I had lived in Vancouver, Washington, all my life before moving to Fort Worth to begin my first year at Texas Christian University. My first week on campus I experienced immediate culture shock. I learned how to line dance, I dressed up for my first college football game, and I ate lots of barbeque. A big difference between Vancouver and Fort Worth was the lack of awareness regarding environmental issues our world is facing. The university lacked a recycling program, and Styrofoam was widely used in our dining facilities.
This culture of recycling and reuse is something I took for granted back home, and this lack of awareness in my school sparked a passion in me for protecting the environment. Entering my sophomore year, I was appointed to the position of Student Government Director of Sustainability, and I immediately began researching TCU’s strengths, but also searching for areas that needed improvement. I was pleased to discover that our campus had many clubs filled with students, faculty, and staff who were trying to do exactly what I was trying to do: create change.
In 2017, TCU created a University Sustainability Committee comprised of students, faculty, and staff. The next year, the committee drafted a sustainability policy for the university as well as collaborated with ROXO, the student–run marketing agency, to create a clear message and mission for the university and to create a website to get our message out. The website will be finished this fall and will include resources such as the Texas Drought Monitor, guides to recycling, suggestions for how to live a more ecofriendly lifestyle, and will connect students to resources around campus.
In the spring of 2018, TCU held its first–ever Earth Day fair. Campus organizations put up tables to educate students, faculty, and staff on why every choice they make is important and how these choices impact the earth. In 2019, the event expanded to a week-long celebration focusing on water and trash consumption, waste and recycling, and environment and society.
Sodexo catered a vegetarian food truck for students for lunch to promote a greener diet, and students from Dr. Coles’ Environment and Society class hosted a variety of educational events and interactive games. Seniors Austin and Eric Ngo distributed straws made out of grass and utensils made from wood to encourage students to reduce single use plastic usage. Dr. Macias and the Gamma Kappa chapter of Alpha Phi Omega held a school–wide denim drive and collected 75 pounds of denim to donate to a company that repurposes it to make insulation. Clubs like the Environment Club and the Food Recovery Network also participated with their own events. At the end of the week, the founder of the Great Plains Restoration Council (GRPC), Jarid Manos, came to campus to speak about his work and explain how students can get involved in protecting this beautiful land that is right in their backyard. Dr. Coles plans to continue TCU’s relationship with GPRC in the fall by bringing her class to the prairie to do a BioBlitz.
When I was appointed Student Government Director of Sustainability, there were issues I wanted to address, including the widespread usage of Styrofoam products and the lack of recycling across campus. I am pleased to report that as of 2019, we have eliminated the use of Styrofoam products and switched over to reusable options in our dining facilities as well as at the Chick-Fil-A located on campus. Every year, we have purchased more recycling bins, and a continued aim is to increase education and awareness about how to properly recycle.
Last year, I outlined a 1–5–10-year plan for the direction TCU needs to go in order to become even more environmentally responsible. It was TCU’s first sustainability plan, and it was voted on and passed by the Student Government Association in the fall of 2018, showing that our students want to change and want to be a part of making a difference. In the last two years, we have experienced a sustainability boom on campus with many different groups now working together cohesively. These passionate groups are going to bring a massive wave of change, and it is truly inspiring to see everyone working together to make a difference in their community, which in turn will make an impactful difference in the world. I am proud to be a part of this movement and even prouder to be a Horned Frog.
This article originally appeared in the July/August issue of Madeworthy.
Nicole Gorretta is a senior Movement Science Major, Italian Minor at TCU. She currently sits on the Environmental Health and Safety university committee, and the Sustainability university committee. She has been appointed to the position of Director of Sustainability for the Student Government Association the last two years. Recently she won the TCU Office of Community Engagement Service Legacy award for her work on sustainability as well as directing a TCU Day of Service that strives to connect TCU students with the greater Fort Worth community through service. She plans to graduate from TCU in spring 2020 and go on to get her Doctorate in Physical Therapy.