Carleton at AASHE

5 November 2015

Carleton students at AASHE student summit

    The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) holds an annual conference, and this year, it was held at the Minneapolis Convention Center.  The theme for this year’s conference was “Transforming Sustainability Education.”  The conference had an all-day student summit on Sunday, October 25, which 25 Carleton students attended.  The student summit featured a mix of keynote speakers and breakout sessions on a variety of sustainability topics.  Some of the breakout sessions that Carleton students attended were: national collaboration on the student sustainability movement, behavioral change, the fair trade movement, cultural sustainability, sustainability as a movement, and leading a life of impact.  Students reported that these breakout sessions were valuable for thinking about sustainability initiatives that Carleton could implement on campus.  Some ideas students came up with include: a Green Fund, which would delegate a fraction of each student’s tuition to a fund for sustainability projects, becoming a Fair Trade Certified campus, creating a collaborative event about diversity in sustainability, and getting reusable take-out containers in Sayles.  Overall, this student summit provided a fantastic opportunity for Carleton’s students to engage in the sustainability movement with other students from around the US and develop ideas for initiatives to implement on campus.

    In addition to the Student Summit, there were three days of workshops, tours, case studies, panel discussions, exhibits, and keynote addresses.  Five Carleton students and five Carleton staff and faculty members presented on various topics over two of these three days.  Representing the students, Brent Murcia presented on Divestment and Warming Huts, Sarah Goldman and Charlotte Beal presented on The Real Food Calculator, and Emma Vinella-Brusher and Shira Kaufman presented on Food Recovery.  Representing the staff and faculty, Martha Larson presented on the wind turbines and project management, Mary Savina presented on carbon sequestration, Steve Spehn presented on collaborating between sustainability and finance, Martha Larson and Melissa Eblen-Zavas presented on incorporating community sustainability initiatives into curriculum, and Katie McKenna presented on The Real Food Calculator.  Emma Vinella-Brusher reflected on her poster session with Shira Kaufman on Food Recovery Network at Carleton, where they talked about how food recovery is helping to address food waste on Carleton’s campus and hunger in the local Northfield and Fairbault communities.  Emma said, “Some of the statistics about both of these issues are shocking.  For example, 1 in 9 Minnesotans suffers from food insecurity but only 3% of food waste is recovered or composted nationally.”  This poster session provided ample opportunity to discuss the importance of food recovery and inform people on how to get food recovery started on their own campus.  One thing Emma was really excited about regarding her poster presentation was the opportunity to meet the national Food Recovery Network’s Executive Director.  Emma said that, “[the Executive Director] was very excited about how much of a success our program has been on campus.”  It’s exciting that we have so many students and staff at Carleton being able to speak at these events and share all the cool things they are working on around campus.

    When asked about her favorite part of the conference, Emma Vinella-Brusher said, “I’m very interested in transportation, so I really enjoyed going to a couple of sessions related to sustainable transportation.”  She said she attended a session about how “alternative forms of transportation can actually save money compared to driving,” and the other session was about “using GIS modeling and survey data to inform local transportation decisions.”  Clearly these sessions had an impact on her, because she walked away with lots of ideas for programs to implement on campus and in the greater Northfield area.  One program she is really excited about implementing is a bike share program on campus.  She said, “This spring, actually, one of my projects will be a pilot program of bike share for faculty and staff.  Hopefully that will be a success, and we can eventually expand to include students too!”  Overall, Emma really enjoyed the conference because she got the opportunity to meet some really great, passionate people while learning a lot about transforming sustainability education.  “The conference was fantastic at getting people excited about sustainability and all the great ways they can implement it on their campuses.”