While the Student Sustainability Council (SSC) may not have the most visible presence on campus, its efforts have had a huge impact on the Case Western Reserve University community. The SSC runs similarly to a club, but being an ad-hoc council under Undergraduate Student Government (USG) means that it is able to introduce sustainable legislation and infrastructure to the university.
USG formed the SSC as a committee in response to the lack of environmentally-focused student organizations at CWRU. Its mission is made up of four parts: education, engagement with sustainable behavior, networking for sustainability and implementing environmentally restorative projects. The SSC’s formation under USG is a result of the environmental issues which require broader oversight and communication compared to most clubs.
Currently, the Council is working on its SEED program, an acronym for “Students Encouraging Environmental Dedication,” with the goal of making student organizations more sustainable in areas such as waste management.
“Our projects were all proposed by our members, either from their own research and connections or their own brain children,” said Maia Gallagher, a third-year civil engineering major and one of the SSC co-chairs. “Every semester we put aside part of our funds for new projects that may arise and encourage anyone with a sustainable idea or concern to come to talk to us.”
Besides coming up with ideas for initiatives, members also work to organize information campaigns, plan outings and run the Farm Harvest Festival.
Farm Harvest Festival, which took place in September, is the SSC’s marquee event. The annual festival has been hosted nine times and in previous years, the participation has reached up to 1,500 attendees. The event is located about 25 minutes off campus at the Squire Valleevue Farm and consists of farm trails, a petting zoo and other activities. Although the event had its usual favorites this year like apple cider and Mitchell’s Ice Cream, students also had the opportunity to eat crickets.
“It seemed like everyone was having a great time, learning about sustainability [through various activities],” said Gallagher.
In spite of the event’s success, Gallagher is confident that it can be even better in the future. She said, “We’re always looking to improve the event and introduce more sustainability-themed, educational and fun activities.”
After winter break, the SSC will be working on a recycling campaign, focusing on informing the campus about Cuyahoga County’s new recycling standards. One of the SSC’s largest victories came from the removal of plastic bags from Bag-it and Grab-it on campus, and the campaign will further that effort by trying to reduce single-use items as well.
However, the SSC also knows how to have fun: it often hosts outings where members go to the beach together, as well as hiking and camping activities. Not only does this allow members to gain more appreciation for the outdoors, but the events also often include keeping the environment clean.
“We encourage anyone with a passion to join us and we can help teach what you need to succeed,” said Gallagher. “We hope to facilitate meaningful conversation during our general body meetings and encourage everyone to share their thoughts and ideas regardless of seniority or position.”