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Office of Sustainability hires interns for Reunions greening efforts

The Office of Sustainability chose three interns for the spring semester to design and implement projects to make Reunions more sustainable, according to Director of the Office of Sustainability Shana Weber.

Internship applications were solicited through an email circulated mostly within sustainability groups at the University.Weber said that members of the Office met with all students who expressed interest and then asked the students to return with proposals for ideas brought up in the meeting.

According to Weber, the Office looked for candidates who demonstrated problem-solving abilities, well-organized thinking, clarity around purpose as well as initiative and teamwork. Proposals included both singular and group projects, according to Weber.

Weber added that six to seven students applied. Three freshmen were chosen as interns, according to Lisa Nicolaison, program coordinator for the Office of Sustainability.

“I’m from a really green liberal town and it’s what I grew up doing,” intern Erin Mooz ’19 said. “I pulled recyclable items out of the trash, and I feel like it’s some easy fixes.”

Intern Kelly Van Baalen ’19 noted she thought the application process was rather relaxed.

“The meeting was mostly people talking about their projects, and if you have a good idea or drive to work on any of the projects, they will give you the funding,” she said.

Van Baalen said she applied to be an intern because, as opposed to being a part of a student group, she would have the opportunity to work with the University and saw it as a good opportunity to accomplish environmental goals.

Mibs Southerland Mara, Associate Director for Reunions in the Office of Alumni Affairs, was unavailable for comment.

“With [the interns’] help, we’re hoping to have some really tangible solutions to some of this year’s efforts at Reunions,” Weber said.

Weber said that the Office has been working with the Office of Alumni Affairs and other departments to coordinate efforts for Reunions for many years and has received much interest. The Office of Sustainability has also worked with alumni classes to pilot projects.

According to Weber, the interns’ projects include how to reuse the plastic beer cups used at Reunions and a sustainability award for student crews – a partnership with University Facilities.

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For example, Nicolaison noted that “the first and thirtieth Reunion Classes are piloting a ‘no linen’ option in their registration forms to allow alumni an option of saving money by bringing their own linens. Future Reunions forms will include this option.”

Intern Amber Lin '19 said that one plan is to recycle the cups into something reusable for the University. The cups are made of No. 5 plastic, a durable, microwave-safe plastic.

According to Weber, the Office of Sustainability is focusing on Reunions because of the opportunities it offers for promoting sustainability awareness to a large number of people.

“I think it’s our biggest challenge as far as events are concerned and people come from all over the world and there’s an enormous effort to manage the waste associated with it,” Weber said.

She noted that Reunions provides an opportunity to think about how to reinforce a culture of sustainability during a large, well-attended event. Weber likened it to a service project and said that sustainability as an avenue for service could be a part of other campus events as well.

“Lots of people have ideas, it’s just a matter of getting everyone to work together,” Van Baalen said.

She added that this event will be challenging, but ultimately attainable if everyone cooperates.

“Reunions are famous for so many things and it’ll be exciting when it’s more well known for being more sustainable and more green,” Mooz said.

“[What] we’re excited about is how, kind of, Reunions reinforces this culture of sustainability, rather than being an exception to it,” Weber said.

She noted the importance of student and alumni involvement in making plans successful.

“If we crack Reunions, we can crack anyevent,”she said. “It’s a worthy challenge.”