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Students for Sustainability: The student program that makes the UA a greener place

Students for Sustainability is an Associated Students of the University of Arizona program that empowers students, builds leaders and pursues institutionalized sustainability at the UA and within the surrounding community.

Michael Rabbani, a chemical engineering junior and co-director of Students for Sustainability, said the program began in 2006 under the guidance of three students; one of them being Chet Phillips, who is now the ASUA Students for Sustainability coordinator. Rabbani said it became a formally recognized ASUA program in 2008.

Rabbani said the program's weekly general body meetings are every Wednesday and students can get involved by applying to be a part of Students for Sustainability through the upcoming April application.

He said each October, the program attends the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education conference. The program interns have the opportunity to submit presentation proposals for projects they have been working on and if their proposals are accepted, the intern’s trip expenses are paid for.

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Rabbani said last October at AASHE, Students for Sustainability had six presentations and garnered a total audience of over 200 people.

He said interns are divided into eleven committees with topics ranging from water conservation to social justice and composting.

According to Rabbani, interns in each subset of the program participate in ongoing projects within their assigned committee and are also strongly encouraged to come up with projects of their own.

“This is my second semester as the undergraduate co-director of Students for Sustainability. Along with Sami Springs, we oversee each committee’s progress, hold meetings and represent Students for Sustainability and ASUA at events and conferences that we attend,” Rabbani said. “I joined [Students for Sustainability] as a Grassroots committee intern in the spring 2014 semester. I was a regular intern for two semesters before I became the committee chair of Grassroots in spring 2015. I applied and was selected to be the director in spring 2015.”

Rabbani said the program interns volunteer each year at Tucson Meet Yourself, Spring Fling and the Earth Day Festival at Reid Park. He said they also take part in many other small events throughout the year and hold an average of about two forums on a sustainability topic per year.

“One event that we are most proud of is Plating the Desert, a project undertaken by Stephanie Choi of the Arts committee, because we were able to form so many positive relationships with members of the community in seeing the project come to fruition,” Rabbani said.

Ysabella Zammit, a global studies sophomore, is currently an intern for the Grassroots committee.

The Grassroots committee mission “is to involve the student population in various sustainability opportunities such as waste reduction, gardening and education outreach,” according to Students for Sustainability’s website.

Zammit said she has been interning with Students for Sustainability for over a year. She said she initially joined the program because she was seeking out like-minded people with a passion for the environment and healthy sustainable lifestyles.

“I wanted to learn more about how I could help the community become a more sustainable place to live in,” Zammit said. “[Students for Sustainability] has been more than just an awareness experience, it’s become an impactful and beneficial way of living.”

Zammit said working with Grassroots has helped her connect with the Tucson community to educate and be educated about green efforts anyone can be a part of.

“I have worked with other committees such as Greening the Game, Environmental Arts, [Community] Garden and Compost Cats — to name a few — to grasp better efforts I, and others, can make in their everyday lives to make our future brighter,” she said.


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