Sustainability Club works to turn UD green

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By: Cassie Debolt – Staff Writer & Byron Hoskinson – News Editor

In its decade of existence at the University of Dayton, Sustainability Club has more than lived up to its name; it has flourished.

Founded in 2004 by alumnus John Seryak, the club has become an increasingly visible and influential part of the UD community and this year will elevate its campus engagement to an entirely new level, according to Director of Sustainability Week and senior mechanical engineering major Ryan Schuessler.

In addition to annually hosting Sustainability Week, the organization has branched into some unlikely corners of the university and Dayton communities, according to club president and junior finance major Forrest Broussard.

“For years, Sustainability [Club] has been cultivating relationships with a variety of other organizations and campus groups, as well as members of faculty, staff and administration,” Broussard said.

He said those relationships have resulted in the creation of a sustainability-focused minor, a Sustainability Chair in the Student Government Association, weekly farmers markets and burgeoning relationships with the schools of arts and sciences and business.

Former club president and senior mechanical engineering major Chris Wagner said the club has invested great time and energy into working with various university departments such as Facilities Management and Dining Services “to generate solutions that both engage the general student body as well as enhance Dayton’s commitment to sustainability.”

Wagner said the club’s efforts have impacted university policy in immediately tangible ways.

“In the past academic year, Dr. Curran has signed the President’s Commitment to Climate, pledging that the university shall be carbon neutral by the year 2050 through changes in policy and energy conservation measures,” Wagner said.

“Even more recently,” he continued, “the University of Dayton was the first Catholic university to divest from fossil fuels following student interest in divestment,” as reported in Flyer News on Aug. 27.

Wagner said the decision “represents a huge shift in the mindset of [UD] administration.”

Broussard said the club’s mutualistic relationships with other organizations have been a boon to its ability to host and organize events such as Sustainability Week, which features a robust schedule culminating in the first ever Sustainability Summit this year.

Broussard said the club’s partnerships have also resulted in the receipt of sponsorship from companies such as PepsiCo and funding from the university for sustainable projects.

“The state of sustainable culture on campus has vastly improved in recent years,” Broussard said.

Schuessler said the goal of the Summit is “to educate both students and the greater community about the various issues facing us today” and is intended “to inspire those parties to take action by making changes in their lives and giving back to their communities.”

He said the Summit will have two tracks: “The Responsible Generation and Usage of Energy” and “Sustainable Food Systems.”

Schuessler said each track will feature presentations and workshops hosted by interested and active local businesses and organizations, and will conclude after a keynote address by noted environmentalist Joel Salatin.

Schuessler said he hopes the summit will continue to develop in focus and grow in size in coming years, thereby positively contributing to sustainable culture on campus.

Broussard said he is focused on continually cultivating the organization’s extant relationships while developing new partnerships on campus and throughout the larger community. He said he would also like to see the creation of a sustainability major at UD in the near future.

“With sustainability, there’s always room for growth,” Wagner said.