Students Solve Climate Change During Environmental Economics Game

Environmental cleanliness and the negative effects of human activity on the planet have been controversial talking points for years. But, Prabhakar Shrestha, sustainability director at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, sees a possible issue and wants to make a difference.

Shrestha guides and offers advice to many on-campus organizations and movements to promote sustainability. He works out of Sustain UNL, a department dedicated to supporting student initiatives for social, economic and environmental sustainability.

“UNL is a campus that practices sustainability and is continuously striving to do better through inputs from all parts of the community,” he said.

Shrestha grew up in Nepal, where he said humans and nature live symbiotically. Practicing sustainability not only helps the planet, he said, but also makes him feel optimistic and hopeful about the future. He also said he believes it is everyone’s responsibility to be conscious of the waste they put into the world as an individual.

“We are creating waste,” he said. “For example, taking extra food from the buffet line when we are already full drives the food waste volume higher. Extra waste means extra space in the landfill.”  

There are many groups of students on campus who’ve joined Shrestha’s Sustain UNL team. A few accomplishments by students include recycling during home football games, banning styrofoam from campus and bringing bike-share to not only UNL, but to the entire city of Lincoln. However, it doesn’t take a large-scale movement for individuals to help the environment.

There is a new movement arising from Sustain UNL that mainly focuses on what students can do to be thoughtful about how much waste they send to the landfills and how to make that amount shrink.

The #SimpleLiving movement inspires students on campus to think about how their day-to-day actions contribute to climate change directly and indirectly, said Shay Flowerday, a sophomore environmental studies major and Sustain UNL co-student group leader.

“We want to make sustainability more digestible for every person on campus and the steps you can take in order to become more sustainable.” said Kat Turpen, a sophomore management major and the other co-student group leader.

Some steps include taking alternative modes of transportation, such as bikes and buses, instead of private cars. Another is choosing to practice simple behaviors, like following the 3R principle of reduce, reuse and recycle, as well as turning off and unplugging electronic appliances when not in use, said Shrestha. But beyond these practices, the #SimpleLiving campaign has some bigger projects in mind as well.

Flowerday and Turpen said one of their future plans is to lead a zero-waste challenge on campus. This would include a series of challenges on the different aspects of zero waste, like using reusable bags for groceries or getting whatever food you can in bulk and storing smaller portions in a mason jar. Trupen said they want to show people that you don’t necessarily have to take anything away from your life; you can simply add a habit into it.

Turpen and Flowerday said they believe sustainability on campus starts with the individual, a student consciously choosing to limit the amount of waste they send to landfills.

“Our mission statement,” Turpen said, “is to make our community and the students at UNL conscious of their personal carbon footprint and illustrate ways that they can incorporate sustainable habits.

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