October 26, 2016

Webster hosts conference on “demystifying sustainability”

Catherine Werner, the Director of Sustainability for the City of St. Louis, said sustainability has the power to be regenerative and restorative and it has to start with people, their personal wellbeing and their prosperity during her speech at the fifth annual Sustainability Conference.

“Sustainability is about people, about their relationship with other people, about their quality of life and about incorporating those things to not just respect earth, but to try and give back to earth,” Werner said. “I think sustainability is an opportunity to be restorative for our own wellness and wholeness. I think we haven’t been as integrating and integrative as we could have been or needed to be.”

The theme of the conference was “Demystifying Sustainability: The Impact of the Individual” and took place Oct. 8. Students, faculty and members of the community attended.

Werner referenced the butterfly effect in her speech, saying things happen in a random and not in a particularly predictable way and unpredictable can mean opportunity. She said people need to respect diversity and embrace change.

“We all have a really really important role to play,” Werner said. “When you embrace diversity, you come up with richer, more complex results. One little thing can have an unpredictable impactful effect.”

Werner said it is very important for the university to offer students and the community a place for a conversation about sustainability. She said it is essential to give people the opportunity to explore and consider new ideas.

Werner said this event “makes people feel welcomed, invited, important and valued” and “feel safe in their uncertainty and concerns or struggles.”

Kelsey Wingo, sustainability coordinator and co-chair of Webster’s Sustainability Coalition, said people do not always know where they fit into the sustainability conversation. She said it is a hard conversation because its ideas are abstract.

The Webster University Sustainability Coalition is led by students, faculty and staff to promote and educate the campus community on sustainability issues as well as promote possible solutions.

In addition to the coalition, Wingo created a space where the campus community could join her for “green talks and coffee” Topics cover environmentalism, social justice, natural resource conservation and more. Wingo is in Marletto’s Marketplace weekly on Tuesdays at 3 p.m.

“Sustainability is going to touch everything in our lives, and it already does,” Wingo said. “Sustainability is such a big word and it has to do with financial sustainability, social sustainability. It’s making sure that [people’s] lives are as full as they can be and as beneficial as they can be. And making sure that everyone has enough.”

Wingo said her sustainability vision is rooted in the community.

“Once a community cares about what they’re doing and cares about the amount of resources that they’re taking in and how much they’re giving back as well, sustainability unfolds,” Wingo said. “You create this culture of people who are concerned about one another and are being very cognizant of their intake and their consumption and what they’re giving back.”

Wingo said environmental, financial and social sustainability comes out when people learn from their community and create real progress on the the topics learned.

Angela Lavin, graduate student and co-chair of the Sustainability Coalition on campus, said people need to take action now and change the way they look at sustainability.

“We can very much see the effects of our footprints now and it’s just going to increase within our generation. So maybe not just caring about the future generations but caring about our wellbeing now,” Lavin said. “In order to make a difference we need to look at what we’re doing and be a positive influence on the environment.”

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