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March 25, 2010 Volume 31, No. 25

A show-me role model

Meighan Walsh

Sustain Mizzou volunteers Meighan Walsh (left, with sign) and Monica Everett (in pea pod costume) seek donations to the Central Missouri Food Bank March 23 in Speakers Circle. The donations are used to purchase locally grown, sustainable food to donate to the food bank. The food drive continues through March 27. Rob Hill photo


Mizzou hosts statewide sustainability conference

Sustainability-savvy students from around the state spent last weekend on the MU campus. The second annual Show-Me Sustainability Conference was hosted March 19, 20 and 21 by Sustain Mizzou. Despite the snowfall on the eve of spring, 50 attendees met in the Anheuser-Busch Natural Resources building; that’s an increase from the 32 attendees at last year’s conference.

Student representatives see this event as a way to collaborate on what works and what doesn’t when it comes to matters of sustainability on college campuses. The colleges represented were: University of Missouri, University of Missouri-Kansas City, Truman State University, Washington University, Drury University, Maryville University, Missouri S&T, and Missouri State University.

On March 19, the conference began with breakfast and mingling in the lobby of the Natural Resources Building. Representatives from clean energy campaigns, the Missouri Resource Assessment Partnership and the MU Sustainability Office were present to meet with attendees and show support for the environmentally friendly message of the conference.

“Sometimes you can feel like the only voice on this issue,” said Steve Burdic, MU sustainability coordinator. “But at events like this, where everyone from around the state comes together, you realize that you’re not alone.”

The highlight of the event was the keynote address from Jared Cole, Sustain Mizzou founder and a 2006 graduate of the university. Cole’s message has roots in his environmental education experience at a Bronx (New York) middle school.

“The environment provides many opportunities for practicing skills and critical thinking,” said Cole. He found more success in teaching state science curriculum through hands-on activity, and he routinely fights for more ecosystem education.

Conference coordinators planned breakout sessions around Cole’s speech. Those workshops included lessons on grant writing, recruiting more members and presentations on sustainability measures on campuses around the state. One of those presentations came from students at Drury University in Springfield, Mo. They spoke about integrating bike-friendly policies on campuses dominated by vehicle traffic.

One common discussion among attendees of the conference centered on how to secure funding. Washington University recently passed a new measure to generate dollars for sustainability projects.

“We created a sustainability fund that pools a new fee for students,” said Adam Hasz, a Washington University sophomore. “Students can apply for grants to help pay for their eco-friendly plans.”

Where did Washington University get the inspiration for their new sustainability fee? “We were very impressed with what Mizzou did with their sustainability fee. The MU fund was definitely one of the models we wanted to replicate,” said Hasz.

MU students voted to pass a Missouri Student Association proposal implementing a $1 sustainability fee for each MU student in February 2009.  That fee went into effect for the fall 2009 semester, creating a pool of money for sustainability grants.

Grace Rathert, an MU sophomore and coordinator of the Show-Me Sustainability Conference, says funds from the MU sustainability fee helped Sustain Mizzou pay for the cost of the event.

While participants shared ideas at the conference, they also engaged in action. Attendees signed the constitution of the newly formed Missouri Student Environmental Coalition. The creation of this new statewide organization marks the development of a network for Missouri student environmental organizations to communicate regularly about sustainability issues on their campuses. Leaders of this coalition say it will leverage resources to pass more eco-friendly initiatives on Missouri college campuses.

The Show-Me Sustainability Conference travels to Maryville University in St. Louis for 2011. —David Wietlispach