Striving for sustainability

GVL / Archive
Devan Dodge - 2013 Sustainability Fair

GVL / Archive Devan Dodge – 2013 Sustainability Fair

Maddie Forshee

Sustainability is part of a conversation that is continually going on in the world and on the Grand Valley State University campus. The ever-present composting bins, zero-waste athletic games and efficient water refilling stations make it easy for GVSU students to be sustainable.

The office of sustainability is working to provide the GVSU community with skills and capabilities to become responsible citizens in every area of their lives, whether it is through educational opportunities, financing and building or constructing sustainable buildings throughout campus.

“Sustainability is a value at GVSU, and we do a lot with supporting other faculty, staff and students and this is done in a lot of different ways,” said Sharon Munski, office coordinator of the office of sustainability.

The office of sustainability promotes sustainability through community partnerships, like the Sustainable Agriculture Project, and workshops, like the 10 ways to lead a sustainable lifestyle. Next week, the office wants to connect people practicing sustainability that might not otherwise cross paths during its second annual Sustainability Spotlight on Sept. 15.

The event aims to connect the dots between different organizations and departments on campus that are all trying to integrate sustainability into their operations. The office has long acted as a facilitator for one-on-one sustainability ‘coaching,’ so creating the event was a natural move.

“A lot of people are really excited about it this year,” Munski said. “It’s a great way to talk about sustainability in a lot of different areas.”

Sustainability Spotlight brings in people from all over campus – faculty, staff and students – to present their ideas for their organizations to others, and to present a need to the community. The need is presented as a way for people to start conversations with each other and be able to form mutually beneficial relationships.

“It was kind of neat to hear what, to a student, would be behind the scenes,” said Yumi Jakobcic, campus sustainability coordinator. “(Which is why) we wanted to make sure that we included all voices.”

Sustainability Spotlight offers a casual atmosphere so students, faculty and staff feel like they can easily talk to each other. More than 120 people attended Sustainability Spotlight’s first event last year, and organizers are hoping to have an even better turnout this year.

“There was such great conversation,” Jakobcic said. “I think it broke down barriers a little bit. It allowed students to be a little more comfortable with talking to faculty or staff. We were really happy with how it went last year, and we’re excited for this year.”

Other than the speakers, Sustainability Spotlight will offer tables that people can go to for information about organizations on campus or about special topics like funding. The aim is for everyone to start a conscious conversation, whether it is environment-focused or otherwise.

“There’s such an opportunity for this generation, particularly GV students,” Jakobcic said. “I’m hoping that students will be a little more conscious about sustainability, and that will create a greater appreciation for the opportunities they can take advantage of.”

Jakobcic said that even if people aren’t passionate about saving the environment or becoming completely sustainable in practice, she just wants them to be aware.

“I’d love if somebody can leave with just one tiny change that they can do,” she said. “Even if their interest is piqued in buying produce from the farm, that makes me really happy because if we have 25,000 students at GVSU, those little changes will add up really quickly.”

The office of sustainability offers many events throughout the year to promote sustainability to students. Sustainability Spotlight will take place in the Multipurpose Room in the Mary Idema Pew Library on Sept. 15 from 6 p.m. until 9 p.m. For more information, visit