Monday, November 5, 2012

AASHE Conference

“Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” – Gandhi

Attending the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) Conference further fueled my desire for making a difference. It is incredibly inspiring to be surrounded by around two thousand students, faculty, and staff from around the country and the world who are all working for a more sustainable planet. As the Director of Environmental Affairs for Northern Iowa Student Government, I used this experience to network and learn from others who are working on similar projects.

At AASHE, the students spent the entire first day together. I talked with students from California, Texas, Massachussetts, and many other states. It was incredible how similar we are; we were able to exchange project ideas, contact information, and challenges. We attended sessions to hear about other students’ efforts, so that we can learn from others’ challenges and successes. For my Presidential Scholar Think Tank experience, my group is researching, planning, and implementing a project related to local foods. Therefore, I especially used these student sessions to find out how other schools had started and maintained these projects. Composting, sustainability funds, community gardens, and much more were just some of the session topics that I attended. There were also beneficial sessions on overcoming silos among student organizations and departments. Overall, I learned that involving as many students on campus in sustainability initiatives leads to high success rates. With that, look for some exciting student projects making a presence on campus in the future!

Hunter Lovins, the AASHE keynote speaker, delivered a powerful message that truly resonated with me. Hunter addressed that while voting with your ballot and voting with your dollars are important, it is voting with your hours that has the true ability to influence people’s lives. In the end, how you spend your time in life is what is going to really matter. If you devote yourself to a cause with your time, then you are investing in personal experiences. In an hour a week, there is true potential to change others’ lives. After hearing this message, I have been analyzing where I spend my time to make sure that that aligns with what I believe is most important in life. Where are you spending your time?

AASHE was a memorable networking and learning experience that I am grateful to have had!