Please tell us about yourself and what brought you to Concordia College.
I live in Moorhead and have been in the area for about three years. I attended the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities, where I majored in environmental science. I worked in the recycling and waste industry for a number of years before coming to Concordia College. In addition to my work here, I enjoy taking care of my large family of houseplants, crafting, taking walks, and running my small business – The Plant Supply.
What is your current position at Concordia and how long you have been in that role?
I am the sustainability coordinator and have been in the role for about 2.5 years. There are two sides to my role. First, I get to create sustainability-focused programming for the Concordia community. I get to work with students to move forward sustainability initiatives that they care about and support them in the work that they are doing. Second, I work to point the college toward a more sustainable future. I get to assist in developing sustainability goals and plans for reaching those goals.
What is the best part of your job?
That is a tough question because it is difficult to pick one thing. I guess the best part is that every day I get to work toward making Concordia a place that has a positive impact on the world. This includes encouraging students to think and act more sustainably, helping staff members consider how their work can have a positive impact on the environment, and thinking through how we can reduce the negative impacts of our operations.
How does Concordia allow you to be passionate about your work?
I am so grateful that I never feel like I have to swim upstream to make sustainable change at Concordia. Overall, I am amazed at how many people at the college are fighting to make Concordia more sustainable. I rarely have to convince people that the sustainable option is best, but rather provide reinforcement and encouragement. I really appreciate that about working here.
What sustainability resources do students have on campus?
One of our goals at the Sustainability Office is to seek a sustainable future, which is first and foremost a just future. Because of that, we aim to make sure that the programs we offer are not only providing sustainability education but also making sure the Concordia College experience is beneficial and positive for all students. So, the resources we support include the Cobber Food Pantry, the Free Store, COBBikes, free MATBUS rides (using Concordia ID), the Green Office Program, the Cornucopia Organic Garden, internships, and low-cost spring/fall break trips. Additionally, students have access to the Student Sustainability Fund, which is available to all students and can be used to fund research, internships, trips, events, and projects that have a sustainability focus.
In what ways is Concordia responding to climate change and working toward a Climate Action Plan?
In 2017, Concordia signed the Climate Commitment. Signing this document committed Concordia to setting a goal to reach carbon neutrality, creating a plan to reach that goal, and developing a plan for being resilient in the face of climate change. Since signing that document, we have spent the past three years pulling together faculty, staff, and students to plan how we are going to accomplish that. We also hired an external consultant to do a full carbon assessment of the college to help us analyze different ways we can reduce our carbon impact. All of this work will culminate soon in the creation of a Climate Action Plan that will be released in early 2021.
In addition, we are launching a carbon reduction campaign called Carbon-Free Concordia. The goal of the campaign is to encourage the Concordia community to take an active role in the college’s journey to carbon neutrality. The Sustainability Office student interns have also been developing a collaborative or think-tank program to provide the student body with a space to discuss carbon reduction ideas and provide a means of moving those ideas forward.
Will you explain what a carbon footprint is and what students can do to reduce their own?
A carbon footprint is essentially a way to measure how much carbon dioxide (the most common greenhouse gas emitted by humans) an individual’s actions and lifestyle produce. Carbon dioxide is one of the many greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change. Recognizing how much your lifestyle contributes to climate change and thinking through how you can reduce that impact is very important. If you would like to calculate your carbon footprint, there are a number of good, free calculators online.
To reduce your carbon footprint, there is a never-ending list of things you could do. To make the largest impact, I would encourage you to start by thinking about your transportation and your food consumption. Could you use a less carbon intensive way to travel? Maybe walk or bike to campus rather than drive? Or the next time you go on a vacation, drive instead of fly. When it comes to food, consider lessening your meat intake and aim to buy locally grown foods when possible. These are just a few of many, many things you can do, so I encourage you to research what changes you can make. The goal is never to be perfect in every area, because that is impossible, but to always be seeking improvement.
What are the responsibilities of the President’s Sustainability Council?
The President’s Sustainability Council is charged with the tasks of setting specific sustainability-related goals for the college, developing worthy initiatives and policies, and working with members of the community to enable the adoption of sustainable practices. Recently, the PSC has been working heavily on carbon reduction and resilience planning. In addition, we are working to establish our Green Revolving Fund and reinstate the college’s Green-to-Go program in The Maize.
Can you talk about the Stories of Resilience project you were a part of and how it relates to climate change?
Resilience is necessary in dealing with the effects of climate change. As our world changes, we need to develop systems, processes, and techniques for anticipating and managing that change. Building a strong, connected community is a key part of having a resilient community, so the goal of this project was to foster that in the faculty and staff community at Concordia.
With the onset of COVID-19, it was clear that people were feeling isolated and disconnected from their peers. The goal of the Stories of Resilience project was to connect with others and share how individuals were practicing resilience during this time. In addition, the hope was that this would foster a sense of community and encourage self-reflection, ultimately making the Concordia community more resilient.
What do you do in your free time?
In my free time, I love to craft and take care of my large collection of houseplants. About a year ago, I decided to combine my love of crafting and plants with my interest in business. I started my own small business, The Plant Supply. My husband, Jordan, and I make concrete planters, macramé plant hangers, and other plant accessories, and sell plants once in a while as well. In summer 2019, we launched our business at the Red River Market in Fargo, which provided a great opportunity to connect with the small business and maker communities in the Fargo-Moorhead area. Since then, we have continued to grow our business through Etsy, social media, and craft shows/markets. It has been an amazing experience so far and has really helped me connect with the F-M community in a really fun and unique way.