Faculty, students rally committee, club for greener Dixie

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The color red coats Dixie State University’s name, but some are striving to add a vivid layer of green.

As Earth Day approaches, students and faculty members have joined forces as Dixie’s very own environmental advocates. The idea of self-sustainability spurred them to create a committee to educate, encourage and activate a go-green movement that reaches throughout campus and, eventually, the rest of the community. The goal is to instill the mentality to conserve and reuse. 

“There is an interest in sustainability both on campus and in the community,” said Rico Del Sesto, a chemistry assistant professor who is involved in the sustainability committee. “I think it’s going to take just some organization lighting the first match and saying: ‘Let’s do it.’”

Recycling is the committee members’ main priority. Tracey O’Kelly, library paraprofessional and sustainability committee chair, said while DSU partakes in some recycling in some of its buildings, there is still plenty of room for improvement. She said in relation to other Utah communities and universities, St. George could be doing much more when it comes to recycling, and, as one of the largest institutions in the area, Dixie can make a powerful difference.

“Southern Utah people aren’t aware of the bad that recycling alleviates,” O’Kelly said. “It’s a world-wide issue, and it [will take] all of us (to make a change), but we have all got to take the first step.”

O’Kelly said she drafted a proposal to administration officials requesting financial support to implement DSU’s sustainability initiative, but the request was waved because of a lack of student interest.

“Administration is saying because this is a student-run institution, we need to have student support to get more to happen,” O’Kelly said. “That’s what’s holding us back. Students need to demand from the administration support.”

Bill Christensen, vice president of academic services, said he favors the idea of a more sustainable campus, but that mentality must branch out to others in order to create change.

“Unfortunately we have a lot of people who don’t seem to care yet, so we want to try to teach sustainability, and hopefully those of us who don’t get it yet will get better,” Christensen said. “A lot of it is going to come down to our individual efforts to make this better.”

In order to nurture student support, committee members have begun organizing a student sustainability club. O’Kelly said about 10 students are interested in signing up so far, so the club should have full momentum by Club Rush in the fall semester. 

Rylan Powell, a senior biology major from St. George, already helps empty recycling bins as part of his membership in the Reserve Officer Training Corps. However, he said he’s going to take the extra step and help broaden the initiative as a member of the sustainability club.

“We’ve gotten some names, but we really need to put the word out there,” Powell said. “If we can get more people in, we can do more events and fund raisers.” 

Powell said the club’s first aim is to gain enough student support and funds to grant all buildings on campus their own recycling bins and dumpsters. 

While the sustainability committee and club members are just starting to dig their heels in for solid plans of action, one thing is for certain: Without student support, making any real kind of impact is going to be an uphill battle.

Thus, O’Kelly said she urges any students interested in joining the sustainability initiative to contact her promptly. Her office phone number is 435-652-7710.

O’Kelly also said students can show their support by purchasing a green sustainability T-shirt to wear on Earth Day for $10, which will help build the initiative’s funds. O’Kelly has the shirts in her office in room 355 in the Jeffrey R. Holland Centennial Commons.

Del Sesto said while the sustainability initiative is going to take years, DSU students need to realize how much of an impact they can have on not only the quality and image of Dixie, but also the planet. 

“We have the chance to be a role model for the community,” Del Sesto said. “If you have a sense of pride in Dixie, we need to do this.”