It may be that students are interested in sustainability, but initiatives like the Switch It Off Challenge have left us in the dark.

The new Georgetown University Student Association executive team, Clara Gustafson (SFS ’13) and Vail Kohnert-Yount (SFS ’13), has emphasized sustainability on campus But the challenge of making Georgetown more environmentally-friendly is that large-scale, student-directed endeavors like the Switch It Off Challenge have generally failed to raise sustainability awareness, and it’s difficult for individual contributions to make a significant difference.

In light of those obstacles, we commend the GUSA executive’s initiatives and the proposals of the Visions for a Sustainable Georgetown report for both their small-scale, easily accomplishable goals and their long-term intentions to build community awareness and effect larger change.

While the university has already implemented certain initiatives that reduced our greenhouse gas output by almost 20 percent, between 2006 and 2010 students can and should be asked to play a role in making the campus greener as well. Current projects like the Switch It Off Challenge have not received sufficient support; last semester’s challenge saw four dorms actually increase energy usage over the course of the five-week program in comparison to the previous year. The Visions for a Sustainable Georgetown report acknowledges that we can improve sustainability education by increasing the publicity of such projects as Switch It Off or Recyclemania, but right now we cannot expect students to sacrifice individually when they can’t immediately see the positive outcome of such initiatives.

Gustafson and Konhert-Yount have proposed several measures to help make the university more eco-friendly. A new university Office of Sustainability would advance specific initiatives as well as serve as a symbolic representation that environmental issues are important to the university. The executive duo hopes to put a GUSA representative on the O’Donovan Dining Hall Food Committee to ensure that our cafeteria continues to keep the environment in mind. They also propose more motion sensors in locations such as common rooms or laundry rooms to help reduce electricity usage.

We as a community will have to work on both small and large projects to expand the university’s commitment to sustainability. With contributions from student organizations and motivated leaders, we hope conversations about making Georgetown a more sustainable campus can lead to not only more awareness but also a greater chance of reaching our goals.

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