Story posted March 01, 2010
While Bowdoin and Colby students were battling it out over the ice on February 27 and 28, another group of Bowdoin and Colby students were seeing their vision of a Sustainability Training Institute for Maine college students come to fruition.
Thirty-two students from 12 Maine colleges and universities converged on Unity College to learn how they can serve communities that are striving to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.
The Sustainability Institute — envisioned to bring Maine college students together for a weekend of training on sustainability — is the brainchild of environmental studies and Spanish major Brooks Winner '10 and Colby student Steve Erario '10.
Students were selected on a competitive basis to represent their institutions. Workshops included Greenhouse Gas Inventories, Community-based Weatherization Programs, Renewable Energy Technology and Creating Change in Communities.
"It has been exciting to see how Steve Erario's work in writing Waterville's Climate Action Plan, which helped me get started with developing a plan for the City of Bath, is having a ripple affect in other colleges and communities throughout Maine," said Winner.
Having gained experience in the development of greenhouse gas inventories and development of climate action plans through their experiences with Bath and Waterville, Winner and Erario trained a dozen students on how to conduct community-wide greenhouse gas inventories during the summer of 2009.
This work led to a full semester project in Phil Camill's environmental studies capstone class, in which students collected data and prepared climate action plans for the towns of Brunswick and Topsham, and planted the seed for a larger-scale training program for Maine college students.
"Students can serve as an important catalyst in a community," said Topsham Natural Resource Planner Rod Melanson, who worked with Camill's fall capstone course.
"The experience of working with this class was incredibly helpful. One of the great outcomes of working with the students was that they helped to connect these initiatives between the two communities, which was invaluable for both communities."
Winner, along with David Funk '10 and Thai Ha-Ngoc '10, who as Psi Upsilon summer fellows and students in Camill's capstone course, worked on the Brunswick and Topsham climate action plans, ran a day-long workshop on conducting greenhouse gas inventories.
"This has been a great way to get a bunch of energetic, passionate students together to give them the information they need to work with communities who need help," said Funk.
Ha-Ngoc, says the experience of training other students has "helped me to revisit how important this work has been for me on a personal level."
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"One of the unique aspects of this institute is that students themselves are the trainers," said Environmental Studies Program Manager Eileen Johnson, one of the Institute's organizers.
"Drawing upon their experience, these student leaders trained their peers to effect change in their communities, and at the same time, serve as role models."
Sophomores Hannah Levy and Andrew Cushing also represented Bowdoin. Each of the 35 students left with a specific vision of programs they hope to initiate within their communities, ranging from connecting with weatherization programs and assisting with installation of alternative energy systems to developing a climate action plan for their communities. College of the Atlantic student Lisa Bjerke summed up the experience: "This has been awesome."