Sustainability is a passion for many Champlain College students, and that passion was on full display during our first annual Sustainability Showcase. Students revealed their hands-on class projects while partners from around campus and the local community shared their own sustainability efforts that we can all learn from.
For some, living sustainably is a lifestyle choice to better our planet. For others, it’s more than that; it’s a career committed to bettering our collective future, which includes educating others.
“Our goal is to get students from all majors engaged in the topic and help them realize they can get involved and make a difference in small ways,” says Holly Francis ’20, Sustainability Coordinator in Champlain’s Office of Sustainability and Environmental Studies & Policy graduate. “We want to educate in fun and accessible ways to encourage people to further support campus sustainability.”
The Sustainability Showcase
Walking around the Champlain Room on November 15, the passion and importance of sustainability on our campus was loud and clear from students showing off their projects, engaging peers and employees in their work. Eco-Reps were there to spread the word about campus sustainability initiatives, including: the college’s Swap Shop, where you can exchange clothes, school supplies, and small furniture; the Champ Shop which offers free bike repairs and snowboard and ski waxing; the Apiary which sells campus-harvested honey products and hosts educational opportunities; and student groups like Chicks on Sticks that encourage folks to get outside and connect with nature.
Local organizations like Green Mountain Transit, Winooski Valley Park District, Chittenden Area Transportation Management Association (CATMA), Chittenden Solid Waste District (CSWD), Patagonia, Intervale Center, The Sandbox, and others engaged Champlain community members to learn more about sustainable options related to transportation, clothing, waste management, and more.
Perhaps the most notable project on display was a group of students raising awareness about the College’s Sustainability Action Plan (PDF), which they are playing a big role in revamping. Students in Professor Valerie Esposito’s Ecological Economics class are working collaboratively with the Office of Sustainability to review the College’s most recent plan and make recommendations for updated language and priorities. This type of actionable-oriented classwork is one of the many unique aspects of Champlain’s Applied Sustainability major.
“This hands-on learning is such a great example of what Champlain strives to do: actually make students do and practice the thing that they want to do in their field,” said JC Schumaker ’24, who is helping ensure the Sustainability Action Plan is up-to-date with current metrics and addresses new and evolving sustainability concepts.
Paige Garland ’24 is responsible for the same tasks and says, “This project work gives us the unique opportunity to have individual and collective autonomy with our class and what we want to get out of this. The initiative that we’re showing is really making strides for all of our individual work and team building. I know I’ll work on a team a lot when I get out of college, so I think that this is a really good way for us to grow.”
Both Garland and Schumaker are preparing for careers in field work and conservation upon graduation. Classmate Emma Dannenberg ’24, who aided in creating the educational components for the Sustainability Showcase to spread the word about the class’s efforts, plans to become a professional naturalist illustrator. She hopes to combine her art and environmentalism work to further conservation efforts and education about these important topics.
Two of the main points the class recommends adding to the Sustainability Action Plan are: textbook affordability and accessibility and fostering more opportunities for student community engagement and activism. They are keeping a strong emphasis on sustainable infrastructure and energy efficiency, which aligns with the Champlain 2030 Strategic Plan’s goal of making progress toward carbon neutrality.
“We are weaving sustainability into every project we do,” says Nic Anderson, Assistant Vice President of Planning and Operations. “The beauty of the 2030 goal is that it encourages incremental progress—we don’t have to wait until 2030, but we can make progress now.”
Anderson cites the recent renovation of McDonald Hall as an example, which was completed with a considerable eye on sustainability. The City of Burlington has also established a goal of Net Zero Energy by 2030, which calls for reducing and eventually eliminating fossil fuel use from the heating and ground transportation sectors.
Back across the room at the Sustainability Showcase, students from Esposito’s Intro to Sustainability Studies course proposed their ideas for creating a more sustainable campus, which included increasing solar arrays and banning balloons (with the proposal of purchasing an inflatable Chauncey, like you see at car dealerships—yes, please). Students showcased related data and research to round out their proposals.
“These are all great examples of really tangible projects students are doing and how students get involved in the community,” says Esposito. “There are so many great organizations in the Burlington area that are represented here and who engage with our students—which makes Champlain such an exciting place to study sustainability.”
How can you live a more sustainable lifestyle? Hear from our student experts!
“Knowing how to sort out your waste is a great way to help lead a sustainable lifestyle, so my tip is to compost your food scraps. Here in Vermont, it’s actually illegal to not compost your food scraps. Making that extra effort and sorting your food scraps and brown napkins or paper towels on campus can make a huge difference.”—Emma Dannenberg ’24, an Eco-Rep captain who will soon graduate from our Creative Media major with an Environmental Studies & Policy minor.
“My tip for sustainability is to wear the clothes you already have. When you don’t buy new as often, it’s a lot better for the environment and keeps more clothing out of the landfill. You can repair your own clothes, mend things, and make your own clothes. You can add different designs from other clothing items to make it more personalized to you.”—JC Schumaker ’24 // Environmental Studies & Policy and leader of the Environmental Club.
“My tip for leading a more sustainable lifestyle would be reducing single use items whenever possible. It’s super easy to implement in your everyday life with things like making coffee at home instead of buying cups, and using reusable grocery bags instead of single use. And if you do need to use them, find ways to reuse them until they wear out.”—Paige Garland ’24 // Applied Sustainability and Green Revolving Fund committee member.