Each month, our newsletter features a person or group on campus that is working toward a more sustainable world. This month's profile features Melissa Ott, the Sustainability Office's Education & Outreach Coordinator this year.
|Melissa Ott tabling at OPERS Fall Festival for the Sustainability Office.|
- College: Stevenson College
- Degree: B.A., English Literature (2014)
- Favorite Hobby: Blogging about things that inspire me to be the change I wish to see in the world on my green tips and sustainable living blog called Green Gal
- Favorite Food: Fluffy oven-baked potatoes with non-dairy butter, basil, and garlic salt, served with caramelized carrots and onions.
- Favorite Green Tips: Refill your own reusable water bottle with filtered tap water, and stop buying plastic single-used bottles. I get so excited when I hear that someone is implementing this into their life because they will actually notice the difference they're making in the amount of recycling in their bin and the amount of money they're no longer spending. Similarly, I think paper towel waste is another really easy problem to avoid by getting a reusable hand towel that you carry with you. In your kitchen, hide the paper towels and keep those dish rags in sight.
- What does "sustainability" mean to you? "Sustainability" in the environmental sense means to conserve resources so that there are enough for others, both those living now and those who will come after us. For me, sustainability means being conscious of the many ways that my lifestyle can be less wasteful and less harmful to other people and other human, plant, and animal communities. Sustainability is a personal commitment that you make to yourself, your fellow human beings, and future generations that you will live in such a way that they, too, can enjoy comfort and sufficient resources. I strongly believe that every single person in the world has the capacity to understand sustainability for their own self and embrace it, and helping people recognize sustainability in their lives and beliefs is my favorite thing to do in my internship.Once you start paying attention, you realize how many simple ways exist for you to begin making a difference, and that is empowering.
- How did you become involved with sustainability at UCSC and what is your current role? I was really active with my environmental club in high school, and after freshman year I realized that I missed that kind of work. I was hired as an assistant in the Sustainability Office last year, and being surrounded by such a vibrant sustainability community inspired me to commit to getting even more involved. This year, I'm the Education & Outreach Coordinator for the Sustainability Office through the Chancellor's Undergraduate Internship Program (CUIP). I work with a team of students to educate the campus about how to lead more sustainable lives and about what is happening in the sustainability community on campus. We also work to encourage students, staff, and faculty to get more involved with the sustainability work happening all over campus. We have a lot of fantastic projects planned for this year, and I'm really excited to get started.
- How do you practice sustainability in your daily life? I am constantly challenging myself in new ways to be more conscious and use fewer resources. I refuse plastic water bottles and bags at grocery stores, and I bring my reusable water bottle, bag, and coffee mug with me wherever I go (let's say 97% of the time). I don't have a car, and this quarter, I'm trying to walk and bike more than taking the bus. I also use glass containers to carry chips, veggies, and other lunch items. One way that I continue to challenge myself is by participating in Change the World Wednesday Challenges and blogging about my experiences. Writing about my experiences and making commitments to myself publicly on my blog helps keep me on track. The green blog community is also incredibly supportive, creative, and fun, and I learn so much from other bloggers about ways to implement simpler living changes into my life.
- What is your advice to people who want to behave more sustainably but don't know where to begin or if it would even make a difference? Choose one thing that you can feasibly commit to and stick with it for a week. Reflect on your experience, and tell someone about it. Once you're comfortable with it, take another step forward. In terms of making a difference, the real question is "how am I making a difference?" Every action you take does something, and recognizing the value of and personal relationship to those combined differences you're making (be it personally, in your community, or on a global and ecological scale) is what makes sustainability a commitment that you will stick with. When you understand why you're living more sustainably and find reasons that are of value to you, you will have a lot easier time actually doing it. Certainly, if you were the only person behaving more sustainably, your actions will have little impact on a large scale. But you are not the only person, and it is only by beginning to make those changes that you can be the change you wish to see in the world and inspire someone else to join you.
- Have you had a favorite sustainability moment at UCSC? Tabling at OPERS last Tuesday was probably my favorite series of sustainability moments at UCSC. The Sustainability Tent was so busy and full of energy, and I practically went hoarse talking to students about the work our office does and the opportunities they have for getting involved. So many students participated in our Simply Committed Campaign, and I had a lot of fun working with my new team. I look forward to many more sustainability moments at UCSC in the coming year, and I'm so grateful for the opportunities that I've been able to have so far.
If you know of a person or group on campus that you think we should profile, or if you would like to be profiled, please send us an email.