Going green: Campus club encourages student environmental action

Joshua Svaty, Democratic gubernatorial candidate, visits with the Students for Environmental Action group at Hale Library in Manhattan, Kan. on Nov. 7, 2017. Svaty and the group met to discuss environmental issues that affect Kansas. (File photo by Alex Shaw | Collegian Media Group)

Environmental issues are considered a controversial topic by many, but the Students for Environmental Action club not only discusses climate change and other ecological problems at Kansas State, it actively tries to fix them.

Mary Conner, SEA vice president and junior in horticulture, said the fact that some people can be “apathetic” or opposed to environmental sustainability is one of the club’s bigger challenges.

“People don’t like change,” Conner said. “If you can’t see how improvements would be better, whether that be in cleaner energy or sustainable agriculture, if you can’t see that changing things would be for the greater good, then I think it’s hard to want that.”

SEA holds meetings every Tuesday evening to teach club members different ways of being proactive about climate change in their daily lives. The meetings are held at 7:30 p.m. in Hale Library, Room 301.

SEA recently hosted Joshua Svaty, former Secretary of Agriculture in Kansas and a current Democratic candidate for Kansas governor, to speak about his environmental platform on Nov. 7.

Amber Berg, SEA president and junior in regional and community planning, said the event with Svaty was an easy way to encourage students to make an impact on the environment.

“We just thought it would be a good time,” Berg said. “This governor race is a really good opportunity to get a lot of students involved at the state level very easily.”

Conner said Svaty’s platform talks about using sustainable agriculture methods while maintaining ties to rural Kansas. Because Svaty’s platform is based around sustainability, Conner said the club was “definitely on board for some of his ideas about the future.”

Allyssa Decker, graduate student in environmental design and planning, said Svaty coming to speak was a beneficial event that focused on environmental problems within the state of Kansas. These problems can be issues regarding water usage or soil erosion.

“I think it was great for the people in our group who are from Kansas to see that there are politicians out there that really care about the environment and care about trying to find progressive solutions for some of the major issues that Kansas is experiencing,” Decker said.

Another way SEA helps its members learn about environmental issues is to show documentaries like “Before the Flood” or “Bag It.” Conner said one of the bigger movements the club is working on is trying to put a ban on plastic shopping bags at K-State to help limit the university’s plastic use.

“It’s still very much in the early works, but it’s something our whole group is pretty passionate about,” Conner said. “We might be teaming up with a member of SGA to do a styrofoam ban, which is also very early in the works.”

Conner said the shopping bags at K-State could be switched out for paper instead of plastic.

“It’s such an easy switch,” Conner said.

Another activity the club is working toward is developing an energy report for the university’s older buildings. Berg said the end goal will be to show the university that buildings can be made more energy efficient and still save the university money.

“We just look through and inventory the energy use of older buildings on campus, and we’re hoping to collect that data and present it to the university,” Berg said.

The group sometimes participates in game day recycling, where they recycle materials left at Bill Snyder Family Stadium after a football game.

SEA also holds a “green week” between Earth Day and Arbor Day.

“It’s … a week of a bunch of different events geared toward sustainability,” Conner said.

Decker said the actions the club encourages can also be as small as day-to-day activities.

“I think the biggest thing that goes a long way is just learning about little, everyday things we can do to help live a more sustainable lifestyle,” Decker said.

Decker said this member education on day-to-day routines varies from recycling common objects to making reusable grocery bags.

“I showed a video on how to make reusable bags out of old T-shirts, and it’s little things like that that go a long way,” Decker said.

Conner encourages any interested students to become a part of SEA. Conner said student leadership is important for developing an environmentally sustainable university.

“If you’re interested in helping the planet in any facet, we’re a very student-led organization,” Conner said. “If you have any ideas about changes that need to be made or could be made on campus, we love hearing those out.”

My name is Emily Moore and I'm a senior majoring in English and mass communications with a minor in leadership. I love to read, write and edit. During my free time, I enjoy doing crossword puzzles, rock climbing and spending time with my friends.