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As a student at Kendall College of Art and Design, I am proud to be part of the efforts in reducing waste and promoting a more sustainable lifestyle through participation in the Kendall Green Council. As the recent Vice President of the organization, I have been able to share in the accomplishments of the school through the sustainable lifestyle that the Kendall Green Council promotes and represents.

As one of many, the first great step that Kendall has made towards sustainable living was simply to have a green council that can be so involved throughout the entire school. Our organization has already reduced waste significantly by installing categorized trash bins. Separate sections in the trash receptacles for paper, plastics, cans, compost and landfill trash ensure that different types of waste can be transformed into new materials. Compared to other organizations, our contribution to the landfill is less and continues to go down with the efforts of informing others about their responsibility to recycle.

Another great way that our school encourages recycling is through a tournament known as Recyclemania. This is a competition between schools all over the nation to see who can gather the largest number of recyclables, and furthermore promotes cleaner waste management. 247 colleges across the country participated in recycling 90.8 million pounds of waste, which results in a significant amount of Greenhouse Gas Reduction. I am proud of the fact that our school was able to rank second in the Grand Championship last spring, reducing waste on campus by 83.461 percent! The Green Council organizes this event and this year I look forward to hosting another great year of recycling through Recyclemania.

Although our school has made sustainability a priority, we can always do more. While being part of a small college can be beneficial in certain aspects, our school right now does not have enough students to allow for college-style dorms. Students are forced to go out and find their own apartment or alternative housing, which involves commute time and money for students. And though most students can find housing within walking distance of the school, these apartments come at a price. I walk to school and work every day because it is cheaper, however the price that I am paying for housing is very high. Therefore, a good portion of the student population is forced to live with their families or elsewhere, forcing the students to have to drive to school and possibly work. Kendall does provide free bus passes but the buses stay fairly close to the downtown area and run on a somewhat limited schedule, so certain students still require a car to drive to school.  By allowing affordable, close living quarters - such as dorms or cheaper apartments - car emissions would be reduced allowing a cheaper, more sustainable, environmentally friendly way of living.

In addition to transportation means to and from the school, those who already live close have a hard time leaving the city to buy groceries and other various activities. Pricing downtown is already so expensive that a lot of students cannot also afford cars, and sometimes not even bikes. Kendall has been talking of a bike rental system to allow for a means of travel that can allow farther distances, yet still remain friendly to the environment. Though it might be on the agenda, Kendall has not been able to organize this particular service, though I know a lot of students would appreciate this.

On a more personal level, sometimes I fell that we need to do more in the means of sustainable living. This year I have struggled with severe generalized anxiety disorder, which has caused me to have panic attacks. These panic attacks would be a result of worrying about the terrible things that we are doing to our planet. I would read of tragedies that are happening in our environment such as the bee colony collapse, the arctic melting and the patterns of global warming that are thought to all be due to the harmful amounts of CO2 in our atmosphere. I am comforted by the fact that we can make a change for the better through my school’s simple programs that are designated to sustainability. This is part of the reason why I felt so strongly about running for office within the Green Council. Any time I hear that efforts are being made to save our planet I am deeply relieved and so proud for those who care just as much as I do.

Others like me are out there working towards a brighter future too. I have been so fortunate to attend a great school like Kendall College of Art and Design, where almost anyone can see that we are making great strides towards a sustainable future and are leading a new trend in cleaner waste management and eco-friendly living. Through Kendall and even more so, the Green Council, I feel like I am doing my part for the environment while also getting closer to my future dreams. Though Kendall can continue to improve by addressing other issues such as means of transportation to and from the area, we are headed in the right direction.

Victoria Hays is a student at Kendall College of Art and Design and a finalist for the 2013 SaveOnEnergy.com® Education Scholarship. For more information about SaveOnEnergy's scholarship program, visit our scholarship information page.

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