Going Green at TC – Reflections on a Year as Go Green Senator

The last time I ran for office was back in high school. I lost. In the intervening 12 years since then, I never felt that I had missed out on something by not getting elected. I never thought I would run for student government (or any other office for that matter) again. In the fall of 2016, however, when I started classes at TC, I heard about the Go Green Senator position on the Student Senate. Suddenly, I felt there was a role for me in student government, tailor made for my interest in environmental sustainability. I jumped at the chance and, thanks to my peers, was chosen to serve the student body as the Go Green Senator for the 2016-2017 school year.

The purpose of the Go Green Senate position is to represent the environmental interests of the student body. Any student with concerns or questions about composting, recycling, energy or sustainability in an educational context can work with this senator to find answers and spread awareness. The Go Green Senator also helps students plan events with an environmental focus and liases with the administration on issues of sustainability that concern the community as a whole. As a school of education, it is vital that TC graduate educators well-versed in environmental issues, as we will be the ones teaching tomorrow’s leaders of industry, technology, business and political thought.

Despite the clear need for this work, the senate position is relatively new, having been created only around 2012. My predecessor, Abhijit Tagade, focused on many broad issues of concern for the campus, such as raising awareness about food waste, encouraging the College to divest from fossil fuels and creating more green space in Russell Courtyard. I had a lot of inspiration going into the position, as those who served before me had paved the way for great relationships and initiatives. As Abhijit says, “Green is the future that must come first. Climate change will be perhaps one of the most important social justice issues of this century, and the Student Senate cannot do without a Go Green student leader." I heartily agree and felt that part of my role would be carrying on his vision, while also developing some new ideas of my own.

Over the past year, I worked with the Senate to host a movie screening, perform a waste audit and push the administration to pursue an alternative to the disposable takeout containers in Grace Dodge Dining Hall. This fall, the new Ozzi machine was unveiled in the dining hall, which should help to reduce waste going to landfill. If you haven’t already picked up your token for use in the machine, please do so as soon as you can!

One of the greatest challenges of the position is getting people motivated to act. TC is a caring, compassionate community committed to social justice, yet environmental issues are often seen as separate, or worse in conflict with, social justice issues. To me, these issues are inextricably intertwined. How can we create just communities when people of color and low income communities are disproportionately affected by air pollution, contaminated drinking water, food deserts and the impacts of climate change? Addressing these environmental issues on a global and local scale will help lead to better lives for all inhabitants of our amazing planet. The Go Green Senator is a position with great potential to make a positive impact on our TC community and the world at large. I invite everyone in the TC community to find ways to get involved in promoting a healthier planet. The 2017/2018 Go Green Senator is Michael Treco (mdt2140@tc.columbia.edu), so please contact him if you have any ideas for how TC can be more sustainable or events that should take place here.