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Students for Sustainability Club are in need of a jumpstart

President Joel Cruz isn’t ready to give up

The Students for Sustainability Club are fighting for sustainable changes around campus. Photo: Mailys Steiblen • The Sentry

When Joel Cruz first stepped on campus two years ago, he set out to create a club to promote sustainability but found out that another club with the same intent, Students for Sustainability Club (SSC), already existed. Now, he is president of SSC and is facing the daunting task of revitalizing an organization that died within the same year it was born.

“I’m excited to put more integrity in the club,” said Cruz. “There’s really no other way I think anyone else can do it the way I want to do it except me.” As president of SSC, which currently has six members, Cruz must find other like-minded students to join his cause, which is easier said than done. 

“When I say stagnant, I mean stagnant,” said Cruz about the state of SSC before his presidency. When asked what could be done to increase awareness for SSC, he pointed out the endless possibilities. “Even tabling is something new we can do, which is scary,” he said.

As SSC undergoes its own sort of rebranding and awareness campaign, Cruz is finding similarities between his club’s struggles and the general disconnect between sustainability and the public. 

An audit of the Denver Office of Sustainability found that the city would not be able to meet its 2020 sustainability goals as of Dec. 2016. These goals would put Denver at the national composting average of 35 percent. Auraria Higher Education Center (AHEC) has the hope to be at those same numbers in the same amount of time, but faces a longer struggle as its current composting rate is 17 percent behind the city percentage of 20. Cruz is part of the plan to increase these numbers.

One of the major changes Cruz plans to implement is a new marketing scheme. He sees the recycling bins in the Tivoli as confusingly labeled and driving people away. He wants zero-waste bins put in their place. 

SSC worked and tabled at the Welcome Week Block Party, which was the first entirely zero-waste event on Auraria campus. Cruz doesn’t plan to stop there though.

“My dream would be to get at least one vegan restaurant on campus,” Cruz said. “I’m not even vegan. I just want that because… veganism is important, because it’s sustainable.”

The biggest uphill battle Cruz faces now, is the misunderstanding and disinterest toward sustainability. 

Sustainability requires more planning than being non-sustainable, which stems from our “consumer habits” as Cruz puts it. “Our impact is more compounded than we all think,” Cruz said. “We’re so used to our habits. Getting coffee in the morning, going to events and already having plates and forks and cups there for us, but they’re mostly plastic.”

A remarketing campaign is the natural next step, Cruz finds, in the evolution of sustainable living. To draw more people into a sustainable lifestyle, requires making sustainability seem more accessible and achievable for all.

“Using words like ‘culture’ or ‘lifestyle’ can create a barrier; however, how else are you supposed to create a norm? By making it clique-y in a way,” said Cruz. “When I say bike culture, I think anyone can ride a bike. Most people can ride a bike. Even if you’re mute or deaf, you can ride a bike. Sustainability: it’s everyone. Everyone, everywhere, regardless of race, ethnicity, political association, because you’re a freaking human being on the planet.”

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