Features

Sustainability and Civic Engagement Outside the Mac Bubble

The Sustainability Network brings together students from a variety of departments and organizations to work on sustainability-related projects from around campus. This column will describe a different project from Network workers each week. You can get in touch with the network with your ideas or questions by emailing fbeckel [at] macalester.edu or gqueenan [at] macalester.edu, or coming to our next meeting at noon on Sunday, March 8 in the Harmon Room. Below is an interview with CEC employee Li Guan.

TMW: What brings you to work with the Sustainability Network?

LG: I joined the Sustainability Network through my on-campus work study as the Environment & Sustainability Organizer at the Civic Engagement Center (CEC).

What do you do for your position at the CEC?

As an issue organizer, I connect Macalester students to environment and sustainability-related volunteer opportunities with nonprofits in the Twin Cities. I publicize volunteer opportunities through a monthly newsletter and social media. I also develop and maintain partnerships with local organizations through site visits.

What is the project you’re working on that you’re most excited about?

I’m currently working on a fundraising event called Empty Bowls that is coming up on March 29th (Sunday after spring break) from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the commons area in the art building. It is a collaborative effort between Prof. Gary Erickson from the Art Department, the CEC and on-campus students orgs including Oxfam, MULCH and Mac and Cheese. The event is open to the public and aims to raise awareness for hunger issues and food waste reduction. Participants will be served with bread and soup and may take a ceramic bowl home with them as a reminder that someone’s bowl is always empty. All the ceramic bowls donated to this event are hand-made by Mac students, staff and faculty. In addition, this event will be zero-waste in support of Mac’s zero -waste sustainability goal. The Mac Empty Bowl committee has been working on this event since last fall and we’re excited to see this event finally happening at the end of March!

What are some environment & sustainability related volunteers opportunities for students?

In the early Fall semester and late Spring semester, we have several one-time group volunteer events, including tree planting, river cleanup, restoration, farmer’s market produce rescuing, gardening and fruit picking. In the rest of the school year, we have environmental education related opportunities with local schools as well as energy efficiency related opportunities with Great Plain Institute and the CERTS program. Currently, we’re looking for volunteers to work on the design of food waste prevention workshops and a zero-waste event with the Mac-Groveland Community Council. We’re also recruiting for volunteers for the Empty Bowls Event.

Why do you do the work that you do? Why do you think this type of work is important?

In general, I enjoy getting to know more Mac students who have an interest in civic engagement and sustainability. I also like the opportunity to work with a variety of community partners in the Twin Cities. I believe direct actions can drive small but tangible change in the larger movement in addressing global environmental issues. Through service in the community, we can gain a better understanding of what the community truly needs and explore localized solutions for the community to advance its sustainability efforts. The urban setting of Mac provides a great set of resources for students be engaged and exposed to a variety of organizations that are doing great work. I think my work is important in that it connects students with these resources.

What do you hope for the future of sustainability at Macalester?

Success in achieving the sustainability goals at Mac hinges on shift in our daily behaviors in energy, water usage and waste sorting activities. I hope that through educational campaigns developed by the Sustainability Office and student orgs on campus, this shift could happen in the near future. I also hope students can have a closer connection with the broader Twin Cities community.

March 6, 2015

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