Sustainability Week offers first-years an extended look at activism on campus

Student organizations from across campus came together to present Sustainability Week from Oct. 14 to Oct. 17 as part of the new Extended Orientation initiative.The theme of the week was food waste. 

The week featured five different events, including a presentation by the Beehive Design Collective, a panel from the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies, a Sustainability Dinner at Dewick-MacPhie Dining Hall, a film screening of “Food Inc.”(2008) and an Environmental Activities Fair, in which all sustainability-related organizations held booths for first-years to learn more about their work on campus.

Extended Orientation is a six-week program that focuses on different themes each week in order to allow first-year students to learn about various important issues on the Tufts campus, according to Tina Woolston, director of the Office of Sustainability (OOS). Although sustainability has been a part of orientation in the past, this full week of events allowed students to explore more sustainability-related topics, Woolston added.

“I am thrilled by the opportunity to talk to incoming students, especially because they used to run [sustainability] as a voluntary event during orientation, but this seemed like a better option because of greater exposure,” she said. “Sustainability doesn’t only cover the environment, but also includes social, [judicial and financial] sustainability, as they cannot occur independently of each other.”

Tufts Sustainability Collective (TSC) co-directors, sophomores Shelby Luce and Rafael de la Puente, discussed their role in developing Sustainability Week.

For Sustainability Week, Shelby and I met many times with people in the OOS and with the people who were in charge of Extended Freshman Orientation,” de la Puente told the Daily in an email. “We then brought up the project in our TSC weekly club meeting and decided upon a theme for [Sustainability] Week: food waste.”

Hannah Freedman, a sophomore, organized last Tuesday’s kick-off event — a presentation by the Beehive Design Collective. She explained that the Beehive Design Collective, a volunteer-based activist arts collective, uses art to educate people about current global issues. Its new piece, called “Mesoamérica Resiste,” relates to economic imperialism and resource extraction in Latin America. 

“The presentation walked us through the pieces, each section telling a specific story of the complex problem and the myriad of ways that communities are organizing through resilience and equity,” Freedman told the Daily in an email.

She added that the presentation raised questions about Tufts’ responsibility in these movements.

“The conversation was talking about resistance movements against huge international institutions like the [International Monetary Fund] or against the effects of [the North American Free Trade Agreement], and, towards the end, shifted towards the responsibility that Tufts as a large institution has in these conversations,” Freedman said. “Tufts is, in many ways, complicit financially in unsustainable and inequitable practices that relate to these global issues and it was great to be able to talk about them, especially with new freshmen who were present.”

To conclude the week, the TSC organized the activity fair for relevant organizations looking to reach out to first-years.

“It was a great opportunity for the organizations themselves to talk to each other and develop cross-cutting ideas for events and initiatives,” Woolston said.

Tufts Eco-Reps had a booth at the TSC event, in which they hosted a jeopardy game about sustainability on campus and welcomed first-years to learn more about how they could get involved. Ellie Doyle, an Eco-Rep in Carmichael Hall, discussed the importance of the Eco-Rep program to her.

“[The Eco-Rep position] allowed me to talk about sustainability with my peers and have a concrete impact,” Doyle, a sophomore said. “Students are more likely to listen to other students, and if done right, Eco-Reps can have a huge impact on other students’ habits and behaviors.”

Eco-Reps also work to maintain sustainable activities throughout the year, hosting a meatless meal at Dewick on a weekly basis, for instance, she added.

De la Puente said that he was happy with the event’s overall outcome.

All of our members, old and new, have put a lot of effort and enthusiasm into this project. This is the first time Sustainability Week happens at Tufts, so there is obviously a lot of room for improvement and innovation that we hope to see for next year’s Sustainability Week,” he said.