Talking trash with St. Kate’s sustainability coordinators

Sustainability coordinators Moe O'Keefe ’22 (left) and Rachel Schauer ’21 (right)

In their roles as sustainability coordinators, Moe O'Keefe ’22 (left) and Rachel Schauer ’21 (right) work to increase awareness of and unite eco-friendly initiatives on campus. Photo by Michelle Mullowney ’17.


The sustainability coordinator position is relatively new at St. Kate’s, having been launched in the spring of 2019. But since they started in their positions this fall, Moe O’Keefe ’22 and Rachel Schauer ’21 have already made great strides in aligning on-campus sustainability efforts and increasing University communication about its eco-initiatives. They took time in between their studies and sustainability work to answer a few questions about helping St. Kate’s go green.

Why did you accept the position of sustainability coordinator?
Moe: I noticed last year that there were sustainability efforts happening on campus, but there was little communication from the University about what they were trying to do. As a communications major, I felt that I could use my skills to increase sustainability education across campus.
Rachel: As an environmental studies major, I am passionate about environmental issues and implementing sustainable practices in our community, so I was eager to become involved with sustainability efforts at St. Kates. I found this to be the perfect way to do so, as well as gain experience in my field.

What inspires your work on campus sustainability projects?
Moe: I love meeting with students and seeing how passionate they are about sustainability — it motivates me to make change, such as the campus composting efforts. I’m proud of the work we’ve done so far developing clearer cafeteria signage about composting!
Rachel: Since one of our goals as sustainability coordinators is to unite sustainability efforts on campus, I have been able to work with many members of our campus community, including the Sisters of St. Joseph, Student Senate, Sodexo, and the facilities department, among others. At the pollinator parking lot party, it was wonderful to see how so many groups are interested in promoting sustainability, with BioClub and the Food Justice Coalition being leading clubs in this area. Joining efforts is a great way to see how everyone on campus can actively contribute, and I am excited to see this spread throughout different departments on campus.

What are easy things St. Kate’s students can do to be more green on campus?
Moe: Composting! All the Earthchoice products are compostable. All you have to do is place your food waste or Earthchoice containers on the silver dish return racks, and Sodexo employees will sort it. Using reusable silverware also makes a big difference.
Rachel: One of the best ways is to sort waste correctly. There are paper towel compost bins in campus restrooms, and being sure to only put paper towels in this bins is a great way to be green.

Students can also provide composting options at club meetings and events by emailing us at sustainability@stkate.edu. You can make a big difference by aiming to make your event zero-waste!

Why is sorting food waste correctly so important?
Rachel: We’ve found that while people are eager to sort correctly, there have been major problems with contamination. When something is mistakenly thrown into the compost or recycle bin, it becomes contaminated and the whole bin has to be thrown out completely. One of our goals for this semester is to improve waste-sorting education so that everyone on campus can help with sustainability efforts!

What are your favorite sustainability hacks?
Moe: I use the shampoo and conditioner Love Beauty and Planet. The bottle is 93% recycled material, vegan, and washes out quicker than regular hair products to save water. I also make sure to buy recycled trash bags. 
Rachel: When eating in the cafeteria, be sure to use the plates and silverware that are reusable. To save energy and limit turning on lights, study in community spaces or areas with natural lighting.

What upcoming project are you most excited to share with the St. Kate’s community?
Moe: Rachel and I are currently working on creating an educational display with compostable Sodexo products. We plan on tabling in the dining hall several times a week to help inform students on how to compost.
Rachel: This year we have seen a rise in the number of students interested in sustainability on campus, and as a result we are in the process of chartering a club with the purpose of promoting student involvement in environmental issues.

Questions or ideas for Moe and Rachel? Email sustainability@stkate.edu.

You can learn more about St. Kate’s sustainability initiatives at stkate.edu/sustainability.

 

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