, leaders or aspiring leaders, to create those events, spark those conversations, connect to something greater than ourselves and refuse to waste these four precious years on apathy.”