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Rutgers community talks about campus sustainability at annual symposium

<p>Students and faculty attended annual RU Sustainable? symposium to talk about the future of environmental sustainability at Rutgers. The event featured a series of speakers and facilitated discussions.</p>

Students and faculty attended annual RU Sustainable? symposium to talk about the future of environmental sustainability at Rutgers. The event featured a series of speakers and facilitated discussions.

On Wednesday, students and faculty gathered in the Rutgers Academic Building on the College Avenue campus for the RU Sustainable? symposium. The event gave attendees a platform to discuss ways in which Rutgers can become more environmentally sustainable.

The event featured multiple speakers and discussions relating to the improvement of sustainability at the University. Comments and opinions from students were recorded and were added to a report which will be brought before the Rutgers University Committee for Sustainability.

“When it comes down to it, it's really when students band together that the University cares … As soon as all of us come together and actually present ideas, and the University sees that these things are happening, then they listen,” said Julieline Serrano, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore and event coordinator. 

The event, which was held for the second time in two years, has evolved from the prior year, said Jill Lipoti, an assistant teaching professor in the Department of Human Ecology. Compared to last year, Lipoti noticed an increase in collaboration between faculty and students.

“(Last year) there wasn’t this integration. What there is here are students spurring the faculty members on to make change real. Students are demanding that you take notice and that’s a huge difference,” she said.

Among the list of speakers was, Pinky Liau, a School of Environmental and Biological Sciences senior and president of Students for Environmental Awareness (SEA).

Liau used her presentation as an opportunity to stress the importance of individual action in terms of sustainability and provided examples of ways students can contribute positively to the environment.

“People might think that ‘I am an individual human, I am not going to do much,’ but if one person starts it and then another person starts it, it will just be a domino effect. More and more people will support that idea and action,” she said.

During her presentation, Liau said that individual action as simple as decreasing plastic usage can make a huge difference. Aside from individual behavior, Liau encouraged people to show up and stand up for environmental issues.

Other speakers included Frank Wong, executive director of University Planning and Development, who discussed the Physical Master Plan and its potential to make Rutgers more sustainable in coming years.

The plan involves demolishing several buildings on the College Avenue campus to create newer, more environmentally friendly facilities and add bike and pedestrian lanes to lessen the volume of bus use.

Aside from serving as a forum to hear students' opinions about sustainability, the event was also meant to be an educational tool for students who want to learn more about these issues, Serrano said.

Many students do not understand the magnitude of environmental sustainability, she said.

“Students really think that the only thing sustainability is climate change. But when it comes down to it, sustainability is not just that, sustainability is a way of life,” Serrano said.

Organizers of RU Sustainable? agreed that students must realize how complex the concept of sustainability is and how it affects everyone. Once everyone realizes this, they said contributing to sustainable efforts will come naturally.

According to the United Nations, sustainability is linked to several other aspects of society, such as poverty.

In order to correct things like poverty, individuals must contribute to a sustainable earth which could possibly provide food for all, Lipoti said.

“There are so many of these things that are so interrelated that it's hard to just say what sustainability is. You really have to take the time to see how all of this fits together,” Lipoti said.

When asked to address students who are unwilling to participate in sustainability, Liau said that these students will be directly affected by an unhealthy environment if they do not act.

“What I would tell those people is don’t just think about yourself,” she said. "Think about your environment, think about your family, think about your kids in the future and how your actions now can potentially impact them in the future."

Mary Ellen Dowd is a School of Arts and Sciences first-year student majoring in Journalism and Media Studies. She is a contributing writer for The Daily Targum. 

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