After tackling the long lines at Broad Street Books this past week, students may have noticed a subtle addition to the bookstore—posted on each register was a sign reading, “Please let us know if we can skip the sack. Every bit helps for the environment.”

These signs are just one of many new efforts on campus to help make the University more environmentally friendly. This Thursday, the University will make an even greater environmental leap by participating in Focus the Nation, a national “teach-in.”

“The idea was that there would be a day where everything at the college is focused on climate change,” said Nate Kaufman ’08, a member of the student group Environmental Organizers Network (EON), which is sponsoring Focus the Nation at Wesleyan University.

In an innovative endeavor to spread awareness about environmental issues, Focus the Nation encourages all teachers to spend as much time as possible during their regularly scheduled class period discussing climate change. Ideally, all members of the community will be involved in a discussion about the environment—whether they are math majors attending Multivariable Calculus or dance majors in Modern Dance.

“We e-mailed all professors on the campus and made suggestions about how to incorporate climate change into their classes,” said Rebecca Rabison ’08, another member of EON.

While Focus the Nation was developed last year, this is the first time it will be an organized, national effort. According to the Focus the Nation website, over 1600 groups—including universities, high schools, grade schools and businesses—will join forces to participate in the event.

Because this is the first time Wesleyan will hold an environmental “teach-in,” EON is not certain what the participation rate will be. So far, however, the group has received positive responses from a large number of professors who say that they are excited to contribute.

Relating the environment to any given topic might sound challenging, but EON members insist that it simply takes creativity.

“There are a lot of different ways professors can try to incorporate it [into their own subject],” Kaufman said. “That was really one of the key visions for the day.”

For professors who are at a loss as to how they can relate climate change to their subject matter—or for those who do not feel educated enough on the topic to do it justice—EON has agreed to provide a 10-minute video about climate change.

In addition to discussing the issues of climate change and sustainability in classes, students are also encouraged to attend one of the many other events that EON has planned for the day. Jon Dickinson, senior policy advisor on sustainability for New York City, will kick off the day with the keynote address. Other events include a screening of Al Gore’s celebrated documentary, “An Inconvenient Truth,” and a “Sustainable Dinner” co-sponsored by Bon Appétit and Long Lane Farm. There will also be several panel discussions with University faculty and members of the Connecticut government.

“We’ve had a lot of support from different groups all around the campus,” said EON member Sarah Reed ’08.

As administration, faculty and students alike begin to recognize how imminent climate change is, members of EON hope that Focus the Nation will serve as just one small step toward larger efforts.

“We think that this event will be instrumental to educating people and starting to get [environmental] issues into the media,” Reed said. “Hopefully it will create an atmosphere in which people talk about and are aware of these issues.”

While the United States is not widely considered a forerunner in spreading environmental consciousness, most EON members believe that the nation is moving in the right direction.

“It’s definitely happening,” said EON member Julien Burns ’10. “I think we can see that it’s starting to happen faster on non-governmental fronts. Basically every car commercial on TV right now says something about gas mileage.”

Similarly, students may have noticed changes on campus that suggest that the University is becoming increasingly conscious of environmental issues. Last semester, President Roth joined 478 schools across the nation by signing the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment.

Numerous smaller-scale changes reflect the same efforts. Signs on the refrigerators in Usdan discourage students from purchasing bottled water. A recent campus-wide e-mail from the Office of Behavioral Health for Students closed by urging students to consider the environment before printing out the announcement. Towards the end of last semester, Wesleyan Station switched to electronic package notification.

“Considering the fact that we processed over 50,000 packages since the beginning of the academic year, this [switch] will affect a sizable savings in both paper and labor,” said Lisa Davis, manager of Wesleyan Station and a former member of the University’s Recycling Committee.

Wes Station has also made other, less conspicuous efforts to help the environment. Over two years ago, the station purchased an electronic vehicle to deliver mail to and from campus.

“We have plans also, weather and mail volume permitting, to expand our walking routes,” Davis said.

This spring, the University will host the Association of College and University Mail Services Conference, where University Director of Environmental Health, Safety and Sustainability Bill Nelligan will discuss the role of mail services in the environment.

To help give students more general information about climate issues, EON will be screening a live and interactive webcast, called “The 2% Solution,” on the eve of Focus the Nation. The webcast will discuss the hope that the United States reduce its carbon emissions by 80 percent by the year 2050. The title refers to one proposed way of achieving this: to reduce carbon emissions by two percent each year until 2050.

EON members stress that, while global warming might not be a particularly visible issue right now, we must begin taking action before it grows into one.

“Basically, if we don’t start making huge changes now, we are going to be in trouble,” Kaufman said.

Committing to drastically reduce emissions of green house gases will mean enacting some changes—but it does not necessarily mean a reduction in our standard of living.

“An important thing to stress is that change isn’t something that has to cost a lot,” Burns said. “There are creative solutions to environmental problems.”

To learn more about what you can do to help the environment, go to

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