NAU hosts a wide range of environmental groups
By Christian Booz
Out of the 200-plus student groups Northern Arizona University (NAU) has to offer, over eight of them center on environmental advocacy including water issues, climate change, local foods and more. Many students believe joining these groups is a great way to meet like-minded people and make a difference in the local community as it relates to the environment.
With an estimated member base of 300, the largest of the environmental groups on campus is the Student Environmental Caucus (Green Jacks or SEC). The Green Jacks is made up of all the environmentally focused groups on campus. The SEC is the face for many of the smaller advocacy groups.
“With the Green Jacks it feels like you can get stuff done and make change because they have power to do so,” says Allison Whiteford, a sophomore environmental science major.
Whether it be climate change, recycling on campus or sustainable energy usage, the Green Jacks has a place for everything.
“If you come to the Green Jacks and are really passionate about something, we will try to organize around it,” says Elizabeth Wiggen, a graduate assistant for the SEC.
The green jacks are responsible for organizing Earth Week every year during the spring semester as well as working with some of the smaller groups for other events.
The club meets every other Thursday night at 7 p.m. in Walnut Room B in the Union. On nights that they do not meet, the SEC holds social events for students interested.
One of the groups that the SEC works with is the Weatherization and Community Building Action Team (WACBAT). This group is an action team that falls under the Sustainable Communities masters program at NAU. WACBAT works towards sustainability in the Flagstaff community by retrofitting houses which, according to Coconino County standards, helps save money for utility bills.
For Frankie Beesly, a junior environmental studies major, WACBAT was the major force keeping her at NAU.
“WACBAT made me realize that freshmen and students in general can make change in the community,” says Beesly.
WACBAT has also spearheaded major events on the NAU campus. Working with the Green Jacks and Residence Life, they created the campus blackout last semester.
“It was a celebration of not using electricity in the dorms for one day and seeing how much energy was saved as well as getting people outside,” says Beesly.
WACBAT meets every Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. at a location that is to be determined.
While many groups work on energy saving issues, one group on campus is working on a different, but also important issue: food. The Students for Sustainable Living and Urban Gardening (SSLUG) has been planting a garden located just behind the Social and Behavioral Sciences building on south campus. The garden, which was started in 2008 by graduate student Ian Dixon, currently has over 50 edible varieties of plants as well as over 30 varieties of medicinal and cooking herbs and has nearly doubled in size since 2010.
“Learning your connection to the land, through gardening, can really enrich your life,” says Brian Patrick, a graduate student in the geographic information science (GIS) certification program.
The food grown at the garden is given to volunteers who have donated 1,000 hours of volunteer work so far this year . For many students volunteering for the first time, eating food straight from the ground is an interesting experience.
“Students are genuinely excited about picking food from the ground and are even more excited about the taste,” says Susan Nyoka, a campus organic gardener.
SSLUG is all about connecting students to their environment. They meet every Thursday at 3 p.m. in the SSLUG garden located behind the SBS building on south campus.
There are many reasons to join environmental advocacy groups.
“It’s a great way to meet like minded people and affect change,” Whiteford says,
Some believe that joining environmental advocacy groups can not only change the way you think about these issues, but can also change the way you live — even after college.
“Environmental advocacy groups aren’t something that end in college; for many students it becomes a career path and changes their lifestyle completely” says Adrah Parafinuik, a graduate student facilitator of SSLUG.