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Sustainability in Action

Campus Changemaker: Scott Dirksen

By July 23, 2020August 18th, 2020No Comments

Auburn Outdoors, a program area of Campus Recreation, provides the unique opportunity to learn new skills and connect with nature. Whether it’s attending a student-led trip, renting equipment, visiting the free education bike shop, or just acquiring resources for trip planning, Auburn Outdoors and its dedicated employees are one of the biggest sustainability leaders on campus. Scott Dirksen, Assistant Director of Auburn Outdoors, is one such employee. For the past five years, Scott’s passion for sustainability has contributed not only to the success of Auburn Outdoors today, but also the planning of future endeavors.

Getting Involved with Sustainability

Scott Dirksen in Scotland

Scott Dirksen, Assistant Director of Auburn Outdoors, hiking in the woods

Like many sustainability advocates, Scott’s introduction to sustainability occurred during his college years. Throughout his undergrad and graduate studies, Scott’s exposure to both sustainability topics in academia as well as in his social circles helped shape his view on sustainability. While his studies made him care about sustainability, Scott says his friends were the ones who inspired him to incorporate sustainability into his everyday life. Picking up little habits from them helped shape many of Scott’s behaviors even today. Scott also incorporates this experience into how he exposes people to sustainability now. He believes being the change by setting an example is perhaps the most influential thing sustainability advocates can do. Simply practicing what you preach rather than pushing sustainable habits onto reluctant people provides the same amount of sustainability exposure, without the negativity. Moreover, Scott says this practice is something they strive to embody at Auburn Outdoors.

Although it is easy to think Auburn Outdoors is just about nature, Scott says it is also just as much about people. He says one of the biggest goals of Auburn Outdoors is providing people an opportunity to connect with nature. While this promotes personal wellbeing, it also highlights the personal responsibility we all have to protect our natural resources. It is the hope of Scott and Auburn outdoors as a whole that this connection leads to a determination to protect our land’s beauty and resources.

Working Toward Change

Auburn Outdoors & Campus Recreation at Sustainability Picnic

Auburn Outdoors and the Campus Recreation and Wellness Center tabling at the Sustainability Picnic

Apart from their normal operations, Scott says Auburn Outdoors also participates in other campus sustainability events and initiatives. For instance, he says Auburn Outdoors has been involved with our Battery Recycling Program and often collaborates with the Office of Sustainability. Although COVID-19 has caused the cancellation of these events, Auburn Outdoors had planned to partner with the Office of Sustainability on several Earth Month events like the campus bike ride and a sustainability movie screening. Moreover, Scott and the rest of Auburn Outdoors is always eager to table at Office of Sustainability events, such as the Sustainability Picnic. Scott also promotes more sustainable practices within the program, such as performing active assessments of Auburn Outdoor’s energy usage and looking for areas of improvement, as well as incorporating Leave No Trace Principles into the curriculum they teach.

Always trying to improve their sustainability, Scott has a few plans for decreasing Auburn Outdoors’ environmental footprint. Currently, many of their trips involve a great deal of transportation to and from sites. Depending on where the trip is, this results in a substantial amount of fossil fuel emissions. While this is an inevitable part of Auburn Outdoors, Scott says they are working on ways to mitigate some of this. One way to do this is focusing on creating more local trips and being cautious of trip size. Scott also hopes to begin incorporating service components into some of the trips, such as creek clean-ups. This emphasis on giving back and being environmentally conscious when planning their operations is part of what makes Scott and the rest of Auburn Outdoors one of the leading sustainability advocates on campus.

Sustainability Challenges and Inspiring Initiatives

Student Paddleboarding

Students on a local trip to do Stand Up Paddleboarding

Students on a local trip to do Stand Up Paddleboarding

While it is obvious that there are many challenges in sustainability, Scott believes finding ways to connect with people about sustainability is the greatest obstacle facing us today. He says it is important to convey to people that they do not have to change their entire lifestyle in order to be more sustainable. In fact, simply realizing that small actions matter is a major step towards attaining a sustainable mindset. Scott also believes addressing the current socioeconomic disparities is crucial if America is to become truly sustainable. For instance, he says someone who is worried about feeding their family cannot be expected to pay higher rates for green energy or undertake any other sustainability initiative. On the whole, Scott thinks this combination of communication and socioeconomic challenges are the greatest obstacle to sustainability.

Although Auburn participates in many sustainability habits and initiatives, Scott’s favorite part of this is the Office of Sustainability. He says that having a constant sustainability advocate at the table ensures sustainability interests are both valued and executed. Moreover, he also appreciates how this shows Auburn’s commitment to being a sustainability leader throughout the Southeast. Similarly, Scott is inspired by the Sustainability Compass and its all encompassing approach to defining sustainability. He says that using it as an education and communication tool has allowed people to realize that, contrary to popular belief, sustainability applies to everything. Scott’s emphasis on sustainability education, connecting people with nature, and vision for Auburn Outdoors is what makes him one of the most influential sustainability leaders at Auburn.

Post Contributed by Taylor Kraabel, Office of Sustainability Employee Engagement Coordinator

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