Tuesday night’s D.C. Green Student Organization Forum was a success! Organized by Scott Breen (COL ’11), Claire Austin (SFS ’12), and Betina Bergoo (SFS ’11), the forum brought students from environmental groups at George Washington Unversity, American University, Catholic University, Georgetown Law School, and the University of the District of Columbia together for a night of discussion in the Leonard conference room in Reynolds Hall. We ate some free Chipotle burritos and had a great talk about the successes and struggles of environmental organizing on campus.
Sarah Murphy, who works with Weatherize DC and is a former employee of the Sierra Student Coalition, gave a great talk about how she got started as an organizer. She told a story we can all identify with: as an undergraduate, she exhausted herself trying to put together a great Earth Day event all by herself and practically failed a class in the process.
This experience inspired her to learn more about grassroots organizing, and taught her that you need a team of dedicated individuals to help make change happen. She quoted Margaret Mead: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has”; and Antoine de Saint Exupéry’s Little Prince: ‘“If you want to build a ship, don't drum up people together to collect wood and don't assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.”
Murphy encouraged those looking for green opportunities in DC this summer to check out Weatherize DC’s fellowship programs. They’re currently seeking applicants, and some of the fellowships may even pay. Murphy also had great thing to say about the Sierra Student Coalition Summer Training Program (known as “Sprog,” but don’t use that word in Australia). These are week-long, intensive training programs in grassroots organizing, and there’s one just forty-five minutes south of DC this summer.
Read about the student groups after the jump...
After Murphy’s talk, students from each environmental group explained what their group does, what they’ve accomplished, and what they’re working on. Students from George Washington University’s Food Justice group have formed an on-campus garden, have organized students to buy into a CSA (Community-Supported Agriculture), are raising honeybees on their Mount Vernon campus, and are working to maximize multimedia on their blog. Students from EcoSense at American University are sponsoring a trail to clean up in Anacostia, and getting a windmill on campus and honeybees next year. Both GW and American have regular farmers' markets on campus. Catholic University’s environmental group just got started and had a recent victory when they got rid of trays in their dining hall. Georgetown Law students are working on an energy audit of on-campus buildings; they’re also looking to raise membership among busy graduate students.
Five groups from Georgetown talked about their environmental efforts here. Claire discussed what we’ve been doing in EcoAction for the past few years, from our consulting with other clubs to our concrete campus changes to our awesome events. Maddie Howard, of the Georgetown Garden Club, talked about the work they’ve been doing in building up the garden and made a pitch for the vegan dinner the club is having at the Magis Row Green House this Thursday night. Erin Auel, president of the Georgetown Conservation Corps, talked about efforts to improve environmental education off-campus. GCC recently led a very successful clean-up off-campus with the College Democrats. Scott Breen and Bettina Bergoo described the work of Green Corp to buy more sustainable coffee cups and food-service projects for Corp locations and make Corp orientations more environmentally friendly. Caroline Palmer discussed the Center for the Environment’s grants and its current project, installing CFL lightbulbs in the outdoor lamps around campus.
The forum was very inspiring. It was amazing to hear about all the progress that students at other colleges have made, and to see how passionate they were about environmentalism. It also gave us at EcoAction some great ideas for work we can do here at Georgetown. For example, we’d love to start some bee colonies like they’ve done at GW and American, and like we saw in the Vanishing of the Bees screening in March. EcoSense’s Anacostia trail adoption also sounds like a fantastic project. In addition, I got some advice from Melissa Eddison, of GW Food Justice, about how to make this blog more accessible.
So, overall, a great success, and due mostly to the hard work of Scott, Bettina, and Claire, who brought the Chipotle burritos on her all-purpose cart. Thanks to everyone who made the effort to come! We plan to continue it next semester or next year, hopefully at another school’s campus. And just because the forum’s over doesn’t mean the exchange of ideas is over, too—in fact, it’s just beginning. So comment on this post, like us on Facebook, and come to some EcoAction events to get more involved both here at Georgetown and in DC in general!