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Santa Clara University students participate in a quarterly "waste characterization" session at a campus recycling center to get a better understanding of recycling and composting.
Santa Clara University Students Stay Green After Graduation

August 5, 2015 — Over the past decade, Santa Clara University in Santa Clara, California, has implemented important changes for environmentally and socially sustainable living. By hiring a sustainability coordinator, creating a Graduation Pledge Alliance for greener living post-graduation, and even hosting a fashion show with items made from recycled material, the Jesuit school is making greener living a priority.

In 2004, the university started focusing energy and attention on its own ecological impact. The school began by reducing water consumption in response to the California droughts, and these efforts led to placing sustainability as a high priority for their community. They established a Center for Sustainability, which works with all aspects of the school — academics, athletics and administration — to reduce their carbon footprint. They were even able to divert 58 percent of their usual waste from municipal landfills in 2013.

But the focus isn’t only on the university’s practices — Santa Clara wants their students to graduate as morally and environmentally conscious people. That’s why their students are presented with the opportunity to sign the SCU Graduation Pledge, promising to consider the social and economic impacts of their jobs and to help improve their company’s existing green policies. The pledge builds on four years of learning about and improving upon a socially and environmentally conscious outlook as students at the university.

“The world is the stage for our students’ learning about social and environmental injustices throughout internships, immersion trips, international fellowships and other experiential learning,” said Lindsey Kalkbrenner, the school’s sustainability coordinator. As part of their initiatives on environmentally conscious workplaces, professors take students on field trips to Silicon Valley to observe sustainable business practices, or invite guest speakers into their classes to speak on the topic.

Of course, no college movement would be complete without an element of fun. Every spring semester, students host an “eco-fashion show,” using recyclable materials to showcase new uses for old things. At this year’s show, students transformed blue yarn and bottle caps into earrings, conference brochures and a tablecloth into two long skirts, and an old plastic daisy chain into a necklace. The event draws students, alumni, faculty and staff to participate and watch, making recycling an exercise in creativity.

Santa Clara remains committed to innovative ways of recycling, reducing, reusing and equipping their students to do the same. “There is nothing we won’t try,” Kalkbrenner said. [Source: National Catholic Reporter

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