A student properly sorts their trash
Liam James Doyle / University of St. Thomas

Call to Action: Sustainability Week Aims to Be More Inclusive Than Ever

It’s all about getting as many people interested as possible in protecting our little home called Earth.

“If there was a theme, it would be inclusivity in sustainability. We want to give that feeling that everybody can be a part of it,” Ariana Porcello ’23 said. “It’s not just for people who are environmental science majors, we want everybody to feel included.”

Porcello is the undergraduate student government sustainability chair and did much of the heavy lifting on this year’s Sustainability Week. Her goal? Target the entire university, not just those passionate about protecting Mother Earth.

“In years past we’ve tended to have a lot of events catered toward students who know a lot about sustainability – like panels and informational sessions – which are great, but they’re not really meant to pull in the general population,” Porcello said. 

With less of a focus on panels, this year will bring more tangible experiences that people can really sink their teeth into.

Tommie's Closet in the Anderson Student Center. Tommie's Closet is a student-led clothing exchange, created by Ashoka Changemaker students, focused on community and sustainability. (Mark Brown/University of St. Thomas)

Vegan food trucks will roll onto campus. A secondhand clothing shop will pop up at Tommie's Closet. There’ll even be a field trip on Metro Transit to Minnehaha Falls.

“I’m really looking forward to the food. I love food,” Josh Mounsey ’24 said.

Mounsey, Sustainability Club president, wants to make a big impression through stomachs.

“I'm really hoping everyone will take advantage of all the food trucks that will be on campus,” he said. “We want to take a new approach to diversify our food options. There are so many people who really appreciate vegan and vegetarian food options.”

More than 25 clubs and organizations are helping put on a long list of events and activities. It’s just one more way that organizers are hoping to get more people involved for the long haul.

“Make sustainability week every week,” Mounsey said. “Every week should be about sustainability, we can and we should always be sustainable.”

It’s a mission the University of St. Thomas has certainly latched on to. The university’s sustainability strategic plan outlines campus goals of achieving carbon neutrality by 2035. And the university appears well on its way to achieving that goal. St. Thomas was awarded an AASHE STARS gold rating while recent construction projects have earned LEED certification, such as the Tommie North and Tommie East residence halls.

Those schoolwide commitments have inspired students to build on their own sustainability efforts.

A reusable to-go container of food in The View dining hall inside the Anderson Student Center. (Liam James Doyle/University of St. Thomas)

“I’ve been really involved in the zero waste initiatives on campus and that’s really been an incredible push over these last couple years,” Porcello said. “Now we have reusable to-go containers, we now have individual compost bins for each resident.”

With lasting change, both student leaders hope to leave our planet in a better place than they found it.

“We have to think about who has to come after us and after those people,” Mounsey said. “As a result of that, we have to take care of our planet.”

For a full list of events and more details, click here.