September 20, 2021

A More Sustainable CHaSS

Promoting efforts toward sustainability within CHaSS

By: Lyndi Robins, CHaSS Communications Journalist

As the 2020-21 CHaSS sustainability intern, Madeleine Alder, then a junior in the Department of International Studies, created new resources to educate about methods of sustainable living and to promote what members of the CHaSS community were already doing to contribute to sustainability.

Throughout the 2020-21 school year, Alder created an Instagram page (@sustainableCHaSS), a newsletter, a book club and hosted an end-of-year speaker event. She also created an interview series which highlighted sustainability efforts in the CHaSS community.

Sustainable living is, in this case, making conscious lifestyle decisions to reduce impact on the environment.

For the interview series, Alder met with Utah State CHaSS students, faculty and alumni who are making strides toward greater sustainability. She shared key takeaways from her interviews on the CHaSS sustainability Instagram page and though an email newsletter.

“My big goal was to promote more sustainability in CHaSS,” Alder said. “I chose to create more dialogue about sustainability and focus on what people in the college were already doing.”

Paul Crumbley, a professor of literature at USU, spoke with Alder about the connection between poetry and the environment. Crumbley stated that poetry can remind the writer and the reader that humans and the natural world are connected.

Utah State alumnus Rachel Taylor discussed her efforts toward living a more personally sustainable lifestyle through daily choices such as eating fewer red meats, wearing second-hand clothing and cutting out single-use plastics. Taylor advises people to just do what they can.

“We don’t need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly,” Taylor told Alder. “We need millions of people doing it imperfectly.”

Jenni Morales, CHaSS alumnus and USU economics graduate student, shared information about her research on the impact of climate change on permafrost. She specifically focused on researching how Alaskan communities can prepare for the changes to their environment that will arise due to melting permafrost.

Rosa Thornley, adjunct professor in the Department of English, spoke with Alder about her experience of gardening without using pesticides and chemicals. Thornley currently teaches ENGL 3630, The Farm in Literature and Culture, which examines American farming through the lens of folklore, literature and art. The class educates students about the food chain and sustainable farming options.

These and more interview spotlights can be found on the Instagram page alongside giveaways, announcements and tips on sustainable living.

“I don’t think there were a lot of people in CHaSS thinking, ‘oh, my discipline really lends well to conversations about sustainability’ but I wanted to show everyone that the unique strengths from each discipline can contribute,” Alder said.

To complement CHaSS’s strengths in literature and writing, Alder began the first CHaSS sustainability book club. Last school year, the book club covered three books: Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver, Where the Water Goes by David Owen, and Erosion by Terry Tempest Williams. All three books examined different aspects of sustainable living.

In partnership with the Institute of Government and Politics, Alder also hosted a virtual end-of-year speaker event. The event featured key speakers Emily Malik, Logan City sustainability coordinator, Thom Carter, energy adviser to Governor Cox, and James Campbell, director of innovation and sustainability at Rocky Mountain Power. All three speakers spoke about how they use their background in humanities to promote greater sustainability in Utah.

“CHaSS has a lot to contribute to discussions about sustainability on our campus,” Alder said. “It will just take some effort to start making those conversations a bigger part of our college.”

The CHaSS sustainability intern for the 2021-22 school year is Jamie Butikofer.




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