Live Green, student-run initiative, aims to bridge gaps in campus sustainability

Monday, December 3, 2018 - 2:25pm

Live Green came about after Lee scrolled through Maize Pages to find sustainability clubs he could join at the University.

Live Green came about after Lee scrolled through Maize Pages to find sustainability clubs he could join at the University. Buy this photo
Amelia Cacchione/Daily

Live Green UMich, a new student-run social entrepreneurship organization on campus, is showcasing sustainability efforts by University of Michigan groups in an effort to help student across campus get more involved.

The group was started this semester by Business sophomore Marcus Lee, LSA senior Ian Martin, Arts & Design junior Jenna Tanner and LSA senior Lauren Weiss, students in lecturer Eric Fretz’s course on Entrepreneurial Creativity, cross-listed between the Applied Liberal Arts curriculum and the Department of Psychology. 

By connecting University organizations across campus, Live Green is aiming to raise awareness about how students can live a more sustainable lifestyle. From there, students themselves can take initiatives to make an impact on the University and on their community. 

Lee came up with the idea for Live Green after scrolling through Maize Pages to find sustainability clubs. He found it prohibitively difficult to navigate and sort through the multitude of sustainability clubs on campus.

“Our mission is to make two types of connections,” Lee said. “The first is to make connections between sustainability groups at Michigan, and to build engagement between people who are already really interested in sustainability. And the second is to connect those people with the people who do not know a lot about sustainability at Michigan.”

Weiss said though resources like the University’s Student Sustainability Initiative provide some opportunities for students to take action in sustainability, those who are not in the Program in the Environment may still feel they cannot make a difference.

“We recognize there’s this gap between people in the realm of sustainability who know a lot about it, especially in the student body, and people in the realm who know very little about it,” Weiss said. “So we want to bridge that gap by promoting sustainability on our blog.”

While originally operating as a database of club information and events, the Live Green team decided a blog would be a more interactive and accessible way to reach students. Tanner said Live Green hopes to be an engaging platform for busy college students who do not have the time to look through administrative sites like Planet Blue and the Sustainable Students Initiative.

“There’s so many other things that are being thrown at you as a student here, it’s sometimes hard to take a step back and see other things,” Tanner said. “On the Planet Blue website, there’s so much information on it, but you have to search for it. And that’s inconvenient and we already have limited time, so you’re probably not going to search for it unless you’re really passionate about it. So trying to make content light material, but important, makes it more impactful.”

LSA junior Emily Fisher, head of Marketing for Student Food Co., a group selling local produce to students at affordable prices, is  featured on Live Green’s Instagram and blog. While she has not seen an immediate impact from Live Green’s work, she believes education is an important part of driving student involvement in campus sustainability.

“Education is always a good method,” Fisher said. “Try to educate students on the importance of sustainable living, or a sustainable way of life. Why living sustainably is important to them specifically.”

Business senior Grant Faber was glad to see Live Green enter a niche he did not see other administrative groups filling. As a Program in the Environment minor and the president of Students for Clean Energy, he recognized the difficulty for most students not studying the environment to learn about the wide variety of sustainability efforts on campus.

“It’s nice to just have this centralized platform for the concept of sustainability overall, and to share news about it and kind of publicize certain information,” Faber said. “It’s difficult because there’s been such a proliferation of sustainability-related clubs, it’s hard maybe being someone who joins a clean energy club to learn about opportunities in sustainable food. Particularly if they’re not a (Program in the Environment) major or minor and on that email list. How would you ever find about that stuff? I think there definitely was a space and Live Green seems to be filling it, hopefully they stick around.”

With regards to getting more involved in campus sustainability, Faber said students need to take initiative and commit to a project they are passionate about, whether it is in the food or energy sector.

“I would say the first step is joining some kind of sustainability-related organization, one that relates to your interests,” Faber said. “There’s a whole little community of sustainability-interested students at U-M, and the same names start popping up when you’re in the space long enough. And so kind of inserting yourself into that network is a good way to start.”

Environment and Sustainability graduate student Lexi Brewer, president of Sustainability Without Borders, agreed, saying the first step to getting more involved in campus and global sustainability is to pay attention to environment-related issues and policies being discussed at all levels. After becoming informed, students can get engaged with these problems.

“Even here locally in Ann Arbor, they’re making some pretty big changes about their climate change plans, and I think it’s important that we pay attention to those things and we are creating the future that we desire to see,” Brewer said. “And that can’t happen if we’re not part of the dialogue. And you can’t be a part of the dialogue if you don’t know it’s happening.”

Live Green plans to become an official student organization next semester, which would enable them to recruit editors, writers and photographers. Weiss hopes that in a few years, they can show a concrete impact on campus sustainability.

“I’m really hopeful that it makes an obvious impact in terms of the metrics that are recorded, like the sustainability metrics on campus,” Weiss said. “I mean that was the ultimate goal, to make a real impact.”

Live Green currently has a grant from SSI to fund its website, but Lee plans on applying for an optiMize grant in the future.

Brewer believes giving students the space to learn is the best way of allowing them to make an impact.

“U-M has a really great capacity in terms in our resources, but the greatest resource that we have is our students that are so passionate and so engaged,” Brewer said. “So understanding what resources are available and allowing them to ask the questions to have those opportunities and to make the world a better place.”