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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Reducing carbon footprints on campus

Texas A&Ms Aggie Sustainability Alliance is dedicated to promoting sustainability across campus through volunteer movements which include students, faculty and staff. 
Photo by Provided

Texas A&M’s Aggie Sustainability Alliance is dedicated to promoting sustainability across campus through volunteer movements which include students, faculty and staff. 

The Aggie Sustainability Alliance, or ASA, is offering a new certification program to student organizations across campus who have a desire for sustainability. It also continues to offer its individual faculty and student certification to sustainability-passionate individuals. 
Since the beginning of its operations in 2008, the Office of Sustainability has envisioned a community within Texas A&M that will launch sustainability as the focal point of the university values. Their website gives insight into their vision of creating eco-friendly communities by providing specific statistics of sustainability on campus, as seen in the 2020 Sustainability Highlights Report. For example, 71 percent of A&M academic departments, or those equivalent, offer at least one course related to sustainability, according to the report.
The ASA is a recent addition to the Office of Sustainability and has increased in its developments as an alliance over the course of a few years. Similar to the worldwide LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, certification, the ASA team has big plans for the future and will continue to produce other ideas to have greater impact on the Aggie sustainability network. According to the Office of Sustainability website, the idea of harnessing environmental stewardship is obtainable through its resources and certification programs. 
“Sustainability encompasses so much more. A lot of people think it’s just the environment, but it really encompasses so many things that we as a campus, as a nation, as an Earth are doing,” Jesse Carswell, sustainability operations coordinator for ASA and Class of 2017, said. “It’s making sure that our actions are economically, environmentally and socially sustainable, and that we are doing what we can now to preserve resources for future generations.”
Carswell said this alliance, founded by an intern within the Office of Sustainability, has launched different certifications available for people on campus, including its newest certification for student organizations which was announced on Sept. 10.
“A lot of people think, ‘Oh well, one person recycling isn’t going to make a difference,’ but it really does,” Carswell said. “And when you get a whole group of people who are doing sustainable actions, it just makes it so much more impactful. And so, our goal is to ultimately educate people on sustainability, that is what the office does.”
Starting out with primarily a sustainable office certification, the ASA has further developed certification checklists for individual students to obtain, and student organizations can now join as well. These checklists offer different levels of certification, including supporter, advocate and champion levels based on certain percentages of tasks completed. Examples of tasks include riding the Aggie Spirit Bus to class or meetings on campus, minimizing food waste, purchasing local food, recycling, reducing use of single-use items or volunteering in the local community. 
“A lot of people are realizing that sustainability is not, you know, this huge grand thing, it’s very easy. It’s very easy to commit to these small actions,” Carswell said.
During Earth Month in April of 2021, the ASA’s individual sustainability registration was released, Carswell said. The ASA partnered with the restaurant Snooze in July in order to provide incentives for students interested in sustainability. 
“We wanted to broaden the base of commitment to sustainable actions, so from [office certification] we did the individual faculty and staff checklist, and quickly realized that students want something like this, too,” Carswell said. “For Earth Month we did this big reveal for the student individual checklist. And we’ve been working all summer to get the sustainable student organization checklist.” 
In order for student organizations to qualify for sustainability certification, 35 percent of the organization has to individually certify. Carswell also said although not much action has occurred with the organization certification, they have seen an increase in the individual qualifications and the office qualifications, with their most recent addition to the alliance, the Department of Environmental Occupational Health through the School of Public Health.
“Our main focus now is to really build the faculty-student interaction for Aggie Sustainability Alliance,” Thomas Jistel, sustainability technician for the ASA and Class of 2021, said. “We really want to create an Aggie network that is for sustainability. A&M is known for its Aggie Network and connections, and we really want to see that happen with sustainability.”
Jistel said with the student organization certification, the ASA wants different groups on campus to have the opportunity to connect through eco-friendly operations. Their next plan of action with these certifications is to one day have a sustainable events certification as well. The Alliance also plans to have an ASA booth at A&M’s Campus Sustainability Day on Oct. 20, their first in-person event, to further provide incentives and information to students about their program. 
“We’re going to have a lot of events from the Office of Diversity, [Equity and] Inclusion, ResLife and a bunch of different environmental organizations all being in the same network as part of Aggie Sustainability Alliance,” Jistel said. “If sustainability is something you’re passionate about, this is a great place to start looking.”
Kristianna Bowles, the graduate assistant sustainability coordinator for ResLife and partaker in the sustainability individual and office ASA certification, said the certification process is incredibly straightforward and laid out with simplicity. 
The ASA also provides other resources and different ways to connect with sustainability through their certifications. Doing simple tasks in day-to-day life as seen in these checklists are easy ways to make a difference, Bowles said. 
“I personally feel that sustainability is taking any individual actions you can to promote a more environmentally friendly and equitable lifestyle,” Bowles said. “The standard definition of sustainability is meeting the needs of our current generation without compromising the needs for future generations, and that’s kind of the definition of sustainability that I abide by.” 

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