While the looming threat of climate change affects this planet, students and faculty at the University sought to make their mark on improving campus sustainability through the second annual Sustainability Ideation Challenge, deiSic. 

Organized this year by Olivia Zou ’19 and Danielle Davidoff ’19, deiSic is a full-day campus-wide event that challenges participants to brainstorm various ways to better enable sustainability on campus. 

First started in fall 2016, deiSic returned this year to promote and engage sustainability discussions on campus through collaboration, communication and a competitive setting. 

The event broke students and faculty up into teams to discuss what projects can be produced using the Brandeis Sustainability Fund to help the University become more sustainable.

“Sustainability intersects with so many groups of different interests, and so deiSic helps bring different people together to discuss how to use the Brandeis Sustainability Fund for greener projects,” Mary Fischer, manager of the Sustainability Programs Office and deiSic mentor, said in an interview with the Justice. 

She added that, since “Sustainability is at the core of social justice, raising awareness of greener projects and ways to make campus more sustainable is a part of the fabric that makes Brandeis special.” 

Fischer, whose initiatives helped reduce the University's carbon footprint by 10 percent in 2016, highlighted that as one of few campuses with a Sustainability fund, the University is in a position to become a leader among other campuses in terms of progressive sustainability projects.

In an interview with the Justice, Zou explained that one of deiSic’s key goals is to spread awareness of the Brandeis Sustainability Fund, as well as to allow students and faculty to collaborate on how to use the funding. Davidoff expanded on this, explaining that sustainability can integrate itself into various fields.

“Business majors can create projects that can be both profitable and sustainable,  Davidoff said, and “Science-focused students can use sustainability as a focus to tackle pollution,” emphasizing the far-reaching importance that sustainable projects have on improving the environment. 

Many attendees seemed to agree: deiSic participant Trang Nguyen ’19 asserted in an interview with the Justice that “deiSic is certainly an important step to making Brandeis more sustainable.”

Prof. Laura Goldin (ENVS) added, “Climate change is something we cannot ignore, and because it is an imminent issue, we must seize the time to save the environment.”

By 5 p.m., participating teams had come up with three potential initiatives: a composting project, a revamped recycling program and a “Sustainability Day” campus event. 

The composting project is simple: put compost bins for paper towels in the bathrooms. The majority of the waste in bathroom garbage cans is just paper towels and the ones the University uses are compostable, said presenter Elyse Hahn ’20. The plan would be easy to execute, because it doesn’t have to be implemented all over campus at once, and its only major costs would be bins and transportation to the composting site, added Hahn, who also hopes to educate students about the bins through informative stickers in bathroom stalls, another marginal cost.

The proposed recycling initiative is similar. Tamar Moss ’21 and Daniel Vilinsky ’18 noticed that many trash bins on campus, particularly in Massell Quad, don’t have paired recycling bins. 

According to their statistics, only 21 percent of the University’s waste is recycled, while around 75 percent of human-generated waste is recyclable. They feel that this can be partially rectified by putting recycling bins next to every trash can. 

Moss and Vilinsky would also alleviate the problem by raising awareness about recycling across campus. The pair explained that they think many students want to recycle but aren’t sure what goes where, so they throw things out unnecessarily. Their proposal includes making an instructional video demonstrating real-life recycling opportunities, which would go on display outside Sherman Dining Hall, on social media and at first-year orientation. “You would get 700 people together in a room and teach them about recycling, and get them started off right,” said Vilinsky. 

The pair also wishes to station student volunteers in high-traffic areas such as the Starbucks in Farber Library, and have those students gently intervene when they see their peers putting recyclables in the trash. 

Another proposal took the idea of student volunteers a few steps further. Paige Hildebrand ’20 and Aynsley O’Neill ’18 said they hope to create a day-long event to educate community members about sustainability at Brandeis. The event would be organized by Hildebrand and O’Neill, but individual aspects of it would be handled by participating clubs. 

The pair hopes to involve clubs of every background, not just environmentally-focused ones. “What we want to focus on in this event is growing the community and getting outside of our little ‘sustainability bubble,’” said Hildebrand. Hildebrand and O’Neill explained that they think it’s best to “approach students where they are” by holding events in popular areas such as the Shapiro Campus Center atrium.

Hildebrand and O’Neill would use  funds to advertise, reserve a venue and incentivize participation through events and speakers. 

They explained that they would advertise sustainably through chalk messages and social media, rather than using paper fliers. They would also buy ethically-sourced stickers, t-shirts and other giveaways to distribute to students as prizes.

Hildebrand and O’Neill said they hope their Sustainability Day will become an annual event, occurring on Earth Day or an equinox.

The winning deiSic team is to be decided by the BSF later this week and will be guaranteed review to receive additional funding from the BSF to implement its proposal.