Last semester, the Italian government implemented a recycling program that would cut the Due Santi campus plastic consumption by 30% if followed properly. In a University News article, Dr. Peter Hatlie, Rome program director and dean, indicated that portions of the weekly Monday night meetings were dedicated to educating the students on proper recycling.
Recently, Business Office Manager Silvia De Simone was inspired to make the campus more sustainable by creating a student-led sustainability team named “Go Green Groundhogs” or GGG for short after attending informational meetings and conferences concerning environmental issues.
In an interview, De Simone reflected on the beauty of the Rome campus and the responsibility that comes with maintaining beauty.
“Our campus was spoiled and dirtied by behaviors that could not be considered sustainable any longer,” said De Simone in reference to the lack of knowledge students had about trash disposal in Italy compared to the United States.
Due to improper sorting, there have been several times in the past where the Italian government refused to pick up the campus’ waste.
Last semester, Junior politics major BeLynn Hollers was responsible for ensuring students were recycling properly.
“In Rome as a SA, we had to stand out at the dumpster during room checks to make sure people would deposit their trash in the right cans,” wrote Hollers in a text exchange. “It became a real issue when the [Italian] government refused to pick up our trash because they were in the wrong bins.”
As a result, De Simone decided to work alongside the Due Santi office of student affairs (OSA) to raise awareness and to create a student-led sustainability team on campus.
This semester, De Simone’s vision of a more sustainable campus is being executed on the Rome campus. She hopes to share this vision with the students that come to Rome Campus. She proposed that the community must “develop the knowledge, skills, and values necessary to act in ways that contribute to more sustainable patterns of living.”
The team’s vision is long-term.
The sustainability team met for the first time on Thursday, Jan. 30 to discuss possible projects, conduct research and plan educational opportunities for current and future students.
Waste management in Italy is structured differently than in the United States. In Italy, waste management is done in accordance with national legislation and by the municipality, thus differing from area to area. These practices are in response to the growing garbage disposal problem throughout Italy. In order to create a circular and restorative economy, Italy strives to find a way to manage this waste.
This creates a challenge for the Rome program because students only live on the Rome campus for a semester at a time.
De Simone hopes that the student-led sustainability team will create a wave of change by using creative skills to achieve that goal. Current Student Assistants Faith Starnes and Tiffany Han have taken the initiative to lead this project alongside sophomores Brianna Bollack and Marguerite Mitchell.
Each team member has a specific role in this project. De Simone, Joe Griesbauer and the rest of the team have already planned a couple of events for this month.
Nobel Peace Prize winner and Professor of forest ecology at the University of Tuscia Riccardo Valentini will visit Due Santi this week to talk about the food and agriculture system in Italy. He will be giving a lecture in English followed by a meet-and-greet dinner reception.
The GGG also has a couple of other events planned, including a visit from a local organization called RETAKE, a visit from a private school in Milan and student-led events such as a musical instrument talent show.
The UD Environmental Conservation Organization (ECO) President and junior theology major Greg Vanderheiden shared tips on being sustainable while traveling.
“Sustainability is an effort to use resources in a modest way so that practices can be carried on into the future,” wrote Vanderheiden in a text.
“When traveling it is really easy to use a lot of resources really quickly. For example, on a plane, they always offer complimentary drinks and snacks. If you don’t really need the drink or snack then don’t get it. Each time you fly you usually use a plastic cup, a napkin, a soda can and a little bag for snacks. By refusing these little things you can save four pieces of trash each plane ride.”