Accomplishing sustainability at the University of Nebraska—Lincoln is a difficult feat to accomplish. That’s seen notably in its grades on the College Sustainability Report Card , which ranged from C to D+ between 2007-2011. However, to However, to change that status quo, several organizations have found common cause in addressing sustainability solutions One of which is the Greek community.
Greeks Go Green is a project by the Environmental Sustainability Committee to make Greek houses more sustainable and spread education on how to be more environmentally friendly. The initiative was introduced in 2014 but fell by the wayside because of leaders’ busy schedules. But this year, Erin Husmann, one of the chair members of Greeks Go Green, saw opportunity and potential for the project and decided to rebuild the program.
“I saw a way to make some of these ideas feasible and to execute them in such a way that we can make change on campus,” she said.
Before, the program consisted only of the leaders running audits on Greek houses with an environmental checklist. They checked for things like recycling, Styrofoam usage, automatic lights and air hand dryers. The houses then got a rating of either bronze, silver or gold based on the audit.
This year, Husmann decided to add to the audit process and recruited green representatives from most chapters on campus. The representatives are in charge of educating their chapters through a developed curriculum presentation. They also work with their chapters to improve their sustainability and ratings.
Sam Virgillito, the green representative from the fraternity Sigma Phi Epsilon, said he joined the program to show people living this type of lifestyle is fairly simple.
“I think it’s important to show people that living this type of lifestyle doesn’t burden you in any way,” he said. “I really want to teach people how they can live this way and the benefits of it.”
The initiative has three main focuses for improvement: becoming Styrofoam free, enacting a recycling program and diverting 90 percent of waste during philanthropic events. Husmann said Alpha Xi Delta and Farmhouse created zero waste during their philanthropy, Nacho Night, on Feb. 23. They made their own bins separating waste, recycling and compost.
Virgillito is currently working on educating his chapter on how they can implement these green programs. He said he would like to change Styrofoam plates for members who missed dinner to something biodegradable and use reusable silverware. During this semester, Husmann said it is up to the representatives to make the changes for their individual chapters. Virgillito said he’s working with the alumni board to get money for his efforts.
“I don’t see any reason not to spend a little extra right now when it’s going to be better in the long run,” he said.
Virgillito said he would like to see the Greek community be a sustainability standard of excellence for the rest of UNL to follow. Because the Greek community is tight knit, he said he believes Greeks can be leaders in sustainability.
“I always want to see people trying to improve,” he said. “It makes me happy to see people actively working towards making their house more sustainable.”
Husmann also said she thinks the Greek community can be the forefront of change. She said a large percentage of UNL students are in the Greek community and many of them are leaders in other programs on campus.
“We are a community within UNL,” she said. “If it starts here, it will eventually disperse to the rest of campus.”
Greeks Go Green is also attempting to bring green curriculum into chapters’ new member education. Husmann said she thinks if they give the freshmen green lifestyle facts early, it will become the norm. Once it is the established norm, she said they plan to release the sustainability rankings with other recruitment facts. Husmann said getting Greek students on board will create change throughout campus.
“It is a change that is necessary to happen,” she said. “It is up to us to have an earth that can provide for our children.”