WCSU ‘No Impact Week’ program raises environmental awareness
Energy conservation, recycling among featured events to promote low-impact lifestyle

DANBURY, CONN. Western Connecticut State University students are learning to live comfortably with less electricity, reclaim large volumes of their trash for recycling, and discover other options for reducing their carbon footprint as part of “No Impact Week” activities from April 22 through 26, 2013, on the university’s Midtown campus in Danbury.

Students currently enrolled in the “Advanced Topics of Sociology: Roots & Shoots” service learning class taught by Dr. Bethany Morrison, adjunct professor of social sciences, have planned and organized “No Impact Week” events as part of their course work. The course has been developed by the Jane Goodall Center for Excellence in Environmental Studies, which has been joined by the Department of Housing and Residence Life and the Program Activities Council as WCSU cosponsors of the program.

WCSU undergraduate Danielle Toussaint, of New Milford, president of the campus Roots & Shoots club, said she and other students involved in planning “No Impact Week” have sought to pattern activities after the experiences of Colin Beavan, the New York writer and blogger whose No Impact Project seeking to minimize personal impact on the environment became the subject of a book and documentary film.

“We decided to take part in what is becoming a popular phenomenon at universities across the country by sponsoring a ‘No Impact Week’ that promotes a lifestyle with less impact on the environment through events that encourage alternative activities which do not require the use of energy,” Toussaint said. “Many of us were already aware of the amount of energy and pollution we create as a collective society, but we want to spread the message to our community that we can all take small steps every day to decrease our environmental impact on the earth.”

One of the week’s most ambitious conservation demonstrations is a competition organized by WCSU Housing and Residence Life, in cooperation with the Roots & Shoots class, challenging students in university housing to reduce electricity use. Electricity usage data for each of the university’s six residence halls for the one-week period from 7 p.m. April 18 to 7 p.m. April 25 will be used to determine which hall achieves the largest percentage decrease per resident, compared with usage data for the same period last year. Residents of the winning hall will be invited to claim a stainless-steel water bottle as their competition prize.

“The primary goals of the competition are to raise awareness about energy consumption, and to educate students about what they can do to reduce their usage,” said Shaun McDonough, assistant to the director of Housing and Residence Life and resident director (RD) at Centennial Hall. “We are providing them with information on how much electricity each hall uses, as well as the consumption and financial cost per resident, so that they will recognize that their behavior and habits directly impact consumption. We regularly see numerous apartments with lights and televisions on and music playing when no one is around, and our staff is focusing on this issue along with other tips on how to reduce electricity consumption.”

McDonough noted the emphasis on the financial cost of electricity usage also will heighten students’ recognition that conservation measures can help to hold down housing and tuition expenses. He views his collaborative effort with Fairfield Hall RD Shealah Day in planning this year’s event “as the first step in setting the groundwork for expanding the competition to water as well as electricity consumption, over a longer time period of a month or even a semester.”

The potential for reducing trash accumulation in landfills and emissions from trash incineration through expanded recycling efforts is the focus of a display on the Midtown Quad demonstrating the volume of bagged trash collected outdoors during a weeklong period on the university’s two Danbury campuses. Morrison explained that members of her class plan to search the accumulated trash to recover items from outdoor receptacles and litter on university grounds that may be separated out for recycling. She noted the display does not include the large volume of trash generated indoors in university housing, class buildings and offices.

“The students want to show just how much waste is produced on campus, because they are concerned that most students, faculty and staff are not aware of the quantity of trash that gets hauled away to landfills each week,” Morrison said. Lauren Davidoski, of Bethel, one of the student coordinators for the display, expressed optimism that the demonstration will encourage modest changes in personal behavior such as reduced use of takeout containers or bottled water.

Luigi Marcone, WCSU director of facilities operations and environmental health and safety (EHS) programs, observed the trash display focuses attention on the persistent problems of litter and improper disposal of recyclables in trash containers. “Our staff spends a considerable amount of time each week picking up litter on our grounds and in our parking garages,” he said. “Working to manage trash more efficiently at Western can mean significant savings in the effort we put into litter pickup.”

Other events organized during “No Impact Week” range the gamut from a plant sale, a free trade market, and nature hikes at Tarrywile Park to signups for a WCSU ride-share program introduced by Western student Zane West, of Sherman. “The students involved in ‘No Impact Week’ are very inspired to make their world a better place,” Morrison observed.

For more information, contact Dr. Bethany Morrison at morrisonb@wcsu.edu, or the Office of University Relations at (203) 837-8486.

Western Connecticut State University offers outstanding faculty in a range of quality academic programs. Our diverse university community provides students an enriching and supportive environment that takes advantage of the unique cultural offerings of Western Connecticut and New York. Our vision: To be an affordable public university with the characteristics of New England’s best small private universities.

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