Going Green: Sustainability at Denison

It all started with a garden.

Denison’s community garden was created in the late 2000s by Jeremy King, Denison’s Campus Sustainability Coordinator. Shortly after the garden was created, the initiative died out and the garden was left abandoned for many years.

When Summer Aldred arrived on campus as a freshman last August, she knew that she wanted to find a place where she could apply her urban farming knowledge from high school. After taking Science and the Environment as one of her first classes, “Dr. Justine Law made learning about the environment so much fun and I knew that this was something I wanted to pursue,” says Aldred. As a member of the Denison Sustainability Fellows, Aldred, now a sophomore, was given the opportunity to work on one environmentally-focused project for the semester and the Denison community garden was reborn.

Currently, the garden is comprised of 29 plots with 50 people taking part in the effort. The community garden is open to any student, faculty, or member of the Denison community. And, due to the garden’s success, Aldred is hoping to extend any empty plots to the Granville community to take part in the farming effort.

But Aldred’s passion doesn't stop there. Aldred is also one of the co-founders of IntersectECO. What first started as a small group coming out of graduate Liam McIlroy’s senior research project in October 2016, has now been granted nonprofit status and is working on expanding its reach to colleges and universities throughout the United States.

Originally, IntersectECO was created to unite the Ohio5 schools and create a comradery between them. Its goal was to create a network in which to solve environmental and sustainability problems on each of the campuses and to get new ideas for sustainability projects to take back to each of the respective universities. IntersectECO’s first conference was held at Denison in April of last year and was met with wide success. Approximately 500 people were in attendance, including Native American civil rights activist Madonna Thunder Hawk, who was one of the conference’s keynote speakers.

Currently, IntersectECO’s conference planning team in in the midst of planning their second conference, which will be held on April 14 at Denison. IntersectECO also created the Intersect to the Community Forum which “seeks to connect climate change and other environmental issues to the economic and social impact of those issues.” The last forum took place in December to discuss “the increased frequency of natural disasters. Specifically, the hurricanes that caused monumental destruction throughout the Atlantic region in 2017,” according to IntersectECO’s website. Over 60 students, faculty, and members of the community attended the first forum and other forums are expected to be held in the coming months.

With the mission “to unite, prepare, and empower generations of students to embody environmental stewardship by first embracing practices of intersectional civic engagement,”Aldred is working hard to make this mission a reality. IntersectECO has ties with colleges not only in Ohio, but in Michigan and New York as well. Aldred explains that these new partnerships have allowed IntersectECO to help these schools in connecting them with resources to start their own environmental and sustainability projects.

Aldred praises Denison’s leadership for being “extremely supportive to hearing about our ideas to make Denison a more sustainable campus.” Currently, Denison’s Sustainability Committee is working to install a more efficient heating plant, as well as a solar plant, furthering Denison’s commitment to being an environmentally-friendly campus.

Aldred says that it is important to have the university champion sustainability because it allows for “individuals to model the behaviors of a sustainable lifestyle.” Students play a key role in promoting sustainability on campus and “little things like turning the lights off in your dorm room when you leave, walking, instead of driving, down to Mitchell, and learning how to dispose of waste properly can make a big impact” explains Aldred. Interested students can also join Green Team, which meets on Thursdays at 7 pm, get a plot in the community garden, or talk to the professors in the Environmental Studies department. “The Environmental Studies department has a lot of great tools to help students with environmentally-focused projects and are great resources on campus” says Aldred.

However, while Denison may strive to be a more sustainable and environmentally-friendly campus, Aldred explains that it is really more of a collaborative effort between students and those who are working towards this goal. “We can only provide information if students are willing and open to listening” says Aldred. Students hold much of the power in making Denison the way they want it to be. It is important that we educate ourselves and follow the lead of Aldred, and many others, who are working to make Denison a better place for both students and the environment.

Click on these links for more information about IntersectECO and Intersect to the Community Forums: https://www.intersectthemovement.org/ and https://www.intersectthemovement.org/intersect-the-community-forums.