CHP: When was this organization established and how?
Student Environmental Center: [It] was established in 2001 by a few students who wanted to institutionalize the sustainability efforts on campus. Students got tired of campaigns and causes ending when students graduate, and decided to have a permanent home for institutional memory and the continuity of projects and campaigns. Soon after, they got two ballot measures through Props 9 and 14, establishing funding for all sustainability efforts on campus through the Campus Sustainability Council. This is where the SEC now gets its funding. Recently, we have used some of this money to get a staff person, Joyce Rice — former Environmental Studies adviser.
CHP: What does SEC do?
SEC: To understand what SEC does you first have to understand that we are trying to make tangible change on campus, but are working collaboratively with the administration to do it. We do this through in-house campaigns for which we provide financial backing, training, connections, and legitimacy. Ultimately, we aim to be able to offer this to other efforts to make the campus more sustainable and become an umbrella organization and a hub for a good amount of environmental work on campus.
On top of that, we hold and sponsor events, raise awareness about certain issues, collaborate with other organizations on events and projects.
We have been around for six years now and have had some amazing successes like helping start the Education for Sustainable Living Program, and the Food Systems Working Group (FSWG), which has been largely responsible for getting organic food into the dining halls. The FSWG also evolved out of our “Students for Organic Solutions” campaign and is now an autonomous organization that is spreading not only statewide, but also nation-wide.
CHP: What upcoming events can we expect from your org this year?
SEC: Actually, in January we are having our biggest event of the year, it is called the Earth Summit. This is an event that is designed to bring together faculty, staff, administration, community members and students to discuss and give input about how to make the university more sustainable and how to proceed with concrete next steps.
This year, we are [also] doing a hybrid event with the “Focus The Nation,” which is happening nation-wide. This event is designed to get everyone in universities across the country to devote a little bit of time discussing Global Climate Change and what can and needs to be done about it. It is happening on Jan. 31 and we encourage everyone to either come and participate, or get your professors to devote a little bit of class time to talk about this issue.
CHP: What is a fun tradition your org members do?
SEC: One tradition SEC has is our quarterly retreats. At the beginning of each quarter, our leadership gets together to plan out what we are going to do in the quarter, to plan our longer-term plans, and to create a tight community with each other. We do this by going away to retreat centers where we work really hard, but then also bond hard and make lasting friendships and partnerships. We often have outside facilitators come and help us get through complex decisions and action plans.
CHP: What is a memorable moment you have with SEC and why?
SEC: I will never forget my first Steering Committee. I joined SEC two weeks after I transferred to UCSC. I knew exactly what I was looking for when I got to this campus — and it was a powerful and dynamic organization dealing with environmental issues with potential to evolve.
After two weeks of Internet searches and asking around, I stumbled onto it purely by accident. I volunteered to become a co-chair right then and there and have been with them ever since. When I entered the room it was a buzz with conversation about pertinent issues and I immediately realized that I was surrounded by smart, ambitious, socially and personally conscious, capable people. It was a little overwhelming for me to see so many dedicated individuals in one place who shared so many of my values. This experience is one that I will never forget, and I know that it’s going to be a permanent part of who I am and will be. I can’t wait to be on the Board of Advisors for this organization to help guide them in the future!