1 October 2019
Protests took place across the world on Sept. 20 and members of the UCCS community participated in the protest in front of Colorado Springs City Hall. The Global Climate Strike was meant to call attention to inaction on climate change, and according to the website coordinating the event protests took place in 150 countries.
Of the close to 100 people who participated in the strike at city hall, UCCS’ Margo Pengilly, Nate Siebert and Linda Kogan stood with the crowd who met at the same time as the Colorado Youth Climate Strike.
Kogan is an advisory member of the Green Action Fund (GAF), sustainability director and co-founder of Students for Environmental Awareness (SEAS). Kogan, like all faculty members, were required to use leave time to participate in the demonstration. According to Kogan, UCCS administration did not take a formal stance on the strike.
“We are only one of a handful of state schools nationwide to require a sustainability focused course as part of the general education requirement for all students,” Kogan said.
UCCS was ranked No. 6 by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education out of master’s institutions and ranked No. 8 in energy conservation in their August report. Colorado College ranked No. 1 for water conservation, with the only other school in Colorado noted for their sustainability practices being Colorado State University in Fort Collins who ranked in the top 10 in five categories.
According to Kogan, the amount of sustainable practices campus businesses can enforce is determined by creating a balance between what is green and what students, faculty and staff purchase.
Kogan consults with students and provides examples of what has been done at other schools to address sustainability initiatives. UCCS has three sustainability strategic plans and is working on a fourth.
Pengilly is a sustainability assistant at the Sustainability House on campus and secretary of the GAF. Both of her roles are centered around education and awareness on ways to reduce environmental impacts.
“One of our biggest priorities is to educate campus on what is happening and not only what is happening and how to fix it and act in ways that are better for the climate.”
The Sustainability House is a model on how to offset carbon emissions, furnished with emission-reducing technology.
According to Pengilly, the Sustainability House shows how to run a sustainable home in achievable ways, and staff members offer suggestions for recommendations for appliances and techniques to reduce consumption.
Pengilly said that student-led initiatives at UCCS created the hydration stations, coffee shop discounts for reusable cups and the bookstore’s reusable bag exchange with the UCCS beekeeping farm.
“It is still bureaucratic. There are steps you have to meet and hoops you have to jump through, but as long as we do that from our end, making sure that we are covering all our bases, it works out well with the university,” said Pengilly.
According to Pengilly, any student can request money from the GAF to develop sustainability projects on campus.
“It is really important that students know that they can have a lot of power and say in what the university does and doesn’t do,” said Pengilly.
Siebert, the faculty advisor for SEAS and lecturer in the Geography and Environmental Studies Department, said that SEAS works to maintain a dialogue between students, staff and faculty.
“What’s important to me about this particular strike is that it was initiated by young folks,” Siebert said.
SEAS was formed in 2003 by a group of UCCS students, with a mission to educate other students about ways to be more efficient and environmentally conscious. Programs like GAF and SEAS are primarily student focused and, according to Siebert, that is in part due to administrative inaction on climate change.
“I think it’s important to remember that the university is not one homogeneous thing, but a collection of a lot of different groups with a lot of different interests and values, some of which are pretty attuned to questions of sustainability, and some of which aren’t,” Siebert said.
UCCS is currently ranked No. 25 in the nation by the Sierra Club Cool Schools for sustainability accomplishments. In addition to their sustainability projects, the UCCS Sustainability Department will be hosting a free Sustainability Summit Nov. 12.