How does Fort Lewis involve students in campus sustainability? Through a largely student-run group, The Environmental Center, sixteen project leaders aim to keep the college environmentally conscious through a variety of efforts.
The FLC Environmental Center is a Student Sponsored Organization in which students are given the chance to run campus sustainability projects with the assistance of staff members, Sadie Magnifico, co-coordinator of the EC, said.
The projects are one of three main drivers for sustainability on campus, with the other two being the environmental academic department and the Campus Sustainability Committee, she said.
If a student has an idea for a project, it’s up to them to do the required initial research, Bianca Prather, senior at FLC and member of the EC, said.
“Once they kind of have a general idea of what they want, they go to our supervisors, Marty Pool and Sadie Magnifico, who then help with the admin side of things,” Prather said.
Magnifico and Pool are the two staff members in the EC office, and primarily assist students in their projects, Magnifico said.
Prather runs the Free Store project, which is a project the average student might have seen in passing or even taken part of. It’s a program that gathers any kind of donation from students, staff or faculty, and hosts a weekly giveaway of these items in the student union, she said.
“It’s basically like a mini campus thrift-store,” Prather said. “Any donations we can’t accept, we take to the humane society or dispose of them properly, whether that’s properly recycling electronics, or metals, stuff like that”.
Being the leader of this project is no small task, Prather explained.
“The beginning of the semester is when I put in the most work,” she said. “That’s when we have a stockpile of donations from break to go through''.
This means sorting through all kinds of different materials, separating each type of item and organizing them based on convenience to the customer, she said.
“It’s a lot of behind the scenes work,” she said. “Basically my whole job is just organizing stuff and making sure it’s easy for students to see and take.”
The Free Store also collaborates with various campus entities, such as Grubhub, she said.
The Free store project is one of the longest running at the EC, having been around for nearly a decade, she and Magnifico said.
On the more artistic side of things, Marina Galasso runs the Environmental Center Mural Project, which revolves around the mural in the EC.
“Every two to three years, they redo the EC mural, and we try to make it something that makes people aware or engaged in what’s going on around us”, she and Magnifico said.
What’s notable is that this project is largely shaped by the students of FLC, Galasso said.
“I emailed a survey with six different options to the student body, and I’m having the student body vote”, she said. “So far, Native lands, climate change, and clean water and rivers are the top three choices.”
Although the project may not directly contribute to practicing sustainability, the goal of it has more to do with influencing mindsets, she said.
“I think it’s more bringing awareness to important topics and hopefully bringing awareness to the EC itself,” she said.
The chosen topics are incorporated into the artwork of the mural, like issues surrounding water being represented by rivers, she said.
“I’m starting with the survey because I want student engagement as much as possible,” she said.
Galasso plans to have the new mural put in place by December 3.
Senior Ellis McNichol talked about her project, which organizes gatherings for members of the EC, as well as people who want to collaborate with them, she said.
“The idea with these gatherings is to create a space to share and empower initiatives that are being taken by project leads,” she said.
While the purpose of this project mainly revolves around the initiatives of the EC, McNichol said that it also aims to provide a way for students to connect.
“A lot of my focus this semester is to help out other project leads, and reaching students with their projects and getting more people involved,” she said.
The purpose of this project is largely about keeping the emotional experience of collaborating with the EC a good one, according to McNichol.
Furthermore, the gatherings are, in large part, intended for the students who are not yet familiar with the EC but still want to help out with sustainability on campus, she said.
McNichol aims to keep the nature of these gatherings fun and supportive in order to give new, unacquainted students a positive impression of the EC, she said.
“It creates a positive connection for sustainability work on campus.” she said.
In addition, she stated that having meetings with project leads in person, especially after the pandemic, creates a much more tangible opportunity for students to involve themselves with campus sustainability.
Other projects with the EC include a program of donating E-bikes to students, a campaign to reduce waste by educating students on the importance of distinguishing trash and recycling, as well as a program of giving renter efficiency kits to students, with items such as light bulbs and showerheads, Prather said.