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Environment

Student Sustainability Summit Provides Opportunity For Exchange of Innovative Ideas

By Noa Banayan, Student Sustainability Educator

Group of student looking up at the camera at the AU sustainability summit

More than 100 students from 23 different schools participated in the 2016 Smart and Sustainable Campuses Conference Student Summit, co-hosted by American University and the University of Maryland (UMD). Held on April 3 in Baltimore, students from across the country came to lead workshops on campus sustainability initiatives.

The Student Summit was a continuation of AU’s Student Environmental Educators Discussion (SEED), one of the first student-led sustainability conferences on the east coast. Students from AU’s Student Sustainability Educators and UMD’s LEAF sustainability group managed logistics, planned activities, managed social media, collaborated with student and professional speakers, and ensured the success of the conference.

Sue Erhardt, director of education at Casey Trees, delivering the first keynote address of the summit. She told attendees about her career path to urban forestry and described her work with Casey Trees. Erhardt spoke to the importance of urban forestry and agriculture as ecological necessities for both people living in cities and the health of the environment around them. Her messages about the importance of environmental work and the need for strong advocates for healthy communities and environments were echoed throughout the day in student work and presentations.

Throughout the rest of the day, students engaged in dialogues about many significant facets of sustainability on campus. Students from AU gave presentations on topics ranging from campus beekeeping and community gardens to how to eat sustainably on campus. Students from University of Florida presented on their waste reduction and maintenance programs in their athletic departments as well as their bike share program. Students from Rochester Institute of Technology described their innovative and effective e-waste maintenance program, and students from Clark University shared their newly designed and student-led program to revamp irrigation technology on campus grounds.

Summit attendees agreed that everyone benefitted immensely from the diversity of topics covered in the workshops, and that the opportunity to share and learn from each other about their respective ideas and efforts in sustainability were invaluable to their own efforts. As one student noted, “Students can be the best teachers when working to improve campus sustainability.”