Future plans discussed at Sustainability Council public forums

Tucker Nielsen, Lode Writer

Last week on Jan. 27, the Sustainability and Resilience Council held two, 75-minute forums over Zoom from 4 – 7 p.m. At the 5:30 forum, Alan Turnquist, director of Sustainability and Resilience, broke down the Sustainability Action Plan draft into a “basic framework” of the action plans. He stated that the original draft had  “27 categories instead of eight” and was “completely indigestible.” These sessions would help with refining.

The draft consisted of three parts: stewardship, academics, and integration. Stewardship looks into reducing the carbon footprint, waste production, and harmful university investments. Academics seek to educate Michigan Tech students, staff, and the community about sustainability and its significance today. Integration plans to utilize these two areas into all aspects of the university and community through a “Living Lab” environment. 

Discussions of these parts were held between attendants. One attendant, Kristine Bradof, is a current member of the City of Houghton Planning Commission and formerly part of Center for Science and Environmental Outreach when she worked at Michigan Tech. Bradof brought up the issue she observed of facilities paying for campus utilities, rather than by department. Thus, there wasn’t much concern from individual departments to conserve. She considered it a barrier in prioritizing energy saving measures.

Kendra Lachcik, a Sustainability Demonstration House tenant and member of Climate Reality Campus Corps, recommended that every major dedicate a course to sustainability. She stated, “it’s fundamental for everything you’re working on.” She argued that sustainability was “easier to achieve for an overall mindset. In every class, it should be mentioned. Professors should make an effort to talk with students…It should be discussed when you’re talking about cars, or circuits, or pretty much anything.” 

Gabriel Ahrendt, a Graduate Student Government Representative for Environment and Sustainability, added onto Lachcik’s dialogue by reaffirming the need for mandatory sustainability courses within general education. He added on how research projects should be measured for sustainability and not damaging to the environment. Ahrendt recommended Michigan Tech should “…phase out research that’s ultimately damaging to the climate.”

Arlethia Bell, an Environmental Engineering Student, noted the current issue of food waste in dining halls. She recommended bringing back the “to-go” boxes from the 2020-2021 school year. She reasoned that this system is helpful “because you could just take it and leave.” Bell suggested incorporating the current HuskyLid project into creating the to-go boxes to make them reusable. 

Brian Goldberg, a member of Green Campus Enterprise, proposed a universal, sustainability educational program, emphasizing the importance of all majors being included. He stated that “If you’re not an environmental engineer, you might not know how important sustainability is.” He also recommended including faculty with learning about sustainability, as they have “as high a priority as students.”

Sushree Dash, a PhD Student in Philosophy, suggested a ban on sustainable practices, noting that “There are multiple sustainable options people don’t look at.”

Viewers were given the draft to look over and discuss each part amongst themselves in breakout rooms. Then, everyone was brought back and asked their questions or shared their ideas with Turnquist. 

At the evening’s end, Turnquist stated, “I’m here and I’m all ears, and I want to engage…I want to keep the conversation going.” He invited students and the community to continue discussions like these.

To get emails about upcoming planning events and projects, people can contact Turnquist at [email protected] or fill out this form.