Going Green with the Center for the Environment

07/09/12 by Sydney Smith

Sustainable Catawba members show off their "Think Green" t-shirts
Sustainable Catawba members show off their "Think Green" t-shirts.

Catawba College supports a wholesome, well-rounded education – it’s quite apparent with the diverse student population of athletes, actors, writers, musicians, and many others on campus. However, thanks to Catawba’s own Center for the Environment, the college can instill yet another value in its student population: the importance of living in an environmentally-friendly fashion.

The Center for the Environment is an organization devoted to educating not only Catawba’s faculty, staff, and students about green living but also the greater community. Founded in 1996, the organization has since worked to spread environmental awareness to the college, the community and beyond. Today, the Center for the Environment building serves as a home to classes, meetings and communications concerning Catawba’s environmental programs.

For any students interested in going green, the Center for the Environment offers numerous opportunities. Sustainable Catawba, the campus-wide movement to make the college a more environmentally-friendly place, incorporates a plethora of efforts made by different groups around campus. For example, Chartwells, the college food service provider, offers reusable to-go boxes in the cafeteria, reducing waste.

Under the Sustainable Catawba program are also two student environmental clubs, ECO and GEO. ECO, or Environmental Catawba Outreach, is a student-led awareness organization that holds events to expose students to greener living. GEO, or Green Education Outreach, offers a stipend to students accepted into the program, which promotes awareness and education through its ambassadors.

Campus-wide recycling was introduced to Catawba in the early 1990s by a student-led movement to reduce waste. As years passed, the recycling initiative fluctuated with student interest. In 2001, students met with college officials at a special seminar to propose hiring someone to help make recycling an institution in Catawba’s campus life. The proposal was a success. Currently there are numerous places to recycle materials around campus, and resident students are encouraged to place recyclable materials in reusable bags as they accumulate in their rooms.

Special internships are also available through the Center for the Environment for interested students. The students chosen for these positions are able to focus on a specific aspect of making Catawba greener, allowing them to take leadership and focus on an issue that interests them.

The Center for the Environment and its interns facilitate Sustainable Catawba “lunch-and-learn” opportunities for any members of Catawba’s student, faculty, and staff family. During the lunch, all are invited to gather for a meal during which environmental issues and concerns are discussed. Special cookouts are also held especially for incoming freshmen to expose them to campus life and living green.

Why should students care about making environmentally-conscious living decisions? According to Dr. John Wear, the Center’s executive director, the world is a constantly changing place, which contributes to a lot of pollution and resource depletion. As people delve deeper into consumerism, resources are abused, delivering a major hit to the environment. Wear describes the importance of encouraging people to take small steps to living greener on campus. He notes that any effort to conserve resources can benefit the environment. “The point is if we all do something, the cumulative effect really will make a difference,” he says.

Last year, the Center for the Environment guided a Sustainable Catawba campaign to obtain 193 signatures from students pledging to live a more environmentally-friendly lifestyle. The pledge served as a reminder of the students’ commitments to developing greener habits, like recycling.

For more information on the Center for the Environment, Sustainable Catawba, or student environmental organizations, contact the Center for the Environment at 704.637.4727.

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