S4S: Green and Clean

Alexis Kim is obsessed with food. Real food, that is. As the current co-chair of Students for Sustainability, she hopes to see more of it on the UCI campus. It’s a part of the group’s mission: a sustainable future.

It sounds like an intimidating goal to accomplish, but Students for Sustainability is proving that it’s not impossible.

Students for Sustainability, or S4S, is a growing group that’s already helped to make big changes on campus. Last spring, Kim, a third-year Earth and Environmental Sciences major, and UCI alumnus Mark Broad helped lead The Green Initiative Fund (TGIF) campaign to provide over $130,000 in grants each year for sustainable projects to fight global climate change and lower UCI’s carbon footprint. The measure passed successfully, bringing UCI another step closer to “going green.”

“We are focused on the local community,” second-year Ecology and Evolution Biology major Amy Chong said.

S4S is unique because their campaigns come from student ideas and not a larger organization. Chong, the group’s Media Coordinator, hopes to see more support for student-led campaigns to encourage the UCI community to take initiative to create change on campus.

S4S began as a chapter of the California Student Sustainability Coalition by grad student Candice Carr Kelman and UCI alumnus Alicia Langton in 2006. As a group, they helped campaign for the passage of the UC Sustainability Policy.

Their goals were to make sure that UCs were recycling e-waste with responsible recyclers who were not just shipping it overseas, to create e-waste drop-off programs for students, to get green electronics purchasing policies instituted and to use the purchasing power of the UC system to drive the electronics industry to make less toxic and longer lasting products.

“Electronics made for European countries are made to stricter standards,” Kelman said. “Why not for us?”

S4S has been fundamental in encouraging UCI Dining to switch to organic, cage-free eggs. Additionally, the group has also worked with the dining commons to educate students about the negative environmental impacts of wasting food.

The members of S4S are all passionate about their interests, from water conservation, to recycling to stopping animal cruelty.

S4S has also been the starting ground for both the Real Food Challenge and the Education for Sustainable Living Program at UCI.

The Real Food Challenge is a national campaign that officially began at UCI last fall and focuses on sustainability of the campus’s food system.

“We define real food as food that nourishes the earth, the communities, the consumer and the producer,” third-year president of the Real Food Challenge group at UCI, Alexandra Nagy, said. “It is food that is ecologically sound, community based, humane and fair.”

Among other projects, Real Food Challenge and S4S are working together to begin a Campus Garden Campaign started.

The Education for Sustainable Living Program (ESLP) is also hoping to stimulate change by offering a course that will encourage students to search for more sustainable solutions for the ecological, economic and social challenges of the 21st century. Third-year Shari Bush, an avid supporter for ESLP, hopes that the program will help people realize the effect their choices have on the world and motivate everyone to make better choices.

“Right now, I think that one of the really important things that S4S can do is continue to raise awareness among the students about the UC Sustainability Policy and to help UCI strive to meet the ambitious goals set out in the policy,” Kelman said.

As S4S continues to grow and inspire others, Kelman, Kim, Chong, Nagy and Bush are optimistic for a more sustainable future.

“We’re students who care about sustainability,” Kim said, “and we want to truly manifest that saying: Think globally, act locally.”

For more information about S4S, visit http://clubs.uci.edu/s4s