Educating about sustainability

Community Service Learning Center hosts informational tabling during April

By Meghan McBrady | 4/16/17 10:06pm

What does it mean to be sustainable? For the United States Department of Agriculture, it means satisfying human needs while enhancing the environmental quality and viability of its agriculture. For the Environmental Protection Agency, it means “to create and maintain conditions under which humans and nature can exist in productive harmony.”

In order to engage with students about climate and sustainability, Grand Valley State University’s Community Service Learning Center (CSLC) will be continuing the “Civic Conversation: What Is Sustainability” forum throughout the last couple weeks of April.

Past civic conversation forums hosted by the CSLC include hunger and homelessness, funding and higher education, and food justice.

With the sustainability forum, representatives from the CSLC have been tabling in the Kirkhof Center and inviting students to write their definitions of and/or desires for sustainable practices in the U.S. on the CSLC’s white board.

“It’s talking about things going around with the climate, climate change or sustainable practices for alleviating some of that climate change and make it more efficient and better off,” said Nick Chaplin, a CSLC student employee who has been facilitating the sustainability civic conversation throughout the last few weeks of April. “We have a civic conversation, which is just tabling and asking some questions from the people walking past (in Kirkhof). It’s just thinking and getting them more involved.”

For several years, GVSU has been named one of the U.S.’s most environmentally responsible colleges in “The Princeton Review’s Guide to 361 Green Colleges.” Also, GVSU was in the top 15 in the country for Recyclemania and by the end of 2016 had cut at least $2.3 million of annual utility costs through the use of energy-efficient practices and procedures.

Ryan Vannier, a professor in the geology department at GVSU, said having a conversation about sustainability in and out of the classroom was important, as the environmental problems of one generation affect the next.

“Obviously, in the United States, we can out-compete these other countries and we’re using their resources at the same using our resources,” Vannier said. “In a way, that depletes it for the next generation.

“Everything is either going to have to be fixed by technology or get more expensive. There is no way people in the future will be able to go to a steak house and pay for a steak for eight bucks—it will be like 20 bucks.”

Chaplin said “doing your part” would help keep the Earth green in the future. Overall, he said, the point of this conversation was to spread information about climate change and sustainability to the GVSU community.

“It is just to see how others are perceiving things,” Chaplin said.

The schedule for the remainder of the CSLC sustainability conversation includes tabling Monday, April 17, and Thursday, April 20, from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. in the Kirkhof Center and an interactive program Thursday, April 20, from 9 p.m. to 10 p.m. in the Holton-Hooker Learning and Living Center Multipurpose Room.

For more information about CSLC, visit

For more information about GVSU’s sustainability practices, visit

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