'Environmental Service Commitment' needed to improve community

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DePauw students have absolutely no shortage of campus involvement. From greek life to community service, Programs of Distinction to clubs and organizations, it's hard to go all four years without participating in our vibrant campus community.

This passion for involvement begins in the first few days of the school year when new students arrive on campus and are given the opportunity to participate in the First-Year Service Plunge. This commitment is a great way for DePauw's new additions to learn more about service in the Greencastle community.

For those of you who don't know what the service plunge is, it's essentially a program designed to introduce first-year students to community service leaders in Putnam county, service organizations and volunteer opportunities. On the day of the service plunge, which is during orientation week, new students assemble to participate in one of many different service projects.

What the project list is lacking, except for maybe the nature park, are opportunities to serve the environment and learn more about Greencastle sustainability. What about involvement in sustainability efforts around campus and in Putnam County? I think that with DePauw's current commitment to sustainability, a new kind of service plunge is in order — a green one.

This Environmental Service Commitment, as I call it, should serve alongside and be very similar to the original service plunge; first-year students should again be given the opportunity to learn about sustainability leaders, organizations and green volunteering. Additionally, I think establishing a similar program for sustainability should not be limited to only one project on a single day. I believe this new plunge should include commitment, an honest dedication to improving the environment, sustainability and overall welfare of the community students reside in for an entire four years.

So what types of things could students involved in an Environmental Service Commitment do? Building and maintaining a DePauw campus garden is the first thing that comes to my mind. This community garden would be a perfect way for DePauw students to learn about composting and the difficulty of growing many foods we take for granted. Upon harvest, the local produce could be given to DePauw's Dining Services or sold at the local farmers market.

Energy Wars is another possible volunteering opportunity. Measuring, recording and motivating others during the one-month competition is no easy task. An army of volunteers would make the competition much more efficient and possibly keep DePauw on the top of the rankings. Establishing a greek Energy Wars is another possible challenge for green volunteers. Since many of them might take to greek houses as sophomores, more voice in the greek community could carry over to a fully participating, campus wide event.

Finally, directly improving the immediate environment is another way students could fill the service commitment. From stream cleanups, to improving local and state parks, many great service projects could stem from environmental stewardship.

I envision the Environmental Service Commitment as a combination between the Bonner Scholar program (a minimum service requirement to stay in the program), the Service Plunge and a program of distinction. A four-year commitment to environmental stewardship would be a great way to adhere to the commitment our campus has made to sustainability.

— Hesterberg is a sophomore from Cincinnati, majoring in biology. He is a Science Research Fellow.

opinion@thedepauw.com