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Finding an interdisciplinary approach to sustainability

Armed with their usual commitment to sustainability and an updated mission statement, the Waste Reduction and Resource Awareness Program (WRRAP) is starting to integrate intersectionality into their brand of environmentalism.

WRRAP started as an on-campus recycling program in 1989. Their goal has always been to reduce waste coming from HSU through environmental education. Since its inception, the organization has expanded into compost diversion, water quality assurance and a reusable office supply exchange.

This semester, the organization is attempting to bring together two important fields of activism by designing this semester’s projects with inclusive sustainability in mind.

“Environmentalist” is a label that comes with a dark history of eugenics, exclusivity and barriers that WRRAP is attempting to dismantle on a local level. The campus-based organization WRRAP recently hired an environmental justice intern with the intention of making sustainability more accessible for all HSU students.

Lauren Wardle, the newly hired environmental justice intern, has experience running an intersectional feminist club and wants to bring those concepts to her position.

“Social issues go hand in hand with environmental problems,” Wardle said. “Environmental justice and intersectionality will bring in the voices of the communities that are most affected.”

The program’s main goal is to ensure that HSU students are using their available resources to the fullest extent. WRRAP’s first environmental justice project will be a campus-wide survey to assess students’ access and understanding of sustainability.

Shanti Belaustegui Pockell, an environmental studies major, WRRAP’s education director and intern coordinator, hopes the internship will help shift environmentalism into something more accommodating for everyone.

“Instead of trying to get more people into this little space we have created, we want to expand the circle,” Pockell said. “We are reimagining what sustainability can look like, because a lot of people are living sustainably, just without the label.”

Irán Ortiz, environmental studies major and director of the student-led campaign Take Back the Tap, credits WRRAP’s leadership and innovations for social justice.

“We need to bring together the communities that are affected, but ignored,” Ortiz said. “I hope this new position helps address the problems we see in our institution by creating a new perspective and understanding of intersectionality.”

When environmentalism is executed with an intersectional lens, social and environmental issues are looked at as one. To put it another way, it is the understanding that all oppressions exist under the same hegemonic systems.

Ryan Sendejas, environmental studies major and community garden coordinator at Campus Center for Appropriate Technology, realizes the importance of incorporating environmental justice into an institution.

“In society and bureaucracies specifically, we tend to compartmentalize everything in an attempt to understand it,” Sendejas said. “Nothing is truly singular. So, we need to start thinking in terms of interconnectedness.”

WRRAP will be hosting a Zero Waste Conference on Feb. 9 and 10. Look out for flyers around campus for more details!

For more information about WRRAP, visit their website HERE.

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