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How to get involved with Sustainability at U-M


Madi: Hi I’m Madi Foster and I’m here today to talk about how students can be sustainable here at the University of Michigan. And since a lot of times it can be hard to take action on climate change or on other environmental issues, because it seems like a really big and daunting problem, it can be good to take action with other people who are passionate about sustainability. Here I am with my friend Lena. We are both apart of the theme community called the sustainable living experience at the University of Michigan so we can speak from experience on what it's like to be surrounded by sustainable people. Het Lena!

Lena: Hi Madi!

M:SO what’s a student org that you are apart of that relates to sustainability?

L: SO I’m actually apart of the citizens climate lobby which is a University of Michigan affiliated group that’s basically what we do is we want to lobby congress for our carbon fee and dividend plan. That is bipartisan that would gradually phase carbon out of the industrial sector.

M: Cool that’s very interesting, what’s some of the benefits of being in a more action based group like the one you’re in?

L: Honestly, I feel like the best thing for me about being in an action-based group is that I feel like I’m actually doing things to combat climate change and other sustainability issues whereas when I’m just in class it makes me feel really sad. Like the problems just feels so big. But when I go to CCl meetings it’s a totally different thing like everyone’s focused like we all have actions plans like what are we gonna accomplish this meeting? Like let’s email the regents and tell them about specific sustainability goals we want to see for the university. And I’m actually with
this group I’m gonna go to Washington D.C.

M: Nice!

L: To actually lobby for this group and talk to our actual representatives from congress.

M: Why do you go to the Citizen’s Climate lobby to get involved instead of just  making changes
to your lifestyle on the individual level?

L: Well I do try to make changes in my individual lifestyle because people want to follow leaders that embody their values rather than just telling people about them because it’s very hypocritical to say “I believe in the environment”. Meanwhile I eat red meat everyday drive my car five hours a day like turn up my house to 90 degrees in the winter. Like you can’t live that kind of lifestyle and then ask other people to be sustainable. And I do feel like personal responsibility is important but I feel like there’s just a lot of underlying issues that make it so that as much as personal choice is important, it doesn’t address the root of the problem. The roots of the problem are more of a  um..

M: Policy level?

L: More of a systems level. SO we need to see systems level changes as well as personal changes. And if we do make those system level changes it will be way easier for people to make personal choices and that will encourage sustainability.

M: Right, what are these system level changes that you talk about?

L: So these system level changes, some of them include, well particularly for CCL its clean energy so when we clean our houses and light them that we have an option and that we do use clean energy but right know we just don’t have to option to do that sustainably. Other problems might include changes to the food system, basically anything you can think of can probably be improved on a systems level to be more sustainable.

M: SO going back to student organizations, what’s the level of knowledge that someone needs on sustainability or environmental science to join a sustainable organization?

L: Oh you need absolutely no knowledge of sustainability issues. I mean obviously it helps and most people that do join one have some knowledge on sustainability issues because that’s why they’re passionate about these groups and like seek them out. But when I first joined CCl I didn’t know anything about carbon fee and dividend plans I didn’t know what the heck that was. But they explained everything to me and they made me feel really welcome
and most environmentalists are pretty open to people that want to come and help them save the planet so I would say to anyone that wants to join a sustainability group that I can’t imagine it being scary or unwelcoming xperience. But feel free to ask questions, most people are happy to answer.

M:SO sustainability group are kind of like a way to learn about how to take action but learn about what the problems are as well?

L: Yeah I would agree with that that it’s a really good way to get involved.

M: So what are t=other obstacles that students might face when joining a sustainability organization might be time commitment, what would you say is the time commitment is for you in the citizen’s climate lobby?

L: Well the basic time commitment is we meet from 6 to 7:30 on Mondays and we do take attendance but it’s more just to see consistently how many people are coming to the meetings and is that time working for everyone a couple times I’ve had to leave early to make it to exam review sessions or other things that are happening on campus. And they’re very lenient on times and you can chose to as involved or uninvolved as you want to be.

M: Right and that’s probably true with most organizations

L: Yeah, it’s not like you get a participation grade it’s more about how fuffilled you want to feel personally.

M: So the take aways that any U of M student can get from this podcast episode is that joining sustainability organizations on campus is a really easy and wholesome way to get fulfillment from making a change in the world. You need little to no knowledge on sustainability to join most clubs and, usually, you can decide how much effort
you want to put in. While you might not see change right away, joining sustainable student org is the best way to get started. If you’re tired of just learning about topics concerning climate change and the environment and you
want to take action, are interested in sustainability and want to know more, or if you have ideas and you want to see them set in motion, then student orgs concerning climate change and sustainability are calling your name. Thanks for listening to my podcast! I hope you learned a lot and had a fun time listening, have a nice day!