The seeds of the sustainability club were planted only four months ago, but already its members are preparing for a bountiful harvest.
Last week, the Sustainability Club engaged the campus in its first public event, hosting a Justice Talk in Foster. Club members presented the risks of marine pollution, animal agricultural resource abuse and environmental racism.
“You can start small,” Sustainability Club founder and leader Bailey Phillips said at the close of the event. “We think that [the world] is ours to take…but that’s just not true. When we have dominion over something we do it through love, not consumption and destruction.”
Phillips said when she started the club in January 2018, she did not expect to garner much attention or attendance.
She thought the club would “be lucky to have one person.” However, they’ve “had pretty consistent meetings and people who want to see change.”
And, more importantly, the members are already seeing progress from their efforts.
“Things are already changing,” Phillips said.
Phillips started the club after her experience working with U.S. National Parks over the summer. “I became really passionate about it,” she said.
Afterward, she read a book “Renewal in Love,” that connected religion and caring for the environment.
“It changed my life because I realized that God was calling us to care about this stuff. He calls us to be advocates,” she said.
Soon after, Phillips started talking to friends on campus and realized they cared too.
One of the club’s main goals is to “see the image of God shown through caring for creation.” Members focus on creation care and stewardship, and have various projects under their belt.
One involves a collaboration with Knox County Recycling and Litter Prevention.
“They’re helping us make recycling and composting more effective on campus,” she said.
The Sustainability Club also helps Knox County with river cleanups and educating local elementary and middle school students about sustainability and caring for the environment.
Phillips and the other members of the Sustainability Club also have been talking with staff in the cafeteria and hope they will start composting their biodegradable waste soon.
The club also advocated for the placement of the new recycling dumpster between Cedar, Birch and Oakwood.
“It’s a pilot to see if we can have recycling dumpsters next to all dumpsters” all around campus, and is part of a larger-scale recycling initiative, Phillips said.
Members want to see campus recycling “totally revamped,” and, in the future, a greener MVNU.
The club wants to “transform our campus and make us one of the top Christian green campuses,” she said.
Members are working directly with Facilities Services to make their dreams come true, and have even discussed solar panels as a long-term goal.
The Sustainability Club also has adopted the garden project, which plans to create a community garden on campus.
When Kate Decker, the pioneer of the project, started attending meetings and talking about the project with the club, Phillips said they knew they wanted to be a part of it.
The focus for the community garden project is environmental justice, which is a natural tie-in to the Sustainability Club, Phillips said.
“When the environment is impacted poorly, it impacts people poorly,” especially the impoverished, Phillips said. The hope is that the Sustainability Club can work through the community garden to reverse or alleviate some of that damage.
The club is working on other projects as well. Phillips said the Sustainability Club is currently working with the thrift store, hoping to make products to sell there.
She encourages others to participate in the community effort, as well.
“Our club has different projects that we’re doing and each person in our club is involved,” Phillips said. “There’s something for everyone to be involved in.”
Members of the club are “at different levels” regarding their vision of a greener campus.
Phillips does not want anyone to be discouraged by the different routes members take.
“Some people are really passionate about being vegan while some are really passionate about recycling,” Phillips said. “God has called us to love what we’ve been given. No matter if you’re interested in cleaning up some litter or going zero waste, there’s a place for you in our club.”
“If people want to see things happen and be a part of something that’s changing things on campus, this is definitely a way to do that,” she said.
The Sustainability Club meets Wednesdays at 8 p.m. in Birch E lobby.