When it comes to the environment, 4th year Christy Perera both walks the walk and talks the talk. An Environmental Studies major, the Miami native has not limited her involvement with the environment to the classroom. Christy has been active in promoting greener, eco-friendly initiatives at UChicago and is a Sustainability Intern and the Co-Director of the SAGE Committee (a green leadership program) at the Office of Sustainability where she writes blogs and articles and helps with research.
Christy’s interest in environmental protection amplified the summer after her second year. During this summer, Christy lived in the junlges of the Amazon, assisting a graduate student on research on various species of monkeys, dolphins and squirrels. Christy states that her two months in the jungle completely changed her life, Christy switching her major, recycling habits and overall mentality. Her study abroad experience in India further solidified her passion for the social aspects of sustainability which include environmental justice, public health and environmental racism. Once she returned to campus, Christy became involved in various RSOs like UCAN (UChicago Climate Action Network), Global Water Brigades and the Community Change Project.
Just this past summer, Christy researched and wrote up a plan for a Green Labs Pilot program. After collecting information about the greenhouse gas inventory at UChicago, Christy learned that labs and medical buildings consume the most energy on campus which results in their emitting the most greenhouse gases. To reduce the University’s carbon footprint, Christy and the Office of Sustainability are looking to target the most energy-profligate practices of labs.
Recently, along with 3rd year Danny Rosa, Christy submitted and received funding for her Uncommon Fund project, Greeks Go Green. In a similar fashion to the Green Labs project, Greeks Go Green is centered on lowering the University’s negative environmental impact by facilitating fraternities on campus to engage in sustainable practices, particularly with recycling. Each week, UChicago fraternities generate recyclable waste that amounts to approximately 1,000 cans or 600 plastic cups, this waste often thrown away and eventually sent to landfills. While fraternities have expressed interest in recycling, they do not have the effective means to carry it out. To encourage an increase in recycling among members of the Greek community, Greeks Go Green plans to endow frats with recycling bins and signage while also subsidizing the regular pickup of recycled materials. The funding provided by the Uncommon Fund will allow for the commencement of the Greeks Go Green program and its temporary run; Greek organizations can, however, ensure the continuation of the program by dedicating a fraction of their budgets to supporting the initiative.
Christy believes that UChicago is moving forward in becoming more green. She has been pleasantly surprised by the campus’ interest in enacting eco-friendly programs. Christy notes that sustainability requires people to change the way they think and live, something she understands can not happen immediately. However, she assures that small changes to our routines really do add up. Opting for chicken instead of beef or going meatless on certain days lowers the amount of carbon released. Utilizing a smart power strip to turn off objects like televisions or monitors helps conserve energy. Generally, it is important to be conscious of the waste you produce.
After her various work experiences and journeys abroad, Christy envisages herself working a career pertaining to the environment. She hopes to do something along the lines of environmental policy or law and is excited about the prospect of working in the public sector. As for now, Christy will continue her mission in making the University of Chicago a greener campus that Mother Nature would be proud of.