Sustainability Sweetheart: Brittany Benninger '19

Name: Brittany Benninger

Dorm: Cavanaugh Hall

Hometown: New York City

Year: Sophomore

Majors: Economics with a Sustainability minor

Favorite Meal at the Dining Hall: 11am brunch during the week >>> Southwest Salad, Mozzarella Sticks, Oatmeal with Peanut Butter, Indian Night

Favorite Song:  Anything Jack Johnson

Favorite Form of Stress Relief: A run around the lakes

Who would play you in a movie about your life? Idk my roommate Katie?

Hannah Montana or Miley Cyrus? Hannah Montana

Ice Cream or Frozen Yogurt? Dairy free ice cream

You’re pretty active on campus. What are some of the ways you’ve gotten involved so far?

Last year, I was fortunate to find Fossil Free ND, Notre Dame’s student-led fossil fuel divestment and reinvestment campaign. I really believe in FFND’s logic that if it's wrong to wreck the climate, as Laudato Si declares, ​then it's wrong to profit from that wreckage. This year I’m more involved in Student Government as Cavanaugh Hall’s Senator and as an officer in GreeND, Notre Dame’s only environmental club! I’ve also found a second home in the Center for Social Concerns. Through the center, I’ve been able to spend a summer serving in Eastern Kentucky and will go on my second Appalachia Seminar this Fall break.

Anyone who's talked with you knows you’re really passionate about what interests you. What issue are you most focused on right now and why?

I would have to say that I’m most interested in the intersection of food and sustainability, but I’m interested in a lot of social justice movements. 

When did the green movement catch your interest?

It wasn’t until I came to Notre Dame that I realized how important living a sustainable life is to me. Going to Grow Ohio Valley through a CSC Appalachia Seminar was the spark that set me in motion!

What’s the biggest problem facing the university right now in its attempt to become more environmentally conscious?  

There are many dedicated students, faculty, and staff working to make Notre Dame a more sustainable place, and their efforts are to be applauded! The recently released Comprehensive Sustainability Strategy, for instance, puts forth admirable long term goals.

There is still a lot of work to be done, however, to lessen our future reliance on natural gas. The University ought to get closer to 100% of its energy from renewable sources by 2050 instead of its current goal of 25%. By 2050, we’ll be in our 50’s! I know we are called to be more ambitious than the current plan lays out.

You’re involved with a number of student groups that work with sustainability efforts. What are some of these groups?

The awesome thing about sustainability is that you can approach it from so many different interests. There are student groups like Fossil Free ND, VegND, and GreeND to join, but so many classes, professors, and other less sustainability focused clubs discuss sustainability too.

Are there any cool events coming up for GreeND?

GreeND just had it’s Fall Festival which focused around sustainable food. We had games, crafts, info tables, giveaways, live performances, and local food and craft vendors, so needless to say it was a lot of fun! Be on the lookout for a talk with Rainforest Relief, a nonprofit dedicated to ending the destruction of world’s rainforests, on Wednesday, Nov. 2nd in Geddes Hall!

How can people get involved and educated?

One of the best educational experiences I’ve had was when I heard Prof. Sakimoto talk about why climate change is such a real problem-- I would definitely recommend going to an event where he speaks if you have the chance!

There are tons of interesting classes that deal with sustainability-- check them out when it’s time to register for classes! GreeND meets every other Tuesday from 8-9pm in the Gold Room in LaFun. People can like us on FB to stay in the loop or shoot an email to [email protected] to be added to the listserv.

What are you most excited for in the coming year?

I’m so excited to keep learning about the awesome people we have on campus (prob needs to be rephrased it sounds really weird) and the opportunities for collaboration and improvement on our campus.

Any awesome plans for fall break?

Yes!! I’m really excited to be co-leading an Appalachia seminar headed to the New River Gorge National Park in Glen Jean, West Virgina. I’m looking forward to a week of service and reflection amongst the beautiful fall foliage!

Finally, Favorite thing about Notre Dame?

It’s cheesy, but it really is the people! I am so grateful for the wonderful women that surround me in my dorm, the intelligent classmates I get to learn beside, and the passionate people I get to work towards sustainability with.

Stay Green ND! XOXOXO HCND 

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Images: All provided by the Sustainability Sweetheart herself: Brittany Benninger