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Elaine Nichols


Elaine is an environmental studies major, the Vice President of Alpha Kappa Chi, and a participant in the Alternative Winter Break trip to Louisiana (via Chicago). 

What does sustainability mean to you?

Sustainability means balance.  The environment has been used as a resource without regard to its health or how long it may last.  Sustainability supports the idea that we, as humans, need to recognize that we are part of the working system that is the Earth and we can take some things but we must also give some in order for the system to function properly and last long.  I learned the seven generation rule of the Iroquois.  It essentially means that in every decision you make you must take into account how it will affect the next seven generations of people.  This rule is what sustainability is all about.

What are you doing to help UB become more sustainable?

I am vice president of UB’s professional environmental fraternity, Alpha Kappa Chi.  The organization has worked on projects like the campus garden and we do various environmentally focused community service projects.  Also, I have spent time tabling in the union to help UB students become aware of environmental issues and ways to be more sustainable.  I also interned this summer in the UB green office working on a project for the solar strand to help people learn about solar power.

How do you involve UB’s faculty or staff in your sustainability work?

Many of my professors have given me the basis of information that I need in order to understand the environmental field and sustainability.  I believe that by teaching me about sustainability they have started my sustainability work and I credit them with inspiring me to become more sustainable.

How has sustainability impacted your academic pursuits?   

I am trying to learn all I can about the environment so that I can help show people how important it is to conserve.  Conservation is a part of sustainability in that the environment is being sustained but people are still able to use it.  I just try to soak in as much information I can about various aspects of the environment because I love it and I want my kids and their kids to be able to enjoy it like I can.

What is the one thing you would like people to know that you do in your personal life to further sustainability?

Whenever I go shopping I consider sustainability, from sustainable food to sustainable laundry detergent to sustainable clothes.  I try to always remember that my purchases made in the store are essentially a vote for what should be put on the shelves.  As a consumer I have an impact on what is being sold.  I have been a vegetarian since 10th grade for animal rights reasons and I have always had people tell me that just one person not eating animals won’t actually save any animals.  I believe that this mentality is what is stopping people from trying to live sustainable lives.  I firmly believe in the idea that one person making small changes for the better will not only help in that one instance but also inspire others to make those changes.  I am fascinated and inspired by the idea that one person has the potential to impact their community greatly.  As more people make the decision to become sustainable it spurs a feedback loop causing more sustainable options causing more people to become sustainable.  This is evident just by looking around the store at all the environmentally friendly options.  Those are available because companies realize its in demand.  I help create this demand which in turn increases the supply of sustainable options just by being environmentally conscious in the store.

How could UB improve its sustainability efforts?

I believe that sustainability is an emerging topic that every human being should be educated about.  Students are required to meet general education requirements and I think that sustainability should be one of those requirements.  Everyone should learn how humans have influenced the Earth in the past and how their daily decisions have implications for the present and future generations.

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