Students Release Groundbreaking Report on Sustainability Efforts at Christian Campuses
by Ben Lowe, Co-Coordinator, Renewal: Students Caring for Creation
Renewal, a grassroots Christian environmental network active on campuses across the United States and Canada, is proud to present the first-ever report on our growing movement: Green Awakenings: Stories of Stewardship and Sustainability from the Next Generation.
Now is a momentous time for our generation; the planet is in crisis and environmental stewardship is a biblical priority for Christians. The purpose of Green Awakenings is to show what it looks like when Christian students and campuses come together to care for all of God’s creation. We want to demonstrate the breadth, depth, and diversity of the growing student movement.
As I write this, I am on the way back from speaking at The Kings University College in Alberta, Canada. Kings is one of over fifty campuses featured in the report, most of which are members of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities, but only a handful of which are currently signatories to the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment. Signatories are identified in the report by the torch logo next to their names.
Recently, the President of Kings was given an opportunity to sign onto the University and College Presidents’ Climate Changes Statement of Action for Canada (the Canadian equivalent of the ACUPCC). He declined at that point out of concern for how technically feasible it would be and how much support he would get from the campus community.
When a small group of student leaders at Kings found out about this, they immediately stepped up to encourage their President to sign the statement and worked hard putting together a strong case for why this would be a good step for their campus, and then how to make it work. They convinced him, and I had the privilege of being there when they announced his decision to become a signatory.
This was a huge cause for celebration on their campus but, even so, it is just one of the many positive steps happening at Kings lately. The same wonderful group of students – calling themselves “Kings Keepers” – have also been working hard to start a community vegetable garden and composting program, and to launch the annual Environmental Stewardship Challenge among the campus body.
Green Awakenings contains many encouraging stories, like the one above, of how Christian students are creatively leading their campuses in pursuing environmental stewardship. This report is in no way exhaustive. One of the early lessons we learned is that there is far too much going on to be able to cover every campus that is actively engaged in caring for creation. Even on the campuses that we have featured, we have had to focus on a small portion of all the good work they are doing. This, in itself, is reason to celebrate.
Here is a summary of our other key findings among surveyed Christian campuses:
- Campuses leading in creation care tend to have the following: sustainability coordinators, sustainability committees, environment-related majors, active student groups, recycling programs, campus vegetable gardens, composting programs, community clean-ups, environment-themed chapels/other spiritual life programming, and Presidents who have signed the Evangelical Climate Initiative
- Some of the recurring challenges facing campuses and students include: poor funding, time constraints, lack of commitment, regular student turnover, lack of relevant technical expertise
- All parts of the campus–students, administrators, faculty, and staff–are increasingly on board and eager to work together
- Good mentoring from faculty and staff is key to developing successful student initiatives
- Student efforts and activism today tend to be highly creative, thoughtful, and fun
In the end, the message of Green Awakenings is simple: we care deeply about all of God’s creation; these are our stories. We hope that you will be inspired to join us in pursuing stewardship and sustainability in our campuses, communities, and the world!
Renewal: Students Caring for Creation is a student-led creation care network active on campuses across the United States and Canada. To find out more about Renewal, the Green Awakenings report, or the growing student movement, please visit www.renewingcreation.org. Copies ofGreen Awakenings are available for purchase by emailing [email protected].