A few environmentally passionate students approached senior lecturer in biology, Rachel Portinga, about being the advisor for a new student organization at the University of Wisconsin-Superior, which sparked the formation of the Sustainability Club. Up until two years ago, if one had an interest for or question about environmental awareness, there was not a consistent place on campus for them to go said Portinga. Now, students from a variety of majors meet on Tuesdays from 4-5 p.m. in the Yellowjacket Union to discuss how they can help protect the planet for future generations.
“Everybody has a different focus of what’s important to them,” said Sustainability Club co-president Michaela Schar. “We’re open-minded to that because we don’t need the exact same views on sustainability.” During these weekly meetings, the students plan upcoming events and gather volunteers to oversee projects to decrease the university’s carbon footprint. “We are doing a lot, and if we waited once a month it would take all year to do one thing,” said Portinga. Sustainability is when one uses what they need in the present, so future generations will have what they need. “Being in the club has helped me…start to make small changes. It’s not always this ‘big global perspective,’ sometimes it’s just about wanting to make things simpler for myself,” said Sustainability Club treasurer Elizabeth Mertens.
While the organization implements many projects on campus like sustainable themed residence hall floor events, plastic reduction, recycling demonstrations, tabling at the annual UWS Science Fest, and their Earth Week activities, they do not come without challenges. According to Portinga, the lack of funding and a designated sustainability advisor on campus hinders the potential of what the club can achieve. “We’re all volunteering. As students, we don’t always have the time to put in the energy and effort that campus really deserves,” said Schar.
Although UWS does not have a sustainability coordinator, new to the Student Government Association is the sustainability liaison. The position will act as a “go-between and advocate for different sustainability initiatives and provide that perspective to whatever things they talk about in student government,” said Mertens. Despite the obstacles, the club forges onward to incorporate sustainability in their own lives and teach others as well.