Post contributed by Kaitlin Robb, Office of Sustainability Intern
Our seven interns traveled with the Office of Sustainability to Baltimore, Maryland on October 8th through October 12th for the 2016 Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education Conference and Expo (AASHE). Each intern went to lectures and discussions on topics they have a particular interest in, such as food waste, energy, or gender equality. This was a valuable opportunity for the Office of Sustainability to both share and learn ways to better campuses, and to bring back new ideas to help Auburn University achieve its sustainability goals.
The student summit on Sunday allowed for interns to interact with others and learn about what students across the world are doing to promote sustainability. Dominic Frongillo, a five-time delegate to the United Nations, was the keynote speaker for the student summit. “Each of us has a story of what brought us here,” he began with. He stressed we are not exempt from the crisis that is climate change, and we are not multiple generations, but “one generation through time.” His main point was courage is contagious, and we have the potential to make great change in our world for both ourselves and future generations. After the keynote, we were able to attend discussions such as “Fighting Waste, Feeding People: Student Solutions for the Long Term” and “Making Student Events Greener, One Pizza Box at a Time.”
Sunday night the interns joined the rest of the office for the opening keynote for the conference. The speaker, Dr. Marc Edwards from Virginia Tech, helped residents of Flint, Michigan work with researchers to uncover the severe water quality issues in their town. He spoke on how members of higher education should not ignore issues going on in their communities, tying in with this year’s conference theme: “Beyond the Campus.” This speaker kicked off the conference, and interns and office members attended many talks in the following days, such as “From Bird Houses to Tiny Houses: Courage Changes Everything!” and “Strategies for Local and Sustainable Food Purchasing.”
On Tuesday, fellow intern Max Garcia and I decided to start our own open discussion about marketing and sustainability, a topic we felt needed to be discussed further. Other students and professors attended and talked about what their schools are doing to communicate sustainability issues and encourage positive change. Max and I both learned a lot from talking with others, and we were able to share the sustainability compass in return. The sustainability compass was designed by Alan AtKisson, and uses the four points of a compass to demonstrate four key elements of sustainability: Nature, Economy, Society, and individual Wellbeing.
Intern Matt Preisser particularly loved visiting the expo. He enjoyed being able to meet people and see what businesses are doing for sustainability. “There are so many ways to be sustainable, and that was really represented in the many businesses [that attended the expo],” he explained. A lot of these companies have an involvement at Auburn, and Matt enjoyed seeing how these businesses can help not just other universities, but our own campus and students, live more sustainable lives.
When asked why the office takes interns to AASHE every year, Office of Sustainability Communications and Outreach Coordinator Jen Morse said, “It’s wonderful to see what makes each individual intern unique, and discover how we can enhance their internship so they get the most out of their experience. Creating sustainability practitioners who have the skills and knowledge to go out and make a difference both on campus and after graduation is what our internship program is all about. The AASHE conference is an effective and powerful tool to help us reach our goals.” Indeed, we were very grateful to be able to visit Baltimore, explore the diverse city, and connect with sustainability ambassadors from across the globe.