Belén Yudess ’25
Copy Editor Intern
The Scripps Sustainabiliteam is starting the year off strong with multiple efforts to reduce excess waste on campus. The committee is made up of student volunteers who are dedicated to sustainability efforts on campus and works to implement institutional change. The team consists of four subgroups: waste, water, energy, and the Free Closet, and each group strives to solve a different sustainability issue at Scripps.
Although student advocacy towards sustainability has been an ongoing fight, the Scripps Associated Students (SAS) supported Sustainabiliteam was assembled by 2021-22 Sustainability Chair Ana Rodriguez ’23, and has since continued to be an organization under that SAS position. This year the elected official guiding the team is Raka Mukherjee ’25, who expressed his appreciation for the opportunity to lead this group and elevate student voices about sustainability.
“I ran for this position as I felt sustainability activism and change on campus was too often being dismissed in favor of other things, such as Scripps aesthetics,” Mukherjee said. “I was hoping that as Sustainability Chair, I could help generate awareness as to these issues.”
Mukherjee’s sentiment about Scripps prioritizing aesthetics over other substantial changes was echoed by Medha Gelli ’23, a former Sustainabiliteam member and current employee for the San Jose City government’s stormwater management team.
“They want to maintain that aesthetic when incoming students tour Scripps,” Gelli said. “I think there is a lack of transparency about what initiatives Scripps does undertake and what actual impact they’re making. It comes off as greenwashing sometimes.”
Aside from the excess watering of lawns, Mukherjee pinpointed other aspects of Scripps’ sustainability efforts that need improvement. “Some of our most unsustainable habits as a campus include our water and energy use,” he said.
The Sustainabiliteam has begun combating these problems through various programming and resources that aim to get the student body involved and aware of these efforts around campus. Ongoing solutions include an emphasis on composting in collaboration with Malott and the Residential Halls, disposal sites for electronic waste, guidance on how to properly separate recyclables, town meetings and open forums regarding sustainability, and weekly updates with links to online resources compiled by Mukherjee and his peers.
“I haven’t seen any initiatives that the admin has worked on that have had such a big impact, especially when sustainability coordinators don’t stay for too long,” Gelli said.
Gelli also noted that other organizations, such as Scripps Scrapps, are integral in ensuring that sustainability is at the forefront of student actions and concerns. “Scripps Scrapps has been one of the longest standing traditions, and it’s one that has been really great, along with the implementation of the Free Closet,” she said.
Both Mukherjee and Gelli championed student-led initiatives as imperative to the success of sustainability at Scripps. As current chair of this committee, Mukherjee actively encourages students to use their voices if they want to be a part of the change the sustainabiliteam works to enact.
“There is one huge thing that students can do in order to become involved in these efforts: Pay attention, and make noise,” said Mukherjee. “We need bodies — in order to make genuine institutional change, we as a student body need to present a loud and unified front, showing administrators that we both need and want to have a greener campus. Pay attention to the sustainability updates, show up to sustainability meetings and events, and you’ll be contributing to green change.”
There are several upcoming events and committees students can attend or sign up for to contribute. The Mending Workshop, hosted by the Sustainabiliteam in conjunction with the Free Closet, will take place Nov. 12 at 1:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. in the Motley. The workshop will include an introduction to sewing in order to teach students how to mend their clothing to reduce fabric or material waste. The team also has a sustainability priority planning survey for those who were unable to attend the in-person meeting on Nov. 8, which can be found on their Instagram @sc.sustainabiliteam.
Mukherjee asks that students keep a look out for events and opportunities to gather and discuss sustainability efforts in order to ensure that the team can be successful in their endeavors. “We’re hoping to garner attention and attendance to the participatory decision making events we host, which are critical and instrumental in creating genuine change on this campus,” he said. “Administration has been transparent about being willing to make change, as long as enough people clamor for it. Keep an eye out for sustainability updates in which we list out our high priority events — and please attend!”
Image Source: Ellen Hu ’24