Petitioning for a greener campus

For the past few weeks, senior Anna DeHondt has worked to promote awareness for sustainability initiatives on campus and advocate for a new sustainability director as part of her Arrupe Leaders legacy project. DeHondt hopes to leave Xavier a more environmentally-conscious campus than she found it.

Because of DeHondt’s leadership as an undergraduate, she was nominated for the Office of Student Involvement’s Arrupe Leaders program in the fall.

When she began planning her legacy project, DeHondt knew that she wanted to tie in her passion for sustainability.

Though she is an occupational therapy major, the importance of environmental concerns resonated with DeHondt as her professors continually mentioned climate change throughout the years.

DeHondt became involved with Xavier Student Sustainability (XSS) when working on instating a food recovery network on campus. She currently serves as a board member of the organization.

Her involvement with XSS and her interest in social justice inspired the petition.

“The project idea was centered around social justice,” she said. “So many of us are concerned about social justice and being people for and with others, but we often overlook climate change as a social justice issue that is impacting so many other areas.”

DeHondt is passionate about the issue. “I get very emotional when I recognize that the people who can afford to be wasteful and not love the earth are the people who can afford not to deal with the effects of it,” she said. According to DeHondt, this lack of compassion and unwillingness to change one’s lifestyle despite the impacts on human and animal lives that she witnesses inspires her to advocate for sustainability.

DeHondt believes that environmental initiatives should be a primary concern at Xavier as a Jesuit institution. “Pope Francis has literally called universities to action on this issue of sustainability,” she said. “To not be up to those standards is to not live out our Jesuit mission.”

Currently on campus there is XSS, a sustainability committee comprised of faculty and professors, composting in specific offices on campus and a food recovery network in the cafeteria. DeHondt believes more can be done.

 The legacy project began with the release of a YouTube video and Instagram account. Tabling events proceeded, asking students to sign a petition asking Father Michael Graham, president, to reinstate a sustainability director on campus. Xavier’s last sustainability director left in 2015.

“Without a sustainability director we (are) not as environmentally friendly across campus and sustainability initiatives (are) not being fully enforced at a higher level,” DeHondt said.

Currently there are more than 1,400 signatures on the petition. “This is something Father Graham would support, but I want to make him aware that the student body is pushing for this right now,” DeHondt said. The letters will be delivered to Graham in the coming weeks.

In conjunction with XSS, DeHondt believes that a sustainability director will be able to develop a climate-conscious culture on campus. A director would oversee the implementation of such efforts at an administrative level, in addition to improving education and leading student groups.

As campus expands to accommodate a larger student body, DeHondt believes a sustainability director will be integral to overseeing the inclusion of renewable energy sources and other eco-friendly features in new buildings.

If you are interested in signing the letter to Father Graham, DM @sustainable_XU on Instagram and follow the account for future sustainability updates on campus.

By: Alex Budzynski | Staff Writer