Promoting Campus Environmentalism: University of Washington Student Martin Su Wins a Husky Green Award

Jun 17, 2011

Campus environmentalism is growing all over the country and students are thinking globally (and acting locally) like never before. Colleges like the University of Washington are even offering prizes to incentivize green-thinking amongst students. The Education Insider spoke with Martin Su, who recently received a Husky Green Award for his efforts to increase sustainability on campus, to learn more about how college students can save the planet.

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By Douglas Fehlen

Martin Su Husky Green Awards University of Washington

Martin Su will be a senior at the University of Washington next year, but he has already gained impressive experience and recognition promoting environmentalism on campus. His latest honor, a Husky Green Award, comes in the wake of intensive efforts to promote sustainable living initiatives at the UW.

Q. You recently were honored with a 2011 Husky Green Award. Can you share some information about this award?

A. The Husky Green Awards were started last year. They represent a way for the whole campus to recognize individuals and groups involved in green projects at the University of Washington. Awards are given each year to individuals and campus groups for environmentalism efforts. The award itself is made of recycled glass.

Q. Why were you nominated for a Husky Green Award?

A. I was nominated for my participation in Club SEED, which stands for 'Students Expressing Environmental Dedication.' I have been involved with the campus club since freshman year. I've served in liaison positions with the Sustainability Task Force and the Residence Hall Student Association. I have also been a regular member of the organization and sat on the climate action plan committee, the goal of which is to make the UW carbon-neutral by 2050. Additionally, I've served on the Compost Committee. This year I was the director of SEED.

Q. Can you provide more information about SEED at the University of Washington?

A. SEED is a residence hall-based environmental club that has three committees. There's the Reduce, Reuse, Recycle Committee, Compost Committee and the Outdoors Committee. Each committee is focused on different aspects of environmentalism. For instance, the Reduce, Reuse, Recycle Committee has overseen campaigns to reduce paper towel waste and bottled water use in residence halls.

The Compost Committee works to share information about composting with the UW community. A committee initiative called 'Trash Talk' gives volunteers the opportunity to provide residents with insight on what's compost, what's recyclable and what's trash. Posters are another way the committee tries to get the word out on proper disposal of waste.

The Outdoors Committee arranges excursions for our group. For example, we've had cleanup days around campus on which we pick up trash and try to beautify different areas. All committees focus on different things, but the general idea is to make the campus more aware of environmental issues and get people to take action.

Q. What is the Student P-Patch Garden on the UW campus?

A. The P-Patch is behind one of the residence buildings on campus. The plot of land is a place where students can grow plants and food. The Outdoors Committee oversees the space, restricting access to residents. It's an area for students interested in small-scale farming. They can plant things of their own, aid with the weeding or help with the compost station.

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Q. Can you talk about the One Thing Challenge, including the good-humored competition with cross-state rival Washington State (WSU)?

A. The One Thing Challenge was conceived by Housing and Food Service here at the University of Washington. It's a competition to determine whether students at the UW or WSU are greener in their campus habits. People can visit a website to pledge to do one thing to be more environmentally friendly. When a student pledges, her or his school gets a point. Whichever school totals the most points wins a trophy. The One Thing Challenge is a good way to get people engaged with the green movement while fostering school spirit.

Q. You have another year at UW. What do you plan to do as a senior to top winning a Husky Green Award?

A. I've decided to step down as SEED director and go back to my original Compost Committee chair because I want to do more hands-on activities. I like the kind of work you can do as chair of a committee, so that's my plan for next year with SEED. I also want to remain involved as an intern with the UW Environmental and Sustainability Office. It's been an amazing experience working with so many great people to plan campus activities for Earth Day. It will be nice if I can work with them again next year.

Q. You're earning a double major in communications and international studies. What will you do after graduation? Do you expect environmentalism to play a role?

A. I chose those majors because I liked them after taking introductory courses on the topics. I try to apply what I learn in classes to my environmentalism. In fact, the international studies program at the UW has different tracks, and I've chosen to follow that in environmental studies. I'm also working to get a minor in environmental studies, so that theme is strong in my academic work.

As for a career, I do want to try to do something related to the environment and sustainable living. That's definitely my plan. I'm not exactly sure what kind of work that will be, whether it is in a NGO (non-governmental organization) or business.

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