Miami’s Semester-Long Sustainability Efforts

By: Nathaniel Ike and Omar Elghazawi

Over the past few months, the Associated Student Government (ASG), the Infrastructure and Sustainability (I&S) committee and the Student Sustainability Council (SSC) worked on a variety of issues, with administrators and on behalf of the student body, to promote sustainability at Miami University. This semester gave them an opportunity to promote sustainability despite the challenges brought by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Snapshot of the EcoReps ‘Learn S’more About Sustainability’ event on October 21

Sustainability Week with SSC

The Student Sustainability Council, composed of the presidents of all sustainability organizations on campus, plans and executes an annual Sustainability Week during the month of October. This is an entire week of special events these organizations host outside of regular meetings with the purpose of reaching students beyond their membership. This year was unique due to COVID-19, but was successful nonetheless. The most popular events were “Learn S’more About Sustainability” put on by EcoReps and the Environmental Justice Forum put on by Green Team. Several events led by the other sustainability organizations were able to connect with a variety of students to teach them about sustainable habits, despite the virtual setting. The organizations are already hard at work planning for Earth Week that will happen in April 2021. 

ASG Provides Sustainable No-Bag Options 

An initiative brought to fruition by Senate Speaker Reena Murphy and Secretary Allison South allows students to have an option to not receive a plastic bag with every order at food locations. The “No Bag Please” option was brought as an initiative to Brent Mason, Senior Director of Food & Beverage,  in order to cut down on unnecessary plastic waste produced by the previous policy of giving all students bags with every order. This option was previously available at market locations such as Emporium and MacCracken and now has been extended to include dining locations in Armstrong. The option to receive a bagless order is available under the “Utensils and Condiments” tab at all kiosk tablets.

The ‘No Bag Please’ option that students can select at all kiosks on campus

Sustainable Swaps – Zero Waste Oxford and ASG together, October 28

On Oct. 28, members of Zero Waste Oxford and the Infrastructure and Sustainability committee held a Zoom event to educate students on pollution caused by certain cleaning products. They discussed a variety of options for students to make parts of their day to day lives more sustainable, despite the COVID-19 pandemic. The committee suggested sustainable habits like washing and reusing daily materials, provided that reusable materials are just as effective at their intended use as disposable ones. Other sustainable practices included reusing masks and gloves after washing and bringing reusable bags to Kroger as well as Miami markets. 

From the event: ‘For many precautionary methods, the reusable option is just as viable as the disposable one.’

Reusable Mask Handouts

The I&S committee also conducted handouts of free reusable masks, in order to help cut down on unsustainable mask practices in the recreation center. Since the start of the pandemic, disposable masks have contributed to a skyrocket in packaging and plastic waste. With the increase in demand for these materials, it is estimated that the United States could produce a year’s worth of medical waste in just two months of 2020. The committee’s goal was to help Miami reduce their amount of medical waste by giving students easier access to reusable masks. The mask handouts commenced for a two week period last month, handing out about 250 reusable masks to students.

ASG Senator Harry Harman at a mask handout at the recreation center

ASG Support for Institute for Food Farm

On November 10, ASG unanimously passed a resolution signifying their support of the Institute for Food’s farm. The legislation was authored by Infrastructure and Sustainability member Lauren Doepke with the sponsorship of several individuals involved with the farm’s operations. Although the farm is almost entirely self-sustaining, it is at risk of losing funding for two salaried positions unless provided for by the University. The farm provides research opportunities for students and is also essential to the functioning of the new Food Systems co-major, as well as providing the Miami-Oxford community with high-quality, affordable produce. In addition, the farm could play an integral role in University compliance with the recently-signed President’s Climate Leadership Commitment. After passing this initiative signifying ASG and student body support, the legislation will be passed onto administration officials with the goal of obtaining funding for the two salaried positions.

Sustainability Guide Magnets in Collaboration with Butler County

In cooperation with Butler County, Infrastructure and Sustainability Secretary Allison South designed and secured funding for off-campus sustainability guide magnets. Butler County provided 500 magnets and 300 flyers  which were distributed by I&S members via the Oxford Farmers Market and rental agencies. These magnets provide information for off-campus students on recyclable materials and locations to drop materials off for composting. With the distribution of these magnets, South aimed to  guide students on how to employ sustainable practices in their own lives after moving off campus. South’s efforts were also paired with an attempt to promote sustainable practices at fraternity houses on campus. Additionally, Butler County is again partnering with Miami and the I&S committee to create a recycling-centered magnet for residence halls. 

Sustainability Canvas Module

Members of the Student Sustainability Council, particularly the student organization Green Team, as well as members of the Office of Sustainability have begun the development of an educational, sustainability-based module that would be made available to all Miami students. The development of the module began after the signing of the President’s Climate Leadership Commitment. The module will focus on Miami’s efforts towards more sustainable practices and how students can contribute, as well as basic sustainability education. The aim of the project is to make the module available to a select number of students for testing by the Spring 2021 semester, with wide rollout occurring some time in the year following.

In spite of the difficulties brought by COVID-19, these organizations successfully coordinated a variety of events and initiatives to continue promoting sustainability on campus. The work done by ASG, I&S, and SSC this semester has provided the groundwork to continue building a sustainable community led by the student body at Miami University.

Photos courtesy of Omar Elghazawi and Miami University, and screenshots courtesy of Allison South.

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