Housing sponsors sustainability talks

Story by Taylor Kuether

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Trash talk is taking on a new meaning, thanks to the University Housing-sponsored program meant to educate students about sustainability.

Trash Talks, implemented in September and running one Thursday per month through April, are casual, 45-minute presentations by university faculty on various subjects sustainability.

“One of the things that I really wanted to do as the sustainability coordinator here in housing was to not only bring people’s awareness to things like recycling and re-purposing items, but I also wanted to warn about sort of the bigger picture of sustainability and how it affects so many aspects of our life,” said Kate Hartsel, university housing sustainability coordinator and creator of the monthly events.

Hartsel said she started Trash Talks after contacting various faculty members, each bringing different information
to the discussion.

“I wanted to hit as broad an educational spectrum as I could,” she said. “We have a gold mine of people here with information.”

Each month’s Trash Talk focuses on a different aspect of environmental consciousness specific to the interests of the professor leading it. September’s talk featured biology professor Deb Freund on the importance of prairies, and in October, Director of the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning Dr. Robert Eierman led a discussion of multimodal transportation and the importance of choosing bikes and buses over cars.

Today’s talk will feature biology professor Tali Lee, who will speak on the importance of plants in sustainability.

“I’m a plant biologist, so I’m going to be talking about the role of plants in climate change, or the global carbon cycle and plants’ part in that,” Lee said.

The talk will focus on plants’ role in decreasing carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere.

“They (plants) potentially could be very helpful to keep those levels down.” Lee said “There’s research that shows that plants might not be able to help us as much as we (might hope) they would.”

But fear not: according to Hartsel, the talks are given in plain language that students without a scientific background an understand.

“They purposely keep their talks friendly for a general audience, not big words that no one understands,” she said. “They really do want to make the information accessible to a general audience.”

The talks are free and open to students, faculty and community members alike. But despite their casual nature and short session, the talks haven’t had many attendees so far, according to Hartsel said.

“We haven’t had very big turnouts. We’ve only had a handful of students attend them,” Hartsel said. “We really just need people to be interested, I can’t think of anything that’s much more important than the fact that we need to take care of the place that we live.”

Today’s Trash Talk is at 7 p.m. in Towers Commons.

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