Committed to Creating a More Sustainable World
2010 BS in Environmental Sciences: Environmental Management
When it comes to finding workable solutions to environmental problems that other students just talk about, Northern Arizona University senior Jane Stewart is a standout. She led the recent effort to develop the new student-funded Green Fund that will decrease the university's environmental impact by investing in efforts to make the university a greener place to live, work, and learn. For her efforts, Stewart won the first NAU Sustainability Award.
"We would hear students say: 'Why aren't we doing more recycling? Why aren't more green initiatives happening?' Well, we all have to take the initiative if we want to see things happen on your campus," says Stewart. "It eventually clicked that I had to step it up and walk the talk. The Green Fund became a big part of my mission, and I've really enjoyed being a part of making it happen."
The Green Fund, which came into being following approval by the student body, funds renewable energy projects and other student ideas for campus improvements. According to Stewart, the goal of the Fund is to help the university become carbon neutral, running completely on green energy. The Fund simultaneously aims to empower the student body to take control over the creation and implementation of these projects and walk away with practical experience in their area of study.
"I tried to make the Green Fund become larger than life and really pushed our efforts. I talked to everyone I could. We did several surveys to gauge student support," says Stewart. "The Green Fund has definitely been the biggest and most rewarding thing I've been involved in while at NAU."
In addition to her work with the Green Fund, Stewart has also been involved in a number of other "green" initiatives: she has served as a mentor for the EcoHouse Learning Community, helped organize the Earth Day events, and served as Campus Climate Challenge president. Going forward, Stewart wants to take all she's accomplished as a student and turn it into a career.
"I'd like to apply the work that I've done with Campus Climate Challenge to help other organizations and institutions go green." Stewart says. "I think the place to be is in sustainability consulting; everyone is looking for ways to save money and resources right now."
An environmental science major with an emphasis in management, Stewart gained additional real world experience during her internship with Nebraska Renewable Energy Systems. She helped conduct energy surveys for the Winnebago and Omaha tribes, who adopted some of her renewable energy recommendations.
"My favorite part of working on sustainability projects is the power of a single inspiring idea to create and motivate a network of people to take action. The challenges ahead will have environmental, social and economic impact. Coordinating people and budgets is hard work, but it's really exciting to make these environmental projects happen on a large scale," says Stewart.
Winner of the first ever NAU Sustainability Award as well as several scholarships, Stewart has dedicated herself to campus and environmental improvements.
"It's hard to fit my best university experience into a specific event, because I have thoroughly enjoyed my time here. The environmental science program is really hands-on. My classes were often spent in the field studying rivers, caves, and canyons. The faculty, staff, and students are incredibly dedicated, and it creates this wonderful network that is always supportive and helpful," says Stewart.
Wherever she ends up, Stewart says her experiences as a student—and as a student leader dedicated to campus and environmental improvements—have been highly rewarding.