While energy conservation and recycling is nothing new, the university has recently taken a clearer stance on the importance of being environmentally conscious. The Office of Sustainability and Energy and Sustainability Coordinator Julie Whitaker are committed now more than ever to a sustainable development of Valpo.
“We try to dip our hands into a lot of different topics,” Whitaker said.
The office undertakes multiple sustainability initiatives on campus. It performs energy audits on all the buildings on campus as well as working to install LED lights in order to save on carbon emissions, energy cost and usage.
Besides these initiatives, the office has energy competitions to reduce energy and water usage, educational events and campaigns and pop up, interactive events for students.
On Jan. 30 from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m., the office is hosting a “thrift shop” event in the union in the Grand lounge outside Founders. This event allows for students to learn more about textile waste, while also grabbing a few free pieces of clothing as a form of upcycling.
According to Whitaker, shopping second hand is becoming increasingly popular.
“There are all these bloggers and influencers that are starting to see their impact when it comes to fast fashion and now they’re looking for other outlets to come up with fashion, and that’s really come through with thrifting,” Whitaker said.
While the event is one free way to gain a new wardrobe, the message of why it’s important is what the office wishes to impact on the lives of students.
Office of Sustainability intern Jess Keller emphasizes the importance of knowing your own environmental impact, something not a lot of people think about daily, including herself.
“To make one cotton shirt, it takes 700 gallons of water,” Keller said. “A lot of people don’t realize that when you buy these things, you feed into these companies and industries and you’re helping promote it.”
Keller hopes this event among the others currently being planned by the office will help shed light on not only textile waste, but conservation and the benefits of reduce, reuse and recycle. There are many ways to shop without the guilt of fast fashion looming over you or dealing with an incomparable amount of buyers remorse. The Office of Sustainability’s free shopping experience is one way students can find new fashion items while finding ways to save money.
Another big project for the office going into this second semester is tackling the problem of food waste on college campuses. A common occurrence on many campuses, Keller and Whitaker have already assisted Valpo in taking the right steps to combat this growing issue.
“Students may have noticed that we don’t have trays in the dining hall anymore,” Whitaker said. “There’s a couple strategies to that.”
By eliminating the trays from dining services, people who utilize the services are now limited to just their hands. The idea is that with a tray, you can pile on as much food as you want, but with two hands, you tend to get less food which means less waste.
Whitaker’s biggest takeaway for students is to be more aware of what you need. According to Whitaker, a lot of times college freshman get excited about the new experience of living in a dorm and let the idea of shopping for rugs and comforters get the best of them. She sees freshman move in and move out as an issue as students aren’t taking and using what they need and is necessary, but just what they want.