UC Santa Cruz fourth-year Madeleine Turner has worked hard to transform visions into actions since last August. With two new interns, who joined her this past fall, the team is crowdsourcing students’ ideas to form a comprehensive outline for campus-wide change — the Blueprint for a Sustainable Campus.
The blueprint is a document rewritten every year through the UCSC Student Environmental Center (SEC) and the Campus Sustainability Council (CSC). It is drafted entirely by students interested in sustainability on multiple frontiers, including food security, waste management and recycling practices. The first blueprint, created in 2004, outlined student visions of sustainability and resource conservation.
“It’s the only platform for students to clearly express their ideas [on sustainability],” said Turner, co-chair of the project.
In spring 2003, the Student Union Assembly passed the Campus Sustainability Programs Fee. It established that undergraduates pay $3 per student per quarter to implement sustainability projects like UCSC’s annual Earth Summit. That year, the fee raised over $100,000 designated for projects, like the campaigns that were developed from ideas included in the blueprint. In the following year’s election, Measure 14 passed, increasing the pre-existing fee from $3 to $6 per student per quarter and generating nearly $7,000 more than the previous year.
CSC, a student-led funding body, uses the blueprint to assess whether student organizations applying for funding are aligned with its plan for sustainability.
For the SEC fiscal co-chair and UCSC student Judy Li, the blueprint is an important document for spreading awareness about sustainability issues like food waste on campus. Those interested in the blueprint can attend breakout sessions and network with other students to generate solutions for widespread campus problems. Anywhere from 20 to 40 students typically participate in each breakout session.
“This is everyone’s campus. Everyone is affected by [sustainability],” Li said. “Going to [the blueprint breakouts] was eye-opening, seeing students driven to make a change on campus not just for themselves but for other students and mother nature.”
Turner also acknowledged the blueprint’s relation to students of different identities and backgrounds. She cited how low-income students “[may be] disproportionately affected by climate change,” and added that student participation in the blueprint breakouts is also challenging for students who can’t afford to volunteer their time to the project for no pay or class credit.
“Sometimes the campaigns don’t look back at [last year’s] blueprint, and there isn’t a clear connection,” Turner said. “We’re trying to be more reflective [on previous years].” She said students are sometimes so excited about certain sustainability topics that they forget to assess what the entire student body may want to implement on a broad scale.
SEC staff advisor Angela Harris said student interest in the social and environmental justice topic of the blueprint increased after last year’s Earth Summit, where students convened a students of color caucus. She said the notes taken in that caucus space became the social and environmental justice section for this year’s blueprint.
“The face of the mainstream environmental movement is changing from what used to be in the past 20 years or so, from more of white-privileged faces to many other faces from different communities that have been doing great work,” Harris said. “Right now, there’s a lot of interest toward being more inclusive of what falls under the realm of sustainability.”
The blueprint should welcome input from diverse groups of students so the document is accessible, easily understood and representative of many voices, Harris said. This is crucial to the quality and usefulness of the blueprint, which addresses 10 distinct topics. Currently, blueprint organizers are focused on the overlap between social identities and environmental affairs.
Since Harris’ graduation in 2007, some of the visions she had for the blueprint are becoming a reality. An on-site composting project is currently in the works for the Program in Community and Agroecology (PICA) and the UCSC farm.
“The blueprint is inspiring because while it doesn’t reflect a commitment on behalf of the administration at UCSC, it sets a vision out there — it puts these grand ideas out into the realm of thought and students can do with it what they will,” Harris said. “Sometimes the visions don’t end up being accomplished or sometimes it happens years and years later when current students have graduated already.”