Ever use the recycling bin provided for you in your dorm room? If so, then you have participated in sustainable practices on campus. These bins are the result of work done by the Green Billikens Club, an organization dedicated to promoting sustainable practices on campus. And although the recycling bins are one of their bigger projects, they also work in many subtler, less visible ways to make Saint Louis University a greener place to be.
This is the second year of the club’s existence. It was started last year, and is run by two graduate students. The club is open to anyone, and members join smaller “interest groups,” which focus on more specific things within the realm of sustainability. Although each group has its own specific sustainability practices, they communicate and make sure that all groups know about what any one group is working on, so that they can exchange ideas and help out if needed.
Students are also encouraged to join more than one group, if multiple things within the realm of sustainable practice interests them.
On the club’s Google Drive, they specify the different groups within the club, focusing on sustainable lifestyle, biodiversity, waste, energy, education and outreach, and fundraising. The club requires members to attend a certain number of meetings and to get so many hours of working with the club on sustainability events outside of meetings.
Spencer Ruggles is the sustainability coordinator and graduate assistant at the club. He has a BS in Financial Economics at Centre College and is working on a Masters in Sustainability at SLU. He got involved with the club because he felt it was very important for undergrads to learn about sustainable practices.
He is also working to prepare the undergrads to take over the club, since the number of grad assistants is dropping from two to one next year. The undergrads need to be prepared to take over some of the events that the club runs.
The club runs events all year long. They set up a table during welcome month and handed out blue recycling bins and magnets. They have tables at sporting events, trying to make sure that people are recycling their water bottles and putting trash and compost in the right bins. They hold an Earth Day celebration as well as sustainability conferences.
One of the biggest events that the club does is SLUstainability month. During SLUstainability month, which has yet to have an actual month set, the club holds daily events, as well as month-long ones. This year, the three themes for SLUstainability month will be energy conservation, alternative transportation and food and waste. Ruggles is responsible for the event this year and he is very excited for how this will turn out.
He hopes to hold contests between residence halls to see how much energy they can save, offering prizes for the residence hall that saves the most energy over the month.
To promote alternative transportation on campus, the club will hold a fair to show all the different ways to practice more sustainable transportation, such as biking and taking public transportation rather than driving your own car.
Even if you haven’t heard of the club, as is the case with Patricia Vi-Viphan, a first-year student at SLU, the club can still have an impact on your life.
Although Vi-Viphan has never heard of the club before, she uses the recycling bins in her residence hall as well as the solar-powered trash compactors.
Vi-Viphan thinks that by adding competition to sustainable living, it will make people more likely to participate in it. She also believes that the SLUstainability month will help people see how easy sustainable practices can be and how people can implement them in their own lives.
Ruggles hopes that this club can last long after he has left SLU, and that one day he will be coming back for the club’s 50th anniversary. With any luck, the students will pick up this club after the grad assistants are gone and carry it into the future that the club hopes to protect.