Friday, January 22, 2016

Inter-Organizational Sustainability Retreat Highlights

Jay Luce Nelson, the Sustainability Office CUIP Events Coordinator, reports back on the Inter-Organizational Sustainability Retreat.

Over the weekend of January 8th-10th, members and representatives of 42 different UCSC organizations came together to enjoy the 6th Annual Inter-Organizational Sustainability Retreat. The retreat, coordinated by leaders of social and environmental sustainability efforts around campus, aims to build leadership skills, explore concepts of sustainability, build community, and promote collaboration between sustainability-minded organizations.

Friday's events included an alumni panel, dinner catered by Vivas Mexican Food, and small alumni group discussions. Student and staff attendees were given the opportunity to talk to alumni about their lives and careers post-graduation.

Saturday and Sunday's events took place at YMCA Camp Campbell in Boulder Creek. Saturday began with a group activity that explored our understanding of words and ideas such as "space" and "decolonizing," led by Adriana Renteria, People of Color Sustainability Collective Coordinator, and Elida Erickson, Interim Sustainability Director and Sustainability Programs Manager. Following was the keynote presentation by Pandora Thomas, environmental educator and co-founder of the Black Permaculture Network, who spoke about her experiences regarding community education, environmental racism, and the importance of recognizing and celebrating the sustainable practices of communities of color. Workshops later in the day explored topics such as self care, food sovereignty, the power of storytelling, global agricultural coalitions such as La Via Campesina, and more.

As a coordinator of the retreat, seeing the Planning, Programming and Logistics Committees' plans come to fruition was an amazing experience. The Inter-Org Retreat allowed me to meet members of other organizations that I might not have the opportunity to interact with otherwise; it was wonderful meeting so many people with such varied interests and backgrounds, each bringing their own ideas of sustainability.

On Saturday I attended the workshop "Food Justice & Oppression" facilitated by Adriana Renteria and Crystal Owings, Food Equity and Access Specialist for the Center for Agroecology & Sustainable Food Systems. Participants at this workshop were enabled to examine bias and injustice inherent in our food system. Later I attended "La Via Campesina: Globalizing Hope, Globalizing the Struggle" with People of Color Sustainability Collective interns Amran Khan, Catherine Alfaro, Raymond Lebeau, and Cristal Gonzalez. Through role-playing, we learned about the various agricultural groups comprising the agricultural justice coalition La Via Campesina. I highly encourage others to look into this movement if you, like myself before attending this workshop, do not have prior knowledge of it.

Special thanks go out to the Sustainability Office Zero Waste Team for providing funding used to make Friday a zero waste event; everyone involved in the planning process; our many carpool drivers; the workshop leaders; Camp Campbell, which has recently made the switch to reduce waste by using reusable cloth napkins; and keynote speaker Pandora Thomas. Pandora's website can be found at

Pictures from the retreat can be found on Facebook here. For future updates about this annual retreat, please visit the website here.

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