How We Can Apply Lessons from Middle School to Attitudes in Sustainability

By Audrey Brinkers, Campus Garden and Edible Campus Coordination

It is easy, I have found, to compare yourself to others–this mindset tormented most eleven- to fourteen-year-old children, and it troubles, I dare say it, most adults today.  And further, these comparisons can certainly be applied to our efforts in sustainability.

So when we (your beloved interns) set forth on our journey down to the University of Louisville today to check out the sustainability initiatives happenings on their campus, comparisons were taking place in the minds of everyone–admit it.  But these comparisons were not necessarily negative; it wasn’t a clear “we’re better” or “we’re worse.”  Instead, it was simply a “how can we do this like (or unlike) them?”

As we listened to our lovely guides Russ and Claude show us the way, pointing us to recycling and renewable waste and LEED buildings and cleaner watersheds, we saw how these differed from our own campus, and we were able to both take and offer inspiration.  In the campus garden, for example, I was amazed at their volunteer dedication and applied permaculture principles.  While we can boast larger square footage and more pounds of produce, they had turned their tiny garden into a place for people to get their hands dirty and enjoy good food, but they also allowed for experimentation and participation by engineers and growers alike.


It was useful for us all, I hope, to see how sustainability was taking place in a different setting–it is important to keep in mind that not everyone is working in the same ways or at the same pace.   We can use these comparisons for good (and not the awkward pre-teen evil), looking to one another for motivation, wisdom, and maybe, just maybe, a little bit of friendly competition.


5 thoughts on “How We Can Apply Lessons from Middle School to Attitudes in Sustainability

  1. I often find myself getting stuck in my own rut and daily life that I forget about the big picture. Not to say that this is a bad thing but I greatly appreciate the opportunity to explore and see how other institutions and individuals approach “sustainability”. I firmly believe that only through the enactment and appreciation of community can we reach a sustainable nation. Thanks for your post and insight

  2. I really enjoyed our trip to UofL. And you’re right- I was making comparisons the entire time. One of things I thought IU could do more of (if we’re already doing this type of work, it’s unclear to me) is alternative energy research. I also liked the on-campus farmers market. Let’s continue to do our research and be inspired to make more sustainable friendly changes!

  3. I remember asking my fellow interns several times during our tour of UofL, “Do we do that?” Different spaces contain different obstacles to sustainability, and different places provide different opportunities to create a more sustainable environment. However, many of the UofL initiatives, like the campus farmer’s market, are definitely adaptable to IU, and I hope that we are able to take leaves out of each other’s books.

  4. I enjoyed how our trip to the University of Louisville enabled us to see a different approach to sustainability. It was difficult to not constantly compare IU to UofL, but you’re right in saying that the differences should be seen as areas for improvement and education (and not a ‘who’s better?’ contest). I really appreciated their alternative energy research facility and their bike vouchers for giving up your parking pass!

  5. Great post! Visiting the Conn Research Center had me making many comparisons between UofL and IU. All the research they were performing seemed much more important and critical in purpose. Having a mindset like this though, is not conducive to changing habits or our mindset on sustainability. If we leave it all to scientific work, we leave the work of “green thinking” within the walls of a lab. With our internships, the work may not seem as revolutionary as converting lipids into fuel cells, but we are here to make the difference outside of the lab. Encouraging a change of habit within the less revolutionary yet necessary aspects of every day life.

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