Building the Transition Campus

Students in the Sustainability Program at the University of New Mexico are making great efforts to make their campus one of the first Transition Campus Initiatives in the US. Instructor, Maggie Seeley, a Transition US Trainer, teaches a Sustainability Studies Practicum class, where Sustainability students put their knowledge into action. This is the first semester that Maggie introduced Transition Towns into her curriculum and it was met with success, momentum, creativity, passion and action.

Transition UNMThe class divided into three groups, an Energy Reduction Team, a Recycling Team and a Transition UNM team.

The Energy Reduction team held several events and demonstrations on campus to inform students how much energy household electronic appliances consume. On Halloween, they hosted an event at the campus student center, where they dressed as ghosts and presented energy watt demonstrations highlighting ghost loads, showing and explaining to students that appliances still use energy when they are plugged in, even if they are turned off.  They gave demonstrations with energy wattage readers, using different kinds of bulbs and power strips to illustrate which ones use the least amount of energy. They had a raffle giving away LEDs, CFLs and power strips. This reached a broad range of students and even turned the mind of a passer by who thought climate change was nonsense. With charts and information integrated with personal images of people in activities using electricity begged the question, what if you couldn't do these things anymore as a result of oil depletion? Towards the end of the semester, they gave a demonstration using traditional Christmas lights and LED Christmas lights, that were donate by Lowes Home Improvement, given away at their raffle. At all the events they created petitions people could sign committing to unplugging their ghost loads and using less energy. Not only did it bring awareness to ghost loads and energy reduction techniques, it brought awareness and interest to the Sustainability Program on campus. 

The team also initiated "Blinds Up-Lights Down" in the LEED certified building where most of the Sustainability classes are taught.  They got in touch with the facilities manager to ensure the energy saving lights in the classrooms were actually going off when they were supposed to and contacted every teacher teaching a class in that building to pull up the blinds using natural lighting, leaving the lights turned off. 

The Recycling team started off the semester by showing the film, "FLOW" and moved their energy and dedication into initiating recycling bins in all of the dorms on campus. In addition, they created a huge sculpture on campus made from water bottles, highlighting the impact and waste caused by buying bottled water. They worked with the university to set up recycling and compost bins at the Lobo volleyball games and also worked with the Transition team at their potlucks providing recycling, compost and most importantly, illustrations informing folks of what is recyclable and compostable.

The Transition UNM team worked hard organizing their first potluck and presentation held at the Peace and Justice Center just off campus. They invited local farmers, green businesses and local CSAs(Community Supported Agriculture) to present their services to guests. Erda Gardens CSA, Albuquerque Old School and Pinnacle Perspective all had tables with information where they networked to a new kind of community. The Energy Reduction team had a table displaying their bulbs and petitions and local band Gatsby played as well.

Around eighty-five people showed up to the potluck, consisting of a wide range of community members. The crowd consisted of a wide range of community members including students, a former city council member, environmental, political and social activists, and other people involved in sustainable projects and organizations around the city. There were even a few members of Transition Initiatives from around the state.

Guests were asked to bring a food dish composed of local food items, which ranged from local beet salads, local quinoa dishes, local green chile posole and from-scratch local fruit pies. After the eating and socializing, Jeness May gave a presentation about what Transition Towns are, illustrating how Albuquerque is already doing things to head towards transition, how easy and exciting it can be and highlighting the efforts, goals and mission of Transition UNM. After the presentation, raffle items donated by local businesses were given away and Gatsby followed with their harmonic melodies.

The second potluck, geared towards students and held on campus, was unfortunately cancelled due to the university closing for inclement weather, however, the Transition UNM team has rescheduled the next potluck for January 16th. 

Currently, Transition UNM is working on partnering with LOBO Gardens to create more on-campus gardens. Transition UNM aims for next semester to work with the university and the contracts that bind the gardens from selling their veggies to the dorm cafeteria and at Farmers’ Markets in town. A previous semester's class was successful in having La Montanita Co-op put a small grocery store on campus and Transition UNM is trying to find a way to sell the produce at the on-campus location. This will hopefully lead to more on-campus gardens!

MaggieJeness May is working on trying to reach out to charter high schools to teach Sustainability classes and begin the very first high school campus initiative that would work with Transition UNM on several projects. She is also headed to Big Sur, California to the Esalen Institute, to receive the Transition Training taught by Maggie Seeley (photo to right).  In addition, Maggie and Jeness are taking on creating Transition Albuquerque in the Spring of 2012. The Transition UNM movement is taking on so much initiative and momentum that it's moved it's way into the 400 level Sustainability course, taught by Bruce Milne, where several other students will continue with what that was started in the Sustainability Practicum. 

Just this past Sunday, Jeness May was interviewed by a local podcast radioProgressive New Mexico Radio, where she talks about Transition UNM and Transition Albuquerque.

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