Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Campus Sustainability Orgs Build Relationships and Trade Ideas at Inter-Org 2017

The first weekend in January 2017, more than 60 students, staff, alumni, and faculty representing 30 campus organizations came together for the 7th Annual Sustainability Inter-Organizational Retreat. “It was really motivating and inspiring. I feel like I learned a lot and made a lot of connections with Sustainabilibuddies on campus. It was a powerful and emotional experience.” said Dylan Huntzinger, an Education and Outreach Team Associate for the Sustainability Office.

The retreat, which was organized by a team of mostly students and a couple staff, was centered around social and environmental justice issues, following the theme “Decolonizing Sustainability: Challenging Myths and Disrupting Narratives.” The retreat opened with a keynote talk from UCSC alum mark! Lopez, Executive Director of East Yard Communities for Environmental Justicewho shared his stories of growing up in an activist household in L.A., the colonial history of environmentalism and conservation, what decolonizing sustainability means to him, and his experiences with community organizing. You can watch most of mark!'s talk here.

UCSC alum mark! Lopez giving his Friday night keynote.
After mark!'s talk, the audience participated in a World Cafe facilitated by Sustainability Office Manager & Events Coordinator Melissa Ott. This was Melissa's 6th Inter-Org Retreat and 5th and final time being an active member of the planning committee. (She is leaving her position to become an apprentice at the UCSC Farm in April, and applications for this job are being accepted until February 5!)  The discussion focused on two questions. The first was, "Reflect on the talk mark! Lopez gave before dinner. What did you learn or have re-affirmed? What are you curious about? How will you take what he shared into your work for the coming year?" The second question, which you are encouraged to consider for yourself, was, "As 2017 brings change for our country, as well as for each of us personally as we begin another year of our lives, what challenges do you foresee or fear related to the work that you do in the world (as a student, as an activist, as a changemaker, as an environmentalist, as a citizen, etc.)? What are you most hopeful for in our world in 2017?"

On Saturday morning, the retreat moved to Camp Campbell in Boulder Creek, CA. The morning featured a workshop with Khafre James, founder of Hip-Hop for Change, a non-profit based out of Oakland that “Empowers the community through Hip-Hop culture, dismantling systems of oppression that hold us down.” After sharing the history of hip hop, Khafre got everyone writing and performing raps in front of the group. Topics ranged from decolonization to coffee to justice issues and more. “It was really fun and empowering. I was especially impressed with Elida’s rap,” said Alana Mandrick, a Green Office Team Associate. Elida Erickson is the Director of the UCSC Sustainability Office.

Student Sustainability Advisor Edson Perez performs a rap he wrote during the Hip Hop for Change workshop.

A variety of other student, staff, and alumni-led workshops were held throughout the day including “American Indians 101" with Dr. Rebecca Rosser, Director of the American Indian Resource Center; “Acroyoga” with UCSC alum Carson Watts; and “Decolonizing Coffee: Cultivating Coffee Food Forest for Food Sovereignty" with Friends of Community Agroecology Network. You can read the full list of workshop offerings here.

The retreat closed on Sunday with Open Space Technology, in which participants designed the agenda together and hosted sessions on a variety of topics. Discussions included a wide range, including issues facing students on campus, active listening, family planning, vegetarianism, art and activism, and sustainability orientations for new students.

“It was an honor and very rewarding to be a part of the planning committee for the retreat. I learned so much from both our keynote speakers about Decolonizing Sustainability. The best part of the retreat was our ‘Open Space’ workshop, where students from different orgs were able to come together and discuss topics that we were all passionate about. Inter-Org really helped myself and other students find ways to collaborate and take action beyond the retreat!” said Jessica Sanchez-Sanchez, the Chancellor's Undergraduate Intern and Education and Outreach Coordinator for the Sustainability Office.

Jax Puliatti, the Sustainability Office Graphic Artist echoed this sentiment, adding, "I felt like we made some great plans on how we can take our ideas beyond the retreat.  We got organized and set our sights towards the future.  I'm excited to see where we go from here!"

Thanks to everyone who made this year's retreat a success! Take a look at the fun photos from the weekend and tag yourself and friends!

We look forward to seeing you again next year at the retreat, and if you're interested in joining the planning committee for the 2018 retreat, please email sustain.education@ucsc.edu.

Amelia Maurer and Jason Simmons with their up-cycled succulents, products of one of the student-led workshops on Saturday at Camp Campbell.

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