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Don’t be afraid to commit

Kate Christian | Sunday, September 29, 2013

Dearest tree huggers, conservationists and earth enthusiasts, I will turn off my lights when I’m not in the room. I will go tray less at the dining halls. I will take the stairs instead of the elevator. I will do full loads of laundry. I will recycle. I will, I will, I will.
We all know those green pledges, and we’ve seen them before. Yes, you know the ones I’m referencing. They ask, “Will you take showers that are five minutes or less?” or another similar prompt. These personal pledges are a chance to articulate sustainability goals for ourselves. All of the recent emphasis on these commitments and the “Green Out” competition really got me thinking: What can these actually accomplish outside of a few clicks and a pat on the back? As it turns out, they can accomplish quite a lot.
The St. Francis Pledge – through the Catholic Climate Covenant – asks people to pray, learn, assess, act and advocate. Notre Dame has adapted ideas from the St. Francis Pledge and the Catholic Climate Covenant in the past. Just this past March, the Office of Sustainability published a Lenten Carbon Fast Calendar – full of Twitter feeds and TED Talks to keep climate change education energizing.
Another option is “Click to Commit” through Building Dashboard, the website where you can see how your dorm compares to others in terms of its energy usage. There are many different commitments: Everything from using daylight to navigate your room (you don’t really need the overhead light to help navigate the textbooks on your floor, right?) to engaging in conversation with other residents about making energy savings a joint effort.  
In Canada, a group called ClimateFast pledges to do more than just small daily actions or personal lifestyle changes. They commit to fast in solidarity, meet with members of Parliament, write letters to the media and encourage their friends and family to join. Think that’s too much? You could always just pledge to turn off your lights.
These commitments are simple and a great way to gauge how you’re doing your part for the environment. It’s a cumulative effort and each commitment adds up to tangible action and change. Small daily changes by individuals combine to lower the carbon footprint of the entire University of Notre Dame. Just look at the energy usage reductions when entire dorms work together.
So what else can you pledge to do around Notre Dame? Especially during the fall (so before the classic South Bend winter hits), bike everywhere you can instead of driving. Heading out for a Target run? Carry your items in a backpack and bike there. It’ll be a great workout for you and a nice break for the atmosphere. If you’re getting Grab-and-Go from the dining halls, bring a reusable bag. What would make it even better? Getting one from your dorm sustainability commissioner through Random Acts of Greenness (Not sure what that is? Check green.nd.edu). That way, you still get lunch while making lots of trees happy that their relatives aren’t being used to carry your sandwich.

Kate Christian can be reached at
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The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not
necessarily those of The Observer.