Elida Erickson has been working in the Sustainability Office since 2011 as a Sustainability Programs Manager. She was recently hired as our new Sustainability Director, so we've interviewed her to learn more about what she envisions for the future of campus sustainability. Congratulations Elida!
1. How do you envision the future of sustainability on campus?
I envision sustainability on campus as the ability to develop a collaborative vision amongst students, faculty and staff that celebrates the innovative progress and research that is already happening, while pushing the envelope on the challenges ahead. There will always be new challenges presented as we work towards ambitious operational goals such as Zero Waste by 2020 and Carbon Neutrality by 2025. UCSC can successfully overcome challenges and become more sustainable by keeping our institution’s core mission of teaching and research at the center of what we do. By involving students in campus sustainability initiatives, we are training the leaders of tomorrow with the skills to make positive change in the world and help other global institutions and organizations become more sustainable. Sustainability is a global challenge and Banana Slugs are very lucky to have the opportunity, resources and brainpower to work together to create innovative, collaborative, and inclusive solutions for the campus, and for the world.
2. What got you interested in sustainability?
When I first arrived at UCSC in 2005, I worked at Stevenson College in residential life. Student engagement and empowerment has always been a passion of mine, and after several students came to me concerned about a lack of support for recycling by some of their peers, I helped the students start a peer-to-peer educational group called PTAGS (Path to a Greener Stevenson). One of the first things we did was organize a field trip to the Santa Cruz Resource Recovery Facility (sometimes called "the landfill"). It was after that trip that I was “hooked”! Watching plastic bags flying around in the wind with the beautiful ocean in the background, watching trucks dump an immense amount of one-time use items into the landfill that will almost never biodegrade, watching thousands of seagulls poking around on the trash mountain for wasted food scraps…I knew there was a lot of work to be done for our students and for the world to overcome the mentality that landed us here, and I knew I wanted to be a part of it.
3. What were some of the things you did before becoming the sustainability director?
I have had the privilege of working with many campus staff, faculty and students to improve our campus waste collection infrastructure to reach our Zero Waste by 2020 goal, as well as conserve water usage. I’m excited that most campus eateries on campus have both recycling and composting available. That was not the case a mere 5 years ago! I have also supervised the student Zero Waste Team through the Sustainability Office, as well as the student Drought Response Team. I’m proud to say that our campus’ response to the drought emergency with strict water conservation measures in 2014-5 earned the campus several local and national awards!
4. Are there any sustainability practices you have picked up while being involved with sustainability on campus?
One of my favorite practices has become somewhat of a daily “ritual” for me, and I recommend it to anyone who is open to taking just a few seconds of their day to make a BIG difference: every day, whether working on campus, or walking my dog in my neighborhood in Live Oak, I make it a point to pick up one piece of recycling or trash and toss it into the proper receptacle (…and I definitely wash my hands afterwards!). Located right on the coast, Santa Cruz residents are in a unique position to directly impact the amount of trash that pollutes the ocean by preventing litter from going into storm drains in the streets. I firmly believe that if every person on campus picked up one piece of litter every day, we could virtually eliminate the litter problem in our community.
Congratulations again to Elida Erickson!