Institution Spotlight: Earth Month Efforts in Illinois

Ashley Wolfe-Heinz

April 16, 2018

As Earth Day approaches on Sunday April 22nd, institutions across Illinois focus their sustainability efforts on education relating to intersectionality, and transforming education into action toward environmental justice and sustainability policies.

Sustainability is being observed, studied, and discussed through an intersectional lens. Public, private, 2-year, and 4-year schools in Illinois are working to raise important topics concerning communities that are significantly impacted by environmental issues, yet often go underrepresented and unnoticed. Below is a snapshot of what a few institutions are bringing to their campuses:

During Oakton Community College’s Earth Week, the Little Village Environmental Justice Organization (LVEJO) will be speaking on Climate Adaptation and Community Resiliency in Little Village, a neighborhood in Chicago. According to their website, LVEJO was created by parents of public elementary school children. After successfully pushing the school to change their plans to not potentially expose the children to dangerous particles during a school renovation, the parents began to focus on additional environmental justice issues in their community.

Through Roosevelt University’s Sustainability Symposium, students will showcase their research and internship experiences with environmental justice and exploring the intersections of sociology and sustainability, focusing on environment hazards within Chicago communities, and their impact on the health of those community residents.

The University of Illinois at Chicago will host a forum called, “Indigenous Frames for Understanding Extraction, Mines and Pipelines” which discusses the dangers of the Back Forty Mine, particularly through the lens of indigenous people.

The University of Chicago’s Phoenix Sustainability Initiative will discuss “Environment as a Human Rights Issue” - focusing on how climate change can impact low-income communities and communities of color specifically in areas such as Chicago, Flint, MI, and areas affected by natural disasters.

In addition to educating campuses on environmental issues related to intersections of identity, institutions are organizing for days of action towards promoting environmental justice policies in government. For example, the Student Environmental Alliance of Loyola Chicago is calling on students at Loyola to take time out of their day to reach out to their state and local representatives concerning environmental issues.

In addition, Northwestern University students, in conjunction with the Illinois Environmental Council, Illinois Chapter of the Sierra Club, and Faith in Place, will travel to the Capitol building in Springfield for the 2018 Environmental Lobby Day at the end of April. According to the event page, in the past, this lobby day has aided in passing environmental policies such as the Future Energy Jobs Act.

These efforts are just a glimpse of what some schools across Illinois are doing during Earth Month to promote environmental justice and action for sustainability efforts and environmental issues at the local, state, and national levels. Be sure to engage with your own institution’s sustainability office, student groups, and the NASPA Sustainability Knowledge Community.

About the Author

Ashley Wolfe-Heinz serves as the NASPA Region IV-E state membership coordinator for Illinois. Professionally, Wolfe-Heinz works is a Program Manager in the Housing & Residence Life office at the University of Chicago. She has also worked in financial aid and admissions. She earned her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Augustana College (IL) and Master of Science in College Student Personnel from Western Illinois University.

This blog post is part of a bi-weekly institution spotlight from NASPA Region IV-E. Stay connected to the region on social media: Facebook Twitter Instagram.

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