ASMSU environmental working group holds first meeting
The ASMSU-sponsored environmental working group, Greener Together, held its first meeting of the semester on Monday.
The group was founded last year by ASMSU Assistant to the Vice President of Governmental Affairs Della Uekert. The group’s focus is on educating the student body about issues facing the environment.
Uekert says Greener Together sets itself apart from other environmental groups on campus by not taking on the mantle of activism.
“The point of the group is to administer information," Uekert said. "We aren't so much an activist group. There are specific groups on campus that are specifically dedicated to specific actions like trying to get MSU to commit to 100% renewable energy by 2020 or trying to stop Line 5. We’re not so much dedicated to that; we’re really dedicated to information. We want to be providing the information on environmental topics that a lot people might not know about."
This year, Uekert hopes the group can make a difference in the way students deal with a common environmental pest: plastic grocery bags. The group will be giving out reusable totes in return for plastic bags that will be recycled at The Rock with the Student Organic Farm every Thursday from 1 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.
“We’re doing an anti-plastic bag campaign, so we bought 400 reusable grocery totes," Uekert said. "The idea is that if you give us ten plastic bags we’ll give you one of those grocery totes to take with you. We’re really hoping that people are going to be changing their consumer behavior and will take those totes to Target or Meijer or wherever they’re going shopping.”
The funding for the reusable bags is made possible by ASMSU, which funds the entire organization.
“We have meetings independent of the general assembly,” Uekert said. “Why we say ASMSU is sponsoring us is because they pay the entire fee. We don’t pay to rent the room in ASMSU, we have a weekly food buget that is allotted from ASMSU, we’ve gotten t-shirts, we’ve gotten buttons that are from ASMSU funding.”
Sponsorship from ASMSU also means that Greener Together must go through the general assembly in order to support any particular causes.
“The other thing about why we are dedicated to information is because to support some issues, we need the support of the general assembly,” Uekert said. “So, if we say we really want to stop Line 5, then we need to write a bill to the general assembly to support the passage of Greener Together’s support of the demolition of Line 5.”
The group’s first and so far only piece of legislation passed by the general assembly was a set of ten goals for the group, including a provision to support the creation of an MSU Biodome, which other environmental groups on campus also support.
Uekert says joining forces with other environmental groups like the Sustainable Spartans, MSU Greenpeace and the MSU Sierra Club was one of Greener Together’s biggest goals, and they've formed a coalition called The Green Alliance.
“The purpose of The Green Alliance is to get everyone together so everyone knows what the all other groups are doing, so there’s some intergroup collaboration, so that we’re not treading on each other’s feet. So we made that connection, and that’s really good,” Uekert said.
There are benefits to being involved in Greener Together along with more activism oriented groups on campus, MSU Greenpeace Group Coordinator Jackie Zarzycki said.
“I know that there are students involved in MSU Greenpeace who participate in Greener Together activities, and they gain valuable experiences from both,” Zarzycki said via email. “The network between the many different environmental student groups at MSU is very strong. Not only does this enable students to be members of multiple groups, but it allows everyone to get a lot of important work done.”
Zarzycki claims involvement in environmental groups can create tangible change and help them grow as people.
“Environmental student groups have the potential to foster personal development as well as effect change on a larger scale,” Zarzycki said via email. “Students can bring whatever goals, skills and interests they have to the table, and combine those with the resources provided by student groups to learn, organize and accomplish things that they may not be able to do alone. These groups also connect students to others and promote community building, which is valuable in itself.”
Uekert intends for Greener Together to excite and inspire students to think critically about issues facing the environment and bring their thoughts to the table at meetings.
“We hope by that having students come in and learn about this information, they’re going to sit down and talk about it with their friends and talk about it amongst each other,” Uekert said. “And maybe they’re going to come up with a solution that we can then take and try and solve those broader issues.”
Greener Together meets every other Monday in room 328 of the Student Services building from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.