If you happened to be on campus on the weekend of April 26-28, you might have seen a flurry of students moving in and out of Wheeler, Dwinelle, and the surrounding areas wearing name tags made of nothing more than reused cardboard and yarn.
What you saw was the California Student Sustainability Coalition (CSSC) Spring 2013 Convergence, a convergence held each fall and spring that “unites, connects, supports and empowers students from across California to transform their educational institutions and communities into models of ecological, economic, and social sustainability.” UC Berkeley hosted the 2013 Spring CSSC Convergece, with support from the Student Environmental Resource Center (SERC), ECO, STeam, the Berkeley Student Food Collective, and TGIF. Over 300 students from 33 different universities, Cal-states, and community colleges attended the convergence, which held the theme of Invest, Inspire, Innovate.
The 3-day event featured workshops, interdisciplinary panels, keynote speakers, food, and entertainment. Workshops were presented by students and fell into one of the 3 themes, with topics like “Fracking in California 101,” “Aquaponics – Fish and Food,” “Rethinking Reuse – Targeting Zero Waste,” “Biodiesel! Fuel from the Countertop,” and “Indoor Gardens.” The featured keynote speakers were Crystal Lameman, an activist for the Beaver Lake Cree First Nation; Hunter Lovins, a renowned environmental sustainability promoter; and Garth Lenz, an internationally published photojournalist of environmental and social injustice issues. The panels featured professionals from a variety of backgrounds, including Berkeley professors Laura Nader and Tarek Zohdi, civil-rights lawyer Paul Hoffman, co-founder of 350.org Jamie Henn, and co-founder of CoFed and the BSFC Yoni Landau.
TGIF Program Associates Kareem Hammoud and Claire Kaufman attended the CSSC.
Claire attended the Introduction to Fossil Fuel Divestment workshop, which she found very abstract. However, this abstract movement for change was inspiring, especially since such a diverse group of students was represented from across California. She found it motivating that students are so committed and knowledgeable about divesting from the fossil fuel industry, and most recently how students of California came together to address the UC Regents at their meeting on May 16, 2013.
Claire also attended a Vermicomposting workshop, which she loved because of its down-to-earth (literally, worms) applicability. She plans to implement vermicomposting in her house, since she had previously thought composting was impossible since her house has only a tiny yard. She has notes of the right worms and conditions to start the process of turning food into fertilizer!
Kareem attended the Aquaponics and Biodiesel workshops, both of which he found very interesting. The main idea of aquaponics is to combine the natural processes from fish and plant life-cycles into a sustainable loop that promotes the healthy growth of both. In a nutshell, fish excrete waste into their tank water, and this water is pumped into the growing medium for the plants. The plants filter this water by utilizing the fish waste as nutrients and returning the filtered water to the fish tank. With a well-maintained system, you can grow your own herbs (or other plant types) while also having pet fish. Kareem thought this was an awesome idea and is currently looking into building his own home system.
The Biodiesel workshop showcased how it is possible to create your own biodiesel within a few days from common household products and easily acquired ingredients like lye, methanol, and vegetable oil. Although interesting and potentially useful, most people in the states probably dont have diesel engines in their cars, which is a requirement for using biodiesel. Additionally, there are added issues that come from biodiesel’s potential to damage engines, so the investment into running a car on purely biodiesel might not be worth it to the common person. However, Kareem still found it surprising that making biodiesel is as easy as it is and recognizes the potential it has in decreasing one’s carbon emissions.
Overall, the CSSC proved to be a successful weekend for all involved. It provided like-minded students from all over California a fantastic opportunity to learn, talk, and be inspired together, bringing our generation one step closer to making a difference on our planet in the coming years.
-by TGIF Program Associates Kareem Hammoud and Claire Kaufman