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Conscious college campaign teaches enviornmental sustainability

By Anita Alem     4/3/15 8:34am

The Rice Environmental Society and Turning Green partnered for the third time to bring the Conscious College campaign to Rice University on Thursday, according to event coordinator Emi LaFountain and RES president Ashley Ugarte. According to LaFountain, more than 400 people were in attendance and the event was a huge success.

There were a lot of people who I think had those "oh wow" realization moments and became conscious of the scale at which their actions could impact the environment,” LaFountain said. “Seeing those gears turn in so many people's heads made the event super worthwhile for me.”

LaFountain said Turning Green reported the stop at Rice had one of the highest turnouts of all the universities they have stopped at.

“Turning Green has made Rice a priority during their annual campaign,” LaFountain, a McMurtry College senior, said. “Given their history with Rice, coming [here] was probably a no-brainer.”

The event at Rice included a Conscious Information Station where students can learn about sustainability themes, including food, style, zero waste, clean, hemp and space and sample items from environmentally responsible brands. Additionally, a town hall meeting allowed students the opportunity to discuss developing campus-wide programs for sustainability.

According to its website, Turning Green is a student-led global movement encouraging sustainable living among the youth through various programs, including the Conscious College Road Tour. The tour visits 16 universities in the United States to educate and mobilize college students. LaFountain said RES has been gathering volunteers for the event and gauging student interest. Turning Green donated travel fees and food to make the event essentially free for RES to host.

Following Ugarte’s internship with the organization, Turning Green began visiting Rice as a part of the tour in 2013. Ugarte, a Martel College junior, also served as the Student Advisory Board president in the past year.

“In partnership with Turning Green, we hope to provide our fellow peers with tangible ways for students to live more consciously and to be the change that supports specific, relevant, actionable sustainability projects here at Rice,” Ugarte said. “Ultimately, we hope this event unites all students, whether they’re passionate advocates for the environment or not … to realize that their everyday choices do indeed have an impact.”

Ugarte said living consciously includes obtaining education about safer and healthier practices and products, while instigating change can include introducing advocacy programs.

LaFountain said the event gave students a look at internship opportunities associated with Turning Green, including the Project Green Challenge. PCG is an annual event where young adults learn about sustainability issues during the month of October.

“Each day students [complete] different challenges, kind of like the Green Dorm Initiative,” LaFountain said. “I was one of the 12 students [with the highest scores and was] flown to San Francisco for a weekend of sustainability awareness. It was a life-changing experience.”

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