Sustainable Trent: Environmental Justice on Campus

This article was originally published in the Arthur Newspaper.

By Calvin Beauchesne

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Trent University is consistently ranked as a leader for its environmental commitment in university reports by several media sources, from Maclean’s Magazine to the Globe and Mail.

In addition to our LEED standard buildings, our rooftop garden, and our Fair Trade certified cuisine, Trent also has a reputation for having one of the best Environmental Studies/Sciences programs in the country.

This is a great achievement and it is definitely something we should all be proud of. However, we still have a long way to go when it comes to environmental sustainability.

That is why groups like Sustainable Trent exist. Sustainable Trent is a student organization that advocates and takes action for sustainability and environmental justice on campus, in the Nogojiwanong (Peterborough) community, and beyond.

We pressure the Trent administration to make systemic changes within the school, as well as encourage and give opportunities to students to make environmentally responsible choices in their everyday life.

Our work is rooted in anti-capitalism, anti-colonialism, anti-racism, and anti-globalization. We also stand in solidarity with Indigenous peoples’ struggles for justice, land, and rights, and support these efforts where we can.

Sustainable Trent is currently working on four campaigns: fossil fuel divestment, food justice, “NO Parkway!” and Lug-a-Mug.

Sustainable Trent has been actively campaigning for the school administration to withdraw its financial investments in the fossil fuel industry (ie. the school’s endowment, pension fund) and to instead reinvest that money in sustainable alternatives like renewable energy.

The Board of Governors has begun looking into the issue in depth and is set to make a decision regarding divestment in early 2015.

As a group, we support an in-house, student-run food service system that is locally sourced, sustainable, and not-for-profit, with sufficient options for vegetarian/vegan/culturally appropriate meals. This is in contrast to the corporate monopoly held by the food service provider Chartwells (and previously Aramark) at our school.

Sustainable Trent supports initiatives like the Seasoned Spoon, the Ceilie and the Planet North, and we hope the entire food system on campus can model itself after these existing restaurants.

We also support efforts to expand on the work of the Trent Vegetable Gardens and create a sustainable farm on campus that would provide local organic food for students.

Sustainable Trent is against the City’s plans to pave over a long strip of greenspace known as the Parkway corridor and build a 4-lane bridge through Jackson Park, a beautiful wild greenspace located near downtown Nogojiwanong.

The bridge would effectively ruin the best urban park in the City, and we believe traffic problems would be better dealt with by investing in public transportation and cycling/pedestrian infrastructure.

Years ago Sustainable Trent created a program called Lug-a-Mug to encourage people to bring reusable mugs with them when they purchase their morning coffee on campus in an effort to limit the amount of waste from Trent going into our landfills.

Some of our members have taken it upon themselves to give coupons purchased by Sustainable Trent to students they see with a reusable mug for a free coffee, hot chocolate, or tea at any cafeteria on campus, or at the Seasoned Spoon or Planet North (only valid if you bring your reusable mug of course).

As an organization that is completely volunteer-run, we are always looking for new members who are passionate about making a difference and willing to take the time to help out with our work.

As a group we strive to be as inclusive as possible, and welcome people from all backgrounds, ethnicities, experience levels, ages, abilities, sexual orientations, and genders.

If none of our current campaigns interest you, we always welcome ideas for possible new campaigns.

We operate in a way that is non-hierarchical by practicing consensus-based decision-making. That is, we try to give everyone equal speaking time and we make decisions by taking into account everyone’s opinions, opposed to the majority rules concept.

We do have positions such as Logistics Coordinator and Financial Coordinator to make things run more smoothly, but we reject any bureaucratic terms such as ‘President’ or ‘Leader’.

As a levy group, we are fortunate enough to be able to provide funding for the expenses of our campaigns, as well as for events and funding requests from other groups at Trent and Nogojiwanong that support our mandate.

Some things we’ve chosen to fund in 2013-2014 were: a series of workshops put on by the Seasoned Spoon throughout the year, the Peterborough Greenspace Coalition to help out with their NO Parkway! campaign, and transportation to and from Halifax for Trent students to attend PowerShift Atlantic; an environmental/social justice activist conference.

If you want to see change on campus, want to meet like-minded people, or just want to get involved with a group, we’d love to have you on board!

Please contact us at sustainabletrentu@gmail.com if you are interested in being involved.

In the meantime, visit our website at sustainabletrent.org to read more about us, keep up with our campaigns on Facebook at facebook.com/sustainabletrent, and follow us on Twitter @green_trentu.

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