Emerson co-hosts sustainability summit

by Martha Schick / Beacon Staff • October 1, 2014

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President M. Lee Pelton discussed the importance of collegiate environmental discussion.
President M. Lee Pelton discussed the importance of collegiate environmental discussion.

President M. Lee Pelton called on fellow educators to make environmental initiatives a priority on Tuesday as he opened the 2014 Climate Leadership Summit.

Emerson is one of the host schools of the seventh annual conference this year, along with Boston Architectural College, Bunker Hill Community College, and University of Massachusetts Boston.

The Summit, which will run until Oct. 3, is a collaboration between signatories of the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment and Second Nature, a nonprofit that works to improve sustainability with college and universities.

“We are educators and our institutions exist for the purpose of teaching our students what it means and what it takes to live responsibly,” Pelton said in his opening speech at the Bill Bordy Theater. “The world looks to colleges and universities to provide answers and solutions to our most pressing problems.”

The Engagement Game Lab’s coordinator, Rob McKenzie, and one of its researchers, Miranda Banks, gave a presentation about their work after Pelton’s speech. They talked about the Lab’s existing games like Boda-Boda and Community PlanIt, and encouraged guests to come to a subsequent information session.

“Civic engagement and a sustainable environment are inexorably intertwined,” McKenzie said in an interview. “[Sustainability] is an area we’d like to explore, like many other issues that can be solved by a community at large.”

While he said the lab isn’t currently working on any sustainability games, McKenzie said he could see Community PlanIt, a game platform from the lab designed to get communities involved in civic issues, being used to work out environmental problems.

“Community PlanIt is the best way to attack it right now, but depending on the organization we worked with and the issue they brought us, there are certainly other ways to bring gameful play [to sustainability],” he said.

At the time of the welcome event, over 300 people had registered to take part in the Summit, according to Tatiana Brailovskaya, a communications consultant at Second Nature. She said that its goal had been 200 people.

There were about 40 people at the welcome reception itself, many of whom were sustainability coordinators from colleges and universities across the country.

Rodney Hudson, director of Claflin University’s auxiliary services and chairman of the South Carollina university’s sustainability committee, was attending the Summit for the first time.

“You want to pick everyone’s brain,” Hudson said. “I can find out if [Claflin] is on the right track.”

Daniel Dixon, the sustainability coordinator at the University of Maine, said he attended both to learn and to share his own experiences.

“Sustainability should be everywhere. It should be second nature to everyone,” Dixon said. “One of the biggest jobs is to educate the student on how their actions impact the world around them.”