Sep 172008
Authors: Alexandra Sieh

Growing from a small group that shuffled in the cabinet of the Associated Students for CSU, the students heading the first-year Department of Environmental Affairs will direct student government focus to broad student involvement in the university’s environmental campaigns.

Created by ASCSU President Taylor Smoot and Vice President Quinn Girrens, the Department of Environmental Affairs will further the environmental work on campus at the student government level, which will allow transparent allocations of student money toward new green initiatives.

“The department will give ASCSU a chance to implement change and make things happen,” Girrens said. “They’re working to find new things and be more proactive with environmental awareness.”

Smoot said that environmental sustainability was a top priority.

“As the student government we are capable of affecting things,” he said. “The environment is important.”

Chosen to lead this department is Chris Diedrich, director and senior mechanical engineer major, and Patrick Canavan, assistant director and senior natural resources management major. After hearing about the new department, they said, both immediately took an interest and applied for the positions.

“We both have a great level of interest in environmental affairs,” Diedrich said.

As the first leaders of the department, both Diedrich and Canavan expressed their own hopes for the program. They said the department is a great addition to ASCSU given the growth of environmental awareness and advocacy as a nationwide trend.

In addition, they said, the department can increase direct student involvement in green campaigns, bridging the gap between the university and its students.

“This department was created . to have the students have a voice in a way for them to be active and actually do something with the university at a higher level than just grassroots campaigning,” Diedrich said. “It gives us an actual mechanism for the students to change things around the university on an environmental level.”

According to Canavan, the department will bring local environmental issues to the campus, working as a “closer-to-home” group rather than an administrative initiative.

“The administration focuses on the really broad issues . and I really think this department can focus a little bit and micro process things a bit better,” Canavan said.

Starting with a small budget, this year will help to set financial allowance for this department in future years.

The department has been given $250 to start with for this year, with the possibility of reaching up to $15,000 depending on particular projects, according to Canavan. The amount is subject to change in the future.

Currently, Diedrich and Canavan are working on simple initiatives, such as bike-to-school days and recycling campaigns. They said they also intend to focus some efforts on the tailgating parking lot for football games. Clean-up crews and increased recycling bins in the parking lot will be considered.

The department also plans to look at the larger project of an ink cartridge recycling round up.

The electronic collections project would also include items such as printers and old computers, items typically difficult to recycle properly. If the project goes well, they said, the campus could gain monetarily.

“If we reach a certain quantity of cartridges or electronics in general, there’s potential for some companies [such as HP] to give us a donation for the effort,” Canavan said. “That money could go towards the school, the department or towards ASCSU.”

While some doubt the university’s green efforts, Diedrich said, there are plenty of initiatives in play now that are going unnoticed or unseen.

“We’ll be able to create tangible results and some real improvements to the university that people can see that we are doing,” Diedrich said.

“We want people to know that we’re working hard for them and that we’re really trying.”

Staff writer Alexandra Sieh can be reached at

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