Almost from the moment she stepped foot on campus, Lauren Stebbins ’21 made sustainability an integral part of her Union education.
A biology and political science interdepartmental major, Stebbins has spearheaded a number of projects and initiatives centered on sustainability. This includes a new display case in Wold Center educating the campus about the dangers of fast fashion (a term for stores that sell fashionable but cheaply made clothing at low prices to a mass consumer market) and the distribution of 500 re-usable tote bags to campus. She also helped organize a campus-wide cleanup in the fall with proper social distancing protocols.
And working with Facilities, she used her 2019 Presidential Green Grant for a recent project to install signs along the Hans Groot Kill that runs through campus to help prevent pollution.
Stebbins’s commitment to sustainability was recognized when she was presented with the Student Sustainability Leadership Award as part of the 2020 State of New York Sustainability Conference.
Organized by the New York Coalition for Sustainability in Higher Education and hosted by Cornell and Ithaca College, the online conference brought together students, faculty and staff from more than 70 colleges across the state. For three days in early December, attendees participated in workshops and discussions centered on the conference’s theme: “Moving Forward in an Upside-Down World: Building Resilience, Adaptation and Opportunity.”
Featuring speakers such as a popular TV personality Bill Nye The Science Guy, the conference showcased ways in which higher education institutions can maintain momentum and advance sustainability efforts on their campuses during this turbulent time.
In telling the students attending to consider themselves future climate leaders, Nye said, “If you are going to be running the show… just keep in mind that what we want to provide (is) a high standard of living for everybody, because that is in everybody’s best interests.”
Stebbins is co-chair of U-Sustain, a group of environmentally and socially concerned students, faculty and staff who steward the College’s sustainability initiatives. She is also the house manager of Ozone House, one of Union’s theme houses. Its residents promote environmental awareness while serving as an example of sustainable living.
Stebbins credits the members of U-Sustain and Ozone House with supporting the various projects to promote sustainability.
“No one person can make projects like these happen,” said Stebbins, who is from Westbrook, Conn. “The community that forms through our love of the environment and hope for a livable future is really what makes all of this happen. I've had a great time being a part of and building this community through my four years at Union.”
Working with Jeff Corbin, professor of biology and Guillermina Seri, associate professor of political science, Stebbins is completing her senior thesis. She is investigating the relationship between the regional community and the ecosystem of the Albany Pine Bush. A sprawling pine barrens of 3,200 acres and a globally rare ecosystem, the preserve is less than 10 miles from campus.
“I've been able to combine my love of biology and ecology and my interest in policy and government through my interdepartmental major,” Stebbins said. “The intersection of these two disciplines has allowed me to learn a lot about environmental justice, how conservation agendas are applied and other areas of environmental policy.”