Students make a difference on Honors Campus

The center for student activities on FAU’s MacArthur campus, the Burrow, is a scurry of commotion as 20 or so young men and women set up booths, signs and posters for Environmental Awareness Day.

Green letters are painted on old newspaper labeling the booths: Aveda, Marine Life Center and Nutrition S’mart. Their light brown shirts, the color of wet sand, blend together as the students laugh, converse and work together to prepare the lobby for the event.

Printed in dark red letters across their chests, “Enviro Club” stands out against the neutral tones of the shirts, the group that boasts the Mac Awards Club of the Year for 2006. The organization has come a long way from its induction in 2002.

The Enviro Club is proud to be an “action- based club focused on campus initiatives,” says Sarah Fannin, junior and club president.

The Enviro Club was the idea of student Paul McCurdy who wanted to start a group to take outdoor trips like hiking, canoeing, biking, etc. McCurdy ran into difficulties when trying to get the club started. FAU policy prohibits the replication of a club that exists, and an Outdoor Club was already established on the Boca Raton campus. McCurdy decided to call the group the Enviro Club, Professor of Environmental Studies Bill O’Brien signed on as the faculty adviser, and the group was official in 2002.

McCurdy headed the Enviro Club for three years until handing the presidency over to sophomore and active member Fannin.

During the first three years, the club’s actions included hiking and biking trips, along with beach restoration and clean-up throughout Jupiter with a fluctuating group of 25 to 30 active members.

Fanin says, “When Paul moved and left the presidency to me, I was a little overwhelmed. I was like whoa, now what do we do?”

One of the most pressing and evolving issues for the club has been recycling on campus.

According to the Florida Statutes, every school in the State University System is required to recycle at least all aluminum, paper and cardboard products. After some investigation by a few students, it was revealed that the MacArthur campus was not recycling any of the products that were being collected in the dining halls, residence halls and classroom buildings.

“The cost was considered too high to recycle the small amount of product that we were collecting on campus, so it was all getting mixed together and thrown out with the trash,” Fannin says.

After arranging multiple meetings among university officials, the physical waste plant and the dining and residence halls, the process is at a standstill for the club. Waste management companies and university administrators are debating over the cost of transporting the large recycling containers to and from campus.

Meanwhile bright neon orange signs hang from trash cans all over campus stating in capital, bold, black letters, “FAU Does Not Recycle,” followed by the Florida Statute and contact numbers urging students to make their voices heard.

“We have tried being nice about it, but we are breaking the law,” Fannin says.

Since the club’s start, the MacArthur Honors college has gained an Outdoor Club, which has taken on the task of organizing trips. The Enviro Club can now focus on becoming more environmentally active on campus and in the community.

The Enviro Club uses the largest budget that the MacArthur campus allots to student clubs to retain an action-based agenda.

The club often organizes trips to conferences, sending small groups of students throughout Florida and the East Coast to participate in the gatherings and education of those in the environmental field.

Last year the members involved themselves in the Florida Sustainable Energy Summit, the Campus Sustainability Conference and the Everglades Coalition Conference.

Their age and perseverance gains them praise and encouragement wherever they go, says Fannin. “We get a lot of attention because we are students, because most of the time we are the only young people at these things,” she notes. “People are excited that we care enough to make the trips.”

The group also participates in regional conference calls throughout Florida, networking with other students and sharing ideas and projects. The club provides a place for ambitious students to be active and make a difference in their college careers.

Junior Natalie Stetson joined the Enviro Club during her sophomore year after growing up in an environmentally-friendly household.

“It has provided me an outlet to do what I can to help. We have gotten a lot more political this year, and I think politics need an environmental voice,” Stetson says.

With the Enviro Club taking on large obstacles, Fannin urges students from the Boca Raton campus to become involved in the activities as well because working together may be the only way to sway administrators for change.

“The only way that change can happen on a university level on any subject is with the pressure of the school as a whole, not just one branch or another,” Fannin says.

The Enviro Club meets every other week on Wednesday nights at 7:30 p.m. in the Burrow to discuss issues, plan events and show educational movies. Meetings are open to everyone.

For more information on the club and upcoming activities via e-mail, contact Sarah Fannin at [email protected]