Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Inter-Organizational Sustainability Retreat 2013 a Success!

The first weekend of the quarter, eighty students and staff convened for the 3rd Annual Sustainability Inter-Organizational retreat for a weekend of community and leadership development, workshops and a whole lot of fun! The theme for the weekend was Community, and by the end of the weekend, the community of sustainability students and staff had certainly been strengthened through a jam-packed couple of days of activities.

Read about the sustainable ways in which we got all those people to the retreat center here!

The weekend began with an opening ceremony led by Tim Galarneau, Research Educator for the Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems. He had us thinking about food memories, getting our senses fully engaged with fruits and vegetables, and performing spoken word mad libs about avocados and apples. It was a fun and engaging way to open the weekend.

Cammie Yarros and Andrew Plebanek of the Student Environmental Center talk about food memories during Friday's opening ceremony.

On Saturday morning, student leaders from many of the sustainability organizations at the retreat facilitated team building activities with the guidance and support of Miranda Allen-Brower, Director of the UCSC Experiential Leadership Program. Teams of students and staff participated in team building games, experiencing what it's like to work together to achieve goals and problem solve. At the end of the morning's team building games, each team performed a skit that represented what they had learned through the various stations.

On Saturday morning, participants walked around and said hi to as many other participants as possible in a game called "Speed Greet."

After lunch, participants attended workshops throughout the retreat center. Topics included workflow management, best practices for tabling, energy auditing, campus funding bodies, a waste relay, social media, cap and trade, a LEED tour of the camp, and non-violent communication. The workshops provided students and some staff an opportunity to share skills and knowledge with other students and in some cases generate discussion about best practices.

Crystal Owings and Victoria Salas who work with the Food Systems Working Group and UCSC Dining led a workshop on best practices for tabling.

Following the second round of workshops, participants spent some time with their independent organizations, visioning and planning for the coming quarter. For some groups, this was a chance to reconnect with the mission and values of their organization. Knowing one's unique role in a community is important in building connections with others. Other groups used this time for planning for the quarter or having discussions as an organization.

Casey Wing and other students who work on waste reduction through Green Office Certification and Zero Waste in the Sustainability Office led a discussion about how to reduce waste and sort recycling properly.

In the evening after dinner, students and staff participated in a world cafe on the topic of Organization Cultural Awareness and Best Practices, sharing different processes and best practices from each organization. A conversation blossomed from this activity that led to ideas for how to find more ways to come together inter-organizationally more often, and students seemed invigorated with a drive for more collaboration.

Saturday's activities closed with an hour-long campfire and open mic night, during which students sang, played music, spoke poetry, hula-hooped, and more. It was a fun way to end a long day of activities and getting to know one another.

Sunday morning, organizations had more independent time for planning, and then the eighty participants gathered on the steps of the lodge for a group photo. The retreat officially was brought to a close with a closing ceremony in which each participant taped a piece of paper on his or her back and others wrote to them about inspiring moments or memories from the weekend related to that individual. It was a creative and personal way to share gratitude and feel part of a community after a full weekend of community building.

During the closing ceremony, students and staff wrote gratitude and appreciation on the backs of other participants. Wearing the orange scarf is recently hired UCSC Sustainability Director Lacey Raak. 

Thank you to everyone who participated in the planning of this fantastic retreat, and thank you to all of the attendees! You made the retreat what it was, and our office looks forward to collaborating with you and continuing to foster the relationships that began or were nourished during the weekend of time together. Let's all have a productive, sustainable, and fun quarter!

Click here to view the Facebook photo album from the weekend!

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