Over the past few years, Smith College has gained many new on-campus organizations helping to better the campus community in their fight to become more sustainable. No matter how you choose to be more “green,” Smith College probably has a club on campus that will interest you – whether it be by riding your bike and taking it to the Bike Kitchen or eating fresh veggies that you planted in the Smith Community Garden! Many students are creating a buzz around campus about the many new and evolving organizations that are helping the environment at Smith, in Northampton, and even around the world. It is fantastic that the Smith College administration has supported change towards a more sustainable college lifestyle due to student-run organizations advocating for a greener campus. Two organizations that have especially taken big strides at Smith are the Smith College Green Team and the Engineers for a Sustainable World.
The Smith College Green Team has worked to help educate their campus community on how to lead more sustainable lives and created more opportunities for students to apply their environmental passion. They are a student-led coalition that collaborates with faculty and staff in order to transform certain practices that they feel will help the college become more efficient. The Smith College Green Team meets every other Tuesday in CEEDS (Center for the Environment, Ecological Design, and Sustainability) in the basement of Wright Hall for lunch conferences in order to discuss issues on campus and upcoming events – so feel free to join if you are on campus and have any ideas that could help their mission.
The Green Team started in 2010, and it has since grown into one of the more influential environmental groups at Smith College. They have made a huge impact on campus through bridging the gap between environmental activism and social rights issues. Green Team president and a two-year member of the organization, Siiri Bigalke, says, “Although many Smith students are passionate about addressing and fighting social inequalities, not all students recognize the fact that climate change and sustainability are in essence a human rights issue rather than simply an environmental issue. We hosted a Climate Justice open mic/spoken word event for this reason – it was a huge success I’d say.” It seems that the many events the Green Team has held on campus are having a huge effect on the Smith College community. Over 50 students and faculty members attended a trip to Washington, DC for the Keystone XL protest rally. Other previous events from this year include an Environmental Justice open mic night, an Environmental Justice Teach-In featuring Majora Carter (and also including Amherst Professor Jan Dizard), and many divestment related events. Many members of the Green Team are also working on a campaign to divest from fossil fuels, which has sparked collaboration amongst the five colleges. To learn more about the divestment campaign, you can go to: https://www.facebook.com/FiveCollegesAgainstFossilFuels?fref=ts
I recently asked Green Team president, Siiri Bigalke, some questions about this organization.
How many students usually participate in other Green Team events?
Our events usually have between 30 – 50 participants, I’d say. Bigger events like the Environmental Justice Teach-In featuring Majora Carter (an environmental justice advocate) had more than a hundred people. Our Earth Week Music Fest is always big too (over 100 attendees). Our divestment campaign has about 20 – 30 active members as well.
How has Green Team grown since its inception in 2010?
I started leading Green Team my freshman year, in the Fall of 2011. I’ve heard that previous years Green Team had been more connected with faculty members, however now it has really expanded and evolved into an (almost) purely student-initiated organization. Although, we still collaborate with admin/faculty quite often.
What other ways do you plan on expanding this organization?
We are always trying to include students from different backgrounds and interests. Hence, we’ve been trying to tie in social justice issues. The divestment campaign has also expanded the organization in some degree as well.
What upcoming events are you planning now?
We are having a “Fossil Fools” petition push for our divestment campaign as well as continuous divestment petitioning and promoting, a week long celebration of Earth Day, and we will be tabling for the Ed Markey campaign for the special Massachusetts senate election as he is opposed to the Keystone XL.
For more information on the Smith College Green Team as well as learn more about the many events they are hosting on campus go to:
Engineers for a Sustainable World (ESW) is a national non-profit organization committed to aiding people in need around the world while providing sustainable access to resources for current and future generations. They aim to reduce the waste and pollution produced by developed countries as well as help poorer nations obtain efficient access to water, food, and shelter.
Smith College started its own chapter of this organization on its campus to promote ESW through educational programs, sustainability-oriented design projects, and volunteer activities that foster practical and innovative solutions to address global challenges. This organization in particular has made a huge impact on the Smith College campus and was even awarded the Sustainable Leadership Award from the student government last spring (May 2012) for their work on a Cargo Cycle. Engineers for a Sustainable World created a chapter on the Smith College campus in 2005 and for the next few years did not complete any projects apart from an energy analysis of the campus. In 2011, the organization started to make a name for itself at Smith when Peace Young created the Cargo Cycle – a cargo bike designed for Catering Services to transport their goods and items across campus in an environmentally friendly way. Since then, more and more projects succeeded, such as a solar irrigation system design for the MacLeish Field Station (managed by Alex Julius). This semester, ESW has been hosting bimonthly “Think Tank” meetings where they discuss important environmental topics such as the Obama administration’s take on environmental justice, the Keystone pipeline, and solar cars. On 3/14, they will launch their model solar car racing competition. They are always looking for new members and are open to anyone with a passion for environmental justice through hands on, real world projects!
President Brittany Bennett was kind enough to answer some questions about ESW:
Would you be willing to help start other chapters of this organization on other five college campuses?
Yes! I am actually moving on to the National Team of Engineers for a Sustainable World and will be the Director of Chapter Relations. One of my responsibilities will be to aid other campuses in starting up ESW chapters. However, ESW at Smith is open to any 5 College students.
What other types of events do you hold?
In the Fall, we plan to bring professional engineers to campus for lectures, host student panels, and host hands-on workshops.
How are most of your projects organized (through larger organizations, teachers, students, etc.)?
ESW is run by subcommittees. Ideally this how it works – in any given semester we will have a Special Studies subcommittee. This is a group of upperclassmen engineers working on the design of a project for credit through a “special studies” with an adviser. Then the next semester the project gets turned over to the Fabrications subcommittee to be built or implemented. The Special Studies group then picks up another project. This way, ESW is never lacking a project!
Smith College has a hands-off approach to student organizations. Professor and advisers do not have any say in organizations. As a result, all the power is with the students and we can drive the organization however we want to. However, this also limits the magnitude of the projects we can do.
What upcoming projects are you planning?
Nothing is currently set in stone for the Fall. We want to put on a 5 College Sustainability in Engineering conference, so planning will probably start this in the Fall. We also may be starting the design of a hydroponics system. We are always on the lookout for student ideas!
By: Sarah Spector
For more information about Engineers for a Sustainable World at Smith College or to see some of their past and present projects go to:
**Sarah Spector is an Environmental Studies major at Amherst College.