Have you always wanted to become more environmentally active but weren’t sure where to begin? Earth Day turned 40 years old on April 22, 2010 -- the perfect incentive to make a new start! Here are a few how-to’s on not just decreasing your carbon footprint but walking the walk with BIG steps toward helping the environment.
How to: Rally a Student Action Group
Many universities allow students to petition to start their own groups, which is a great way to bring people together with similar interests. Sound daunting? Not necessarily …
- Choose an initiative.
Do you want to explore climate change? Find alternative, clean energy sources? Start a campus eco-awareness campaign? The more educated and passionate you are about a specific issue, the easier it is to create and meet goals -- which will likely lead to a sustainable organization.
- Start small.
When Jenny Dauer, a fourth-year doctoral student studying forest science and nutrient recycling at Oregon State University, helped organize the Global Environmental Change Organization in 2007, it consisted of only five people. Now, there are over 150 registered members! If you show others why they should care, chances are they will want to get involved.
- Put in the hours.
“It’s definitely something that takes a bit of time,” says Dauer. Try to meet at least monthly with members and even more with your executive committee.
- Divvy up duties.
Christiana Dietzen, an environmental studies major at the University of Pennsylvania and co-director of the Penn Environmental Group (PEG), says splitting the organization into committees makes it “efficient.” PEG’s approach is to break it down to four committees: on- and off-campus activities, political action and awareness.
- Get grants.
Whether you’re a science geek or have a more organic spin on things, consider getting a grant. Universities, the government and other organizations often offer grants for research and awareness, which can be extremely beneficial in funding your organization’s activities. Check with your school’s financial aid office or talk to any librarian to track down resources. (Do not pay for this service -- you can find it for free.)
How to: Kick off an Eco-career
You’ve heard of white- and blue-collar jobs. Well, now we have what are known as green-collar jobs. According to Phil Angelides, chair of Apollo Alliance, a coalition of business, labor and environmental groups, these jobs pay decent wages and benefits, offer upward mobility, and reduce waste and pollution … all while benefiting the environment.Steven J. Wright, professor of environmental and water resources at the University of Michigan, warns that some students may be “put off” by the math and science prerequisite aspects of many majors that are related to environmentalism. But Wright urges students not to be discouraged: “We need to have people across disciplines working with each other to solve [environmental] problems.”
Here, some diverse eco-majors for eco-careers:
- Conservation biology: natural resources specialist, marine biologist
- Environmental engineering: agricultural engineer, solar operations engineer
- Environmental design: green interior designer, urban planner
- Coastal management: oceanographer, coastal systems planner
- Environmental law: environmental protection specialist, water rights specialist, lobbyist
How to: Take It One Step Further
- You go camping … so why not plan an eco-trip?
Study whale sharks in Tanzania or survey wildlife in a Nigerian forest. Programs like fieldtripearth.org allow you to accompany environmental specialists on conservation projects. Check out ecotourdirectory.com for a comprehensive list of such travel.
- You recycle your cans … so why not start a compost pile?
Or recycle your compost. For $10 a month, Dietzen has a service that picks up her compost once a week.
- You buy organic produce … so why not grow your own?
Community gardens are gaining popularity, even in urban areas. They promote good health for both people and the environment. Or do something as simple as a window herb garden.
- You take the bus … so why not bike or walk?
Now that spring has arrived, it’s great to be outdoors. You’ll be doing the environment and your body a favor.
- You just read this article … so why not get involved?
Check out your school’s environmental organizations. Even if you don’t want to start a group, you can contribute to an existing one!
Talk it up!
Are you involved in environmental activism at your school and want to share your story? Tell us about it below!
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