Students come together to help planet

There are many energy-saving acts that can help save the planet, such as turning off a light before leaving a room and recycling paper and plastic products. St. John’s Sustainability Initiative turns these little acts into stepping stones for major environmental reform.

The Sustainability Initiative Committee was created in January 2008 right after President Rev. Donald J. Harrington joined Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s PlaNYC challenge.

Through the “10 goals for 2030,” Mayor Bloomberg encouraged local colleges such as Columbia, Fordham, NYU, and St. John’s University to reduce carbon input on campus. PlaNYC hopes to reduce emissions by more than 30 percent and open 90 percent of New York’s waterways by reducing pollution by the year 2030.

Ashley Brown, president of Earth Club and a member of the Sustainability Committee, said the campus lacked environmental implements on campus until a few years ago.

However, Thomas Goldsmith, director of Environment and Energy Conservation, changed St. John’s direction by creating recycling opportunities and by planting over 70 trees for carbon reduction, fulfilling the request of Mayor Bloomberg’s initative.

“I wanted to see better recycling and better windows on our buildings for heating,” said Brown. “So this right now is so exciting because we are making such a difference,” she said.

St. John’s University was the first American University to receive the A500 Rocket model food composter from the U.K. The composter consists of a cylinder with woodchips and a certain formula which increases the speed of food trimming’s bacterial growth, which is used as mulch for gardening.

Not only does the A500 Rocket cut food waste, but it provides compost for St. John’s University’s new organic garden, located next to Donovan Hall.

Brown and the other members of the committee got ideas and plans from Boston College’s organic garden, such as increasing the garden’s variety by planting tulips in the future as well.

Starting last semester, the Sustainability Committee began to meet with Student Government, faculty members, and professors to contribute new ideas and give feedback on the committee’s progress.

Earth Club also plays a significant role by putting the theories into action and getting the student body more involved with the environment.

Brown said she believes students should be more concerned with the environment since it is a reflection on human use and a mirror into the future of our planet.

“We need to sustain local environments to aid world-wide environments. What we do here affects water shortages in Africa,” said Brown.

Dr. Richard Leakey, a paleoanthropologist, spoke on campus in late September concerning the changing climate. In his speech,

“Climate Change and the Future of Life on Earth,” Leakey said that water is a main resource people take for granted.

Since the earth only has three percent of fresh water, developed countries deplete large amounts through pollution. Without advocacy for change, this can have grave consequences on the planet.

“If we don’t pay attention to [the environment], it will make itself known and we will eventually have to since we could be in a better situation or a lot worse in years to come,” said Brown.

Ashley Brown and Christina Zaccarelli, vice president of Student Government, will accompany Goldsmith to Notre Dame’s “Sustainability and the Catholic University” conference Oct. 9.
Through this conference, Brown hopes to not only represent St. John’s but gather new ideas to improve sustainability on campus.

The Earth Club started a movie series in which they will show a different section of BBC’s Planet Earth every month.

They also hope to plan a Swap Meet in December. The Swap Meet imitates a farmer’s market in which students can exchange items between one another free
of cost.

Even though St. John’s has not worked on the initiatives until recently, Brown is excited with the campus’ accomplishments in such a short amount of time.

“It’s never too late and we are definitely on the right track,” she said.

” We are moving quickly and it’s good. We’re doing a good job now.”