As the bright sun rose last Friday, March 20, 2015, four vans of excited and passionate Johnson & Wales University (JWU) students headed over to the Alliance Center to spend their day diving into the many layers of sustainability as they embarked on the 5th Annual Sustainability Summit hosted by Cottonwood Institute.
When students arrived, the Summit kicked off with an engaging speaker, Frank Swain, Energy Advocate for Conservation Colorado. His intriguing personal story, apparently he got his first big career break shoveling snow in D.C., and driven personality complimented his talk as he painted a picture of the primary environmental issues impacting Colorado and how students can get involved.
The lively group then transitioned into the second portion of the day which featured three dynamic and food system-focused panelists. Adam Brock from the GrowHaus, Joseph Tiepel from Re:Vision, and Turner Wyatt from Denver Food Rescue spoke about their personal journeys and the organizations they help lead. An interesting topic that came up was how being “sustainable” wasn’t good enough and that we should shift beyond being less bad and focus on thriving and nurturing. This panel spoke about the power of listening, collaboration, and community-based solutions. One student commented that this panel produced many “A-Ha!” moments for them and helped them gain a deeper understanding into topics they had never even heard about.
The blue sky and bright sun welcomed the group as they transitioned to a delicious lunch from Backcountry Delicatessen, which students devoured outside of Union Station. After composing and recycling most of their lunch trash, the day took a fun and slightly competitive turn as the legendary Sustainability Scavenger hunt took place. Litter was picked up, hundreds of selfies were taken documenting people being green, local and sustainable businesses were visited, bike racks and bus stations were identified and laughter was shared.
After returning from the scavenger hunt, a second panel featured three powerful and inspiring business women leaders who spoke about how business can be used as a solution and a force for good. Trina Peterson from 1% for the Planet, Megan Jorgensen from Snooze, and Mischa Delaney from B-Lab, spoke about their experience with sustainability, offered advice, and motivated the group of students to rethink the misconception that business and sustainability cannot go hand in hand. One student said she was, “changing the paradigm of [her] personal mindset from capitals to good sustainable business practices, from consumer to producer, action and goal oriented.”
The day began to come to a close when students broke into Action Project groups to identify local projects they would work on and take back to campus to have an even greater positive impact. Some ideas brainstormed included building a food garden on campus, diverting food waste, increasing energy efficiency, and holding community meals to create a welcoming environment. The wonderful and inspiring day culminated with enthusiasm and positive energy to change the world by students first changing their world!
-Written by Megan Couture ’15, Johnson & Wales Student Body President