Students and faculty at the University of Montevallo (UM) are making huge strides toward sustainability in their city. The members of UM’s Environmental Club and Sustainability Committee fostered an idea – a public meeting where their thoughts could be discussed with residents of the town and it’s government. The idea became a reality on the 22nd of January, when the long awaited ‘environmental town hall meeting’ was held at the Comer Auditorium on campus.
Sustainability efforts in Montevallo broke ground in 2007, when UM English professor Dr. Lee Rozelle organized the first ‘town hall’ meeting of its kind. Since then, a growing need for another meeting has presented itself in the community, gaining support from residents and city officials.
The team of students and faculty, now led by UM’s Assistant Professor of Environmental Science, Susan Caplow, hopes that the meeting will become an annual tradition for the students and town residents.
Caplow came to Montevallo in August of last year after earning her Ph.D. in Environment and Ecology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Thanks to a solid footing laid by fellow UM colleagues Jill Wicknick and Lee Rozelle, she was greeted by overwhelming student interest in the Environmental Science department. In fact, sustainability at UM has always had grassroots student support, and that support is ever-growing.
“Many of the initiatives here have been led by students,” she says, “including the founding of the Environmental Club, ValloCycle (Alabama’s first citywide bikeshare program), and the Green Fund, which generates $30,000 per year from student fees to support sustainability on campus.”
Learn more about ValloCycle: Montevallo Bike Share Program Promotes Eco-Friendly Transportation, Healthier Lifestyle
At the core of the meeting was talk of sustainable food drives, recycling efforts, food waste reduction, and efforts to plan community events like documentary showings and Earth Day festivals. The goal of the meeting is to improve connections and cooperation between the university and the city. The Sustainability Committee was vocal about the need to improve marketing and outreach efforts, which can help involve more people in the process of moving Montevallo toward sustainability.
Caplow explained that without community interest and cooperation, sustainability efforts can’t be fully implemented. “Sustainability planning should be highly participatory, as true sustainability incorporates financial, environmental and social sustainability,” she explained. “Thus, the community needs to have its needs met and be consulted for major changes, or else one of these three pillars of sustainability is likely to fall.”
For those who are wondering when the next meeting will be held, Caplow says she has hope for regularly scheduled meetings in the future. “We’re not sure when the next one will be held,” she says, “but I’d like to make these kinds of meetings an annual event if the Sustainability Committee is amenable to it. If the meetings become more regular, then we can establish an ongoing dialogue with folks from around Montevallo.”
Anyone with questions or suggestions about new or existing sustainability projects is encouraged to contact Susan at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also check out www.montevallo.edu/sustainability for the latest updates on UM’s green progress.