A group of Duke students is hard at work making campus a little bit greener.

Students for Sustainable Living is a paid student internship program, featuring five teams working on campaigns to raise awareness about sustainability through multiple means—including Duke Dining and Greek life. Sophomore Shom Tiwari said the organization promotes advocacy and action for issues relating to climate change and the environment.

“SSL is an effective avenue to promote greater awareness of how the small steps that we as individuals take can yield significant impacts during our own lifetimes,” he said. 

All 15 of the student interns—both undergraduates and graduate students—work with administration and staff to reduce the University's environmental footprint. The communications team recently collected student responses to a survey about plastic bag usage and has met with campus vendors to work to rectify the problem, Tiwari said. They will be hosting a film series on reduced consumption next month and will present a formal "ban the bag" proposal to administrators. 

“SSL serves as the intermediate between the student body on the ground and employees in sanitation,” said junior Madison Barnes. “There are a lot of needs students recognize and often no way for those needs to be expressed to staff.”

Starting this year, the SSL has added a Greek life project team to work with fraternities and sororities on campus. The team has developed a checklist for Greek organizations to certify their parties or houses, modeled after some of Sustainable Duke's certification programs. 

“Greek organizations can host open dinners this Spring featuring a local meal with a guest speaker on different topics within sustainability,” said Rebecca Hoeffler, the program's coordinator. 

During football season, the group's recycling team completed a Zero Waste Game Day project designed to compost or recycle 90 percent of the waste generated during the game. In the future, the team hopes to expand this effort to other sports and events like the Last Day of Classes festivities. 

Every other Friday, the team also hosts the Free Store in the West Union to collect and redistribute office supplies, books and kitchen supplies, Barnes explained. 

“The goal is that the items are not trashed, and new items are not purchased, significantly reducing waste and environmental impact,” she said. 

President Donald Trump has taken a climate change stance—including pulling out of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change—that is worrisome to environmentalists. But Tiwari said this has actually contributed to a renewed sense of urgency at SSL. 

“While changes in administration and policy can slow down federal efforts to address climate change, an informed citizenry will push for what is right to protect the planet,” he said.