Living green is achievable in small ways, student leaders say

Grace Speas

Living green can feel like a global challenge, but sustainability can also serve as a personal mantra, said Brianna Duran, the campus environmental center coordinator.

Student leaders gathered for a Sustainability Showcase on Friday to share how their organizations are being mindful of waste on campus. Duran organized the event and said getting connected to waste efforts can prevent negligence.

“Students, in general, want to find ways to give back and it’s just about getting them to see there are opportunities,” Duran said. “It doesn’t have to be 15 hours a week to do something. You can volunteer at Microfarm one Sunday even if you only do it once in the whole academic year.”

Duran said students sharing their experiences with others can also increase mindfulness. Those researching and volunteering to reduce campus waste are more aware of their own consumption of food and energy, according to student leaders at the showcase. 

Biochemistry senior Hye Jeong Lee got involved with Longhorn Lights Out, a group that spreads awareness on energy waste by turning off lights in UT buildings once a month, even before it officially became a registered organization. Lee said it seems the U.S. uses more energy than most countries because of the culture of mass consumption.

“(A sustainable mindset) is just not embedded in our culture,” Lee said. “We are in the era of mass consumption, so I think we’re more used to consuming more, because we have the money.”

Green Corps has a similar goal as Longhorn Lights Out but with food mindfulness. The organization conducts “Plate Waste” studies at main dining halls to track food waste and hosts a “Pick Local” event, where students can make their own salad using ingredients grown by UT students.

Duran said the most important thing for students to realize is that living a sustainable lifestyle is not a big change. 

Geosciences junior Rachel Breunig, who is in the Longhorn Band, said the band is making this change toward sustainability. Breunig said the band is working toward using less plastic bottles by implementing Gatorade stations for the water pouches band members currently carry during game day. 

“When the band heard about this, everybody’s first question was, ‘Am I still going to get my favorite (Gatorade) flavor?” said Breunig, who is leading the efforts on getting the change approved. “And the answer is yes.”