When attempting to make a community more environmentally friendly, the best place to start is sustainability. At least, that’s the view of Dr. Kalim Shah of Indiana University Northwest’s School of Public and Environmental Affairs (SPEA).
Upon arriving at the university for the Fall 2013 semester, Shah was tasked with resurrecting the school’s environmental club, which had become dormant in recent years.
“There was a sense that there was still student interest in it,” Shah said. “There just wasn’t any faculty to lead or guide it.”
Shah was a more than fitting choice to be the club’s adviser. In addition to teaching in Toronto, he has firsthand experience in environmental work while employed by the government of Ontario, Canada. From this background, he deduced that a long-term, detailed plan toward sustainability was what the campus needed, whereas the university had only undertaken some modest “green” initiatives before.
“What was lacking was a step-by-step approach to move the campus toward being fully sustainable,” Shah said
Reviving the group was also a priority for Amanda Schreiber, a junior to whom protecting the environment is very dear. Majoring in Environmental Affairs, Schreiber also serves as President of the club, and hopes to one day work for the EPA.
“Environmentalism and sustainability are very important causes to me,” Schreiber said. “I am always telling my family and friends the importance of recycling, conserving energy, limiting the amount of plastic they use.”
Through the efforts of Shah, Schreiber and the six other members, the group, renamed “SustainABLE IUN,” first met in February. Reforming the group, however, only brings them to square one. Before undertaking any big projects or initiatives, the first step toward sustainability is determining several factors about the campus, such as waste management, water usage and energy efficiency.
“When we know where we are with each of those, we will know what we need to do to mitigate and reduce (our consumption),” Shah said.
Shah will provide input from his own experiences, as well as consider ideas used by other universities. This summer, he hopes to train group members to determine IUN’s carbon footprint. However, he intends to take a more advisory role overall.
“It’s a student group,” he said, “so we’re really trying to emphasize student involvement and the student-driven aspect.”
As for the group members, focus is also on raising awareness of the group on campus. One opportunity for this will be when they participate in a panel discussion with the SPEA on April 7. Also, Schreiber seeks to spread awareness through social media, as she thinks leading a group promoting and working towards sustainability should also mean running it sustainably.
“The club is going paperless so we are not posting flyers around campus,” Schreiber said.
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