Greeks Go Green boosts change through simple steps

When University of Nebraska-Lincoln Greek chapter houses have as many as 70 residents, it can be difficult to maintain a sustainable and eco-friendly environment.

Thanks to a project introduced in the fall of 2014 called Greeks Go Green, making the Greek community of 3,980 members more sustainable could be achieved through education and simple action.

The project encountered a rocky start when the leadership fell away and the project had little success.  This year with new leadership and clear goals, the program has been rebuilt.  Erin Husmann, a sophomore at the university and a member of both the Environmental Sustainability Committee and Gamma Phi Beta, took the project under her wing.

“I saw the opportunity to become involved with something I felt passionate about, and so I did it,” she said.

Greeks Go Green has established a house audit rating system that checks each home’s sustainable living choices, such as recycling, use of plastic and energy and how much waste each is producing.

Another goal of the Greeks Go Green project is to have a representative from each Greek chapter to be the liaison between the project and the chapters.  These representatives will educate their individual chapters on how to be more sustainable.

Nicole Bakenhus, the representative for Gamma Phi Beta, said she grew up in a family that recycled everything.  When she came to college, she learned that living a “green” lifestyle is more than recycling, but it’s also about spreading the word and helping others go “green.”

Her responsibilities as a representative include attending meetings, sharing her ideas on sustainable actions and being responsible for her chapter and it’s efforts.

“What I have discovered is the simplicity it takes to make the Greek system greener,” Bakenhus said.  “Greek homes aren’t necessarily not eco-friendly, but there are so many ways to improve.”

Some simple actions Greeks Go Green suggest to Greek chapters include putting stickers next to light switches reminding members to turn off the lights and using reusable dishes and silverware as opposed to plastic.

Measures have been taken by a number of Greek homes, and Husmann said she was pleasantly surprised with the results of the Fall 2016 audit results.  However, there is room for improvement.

Both Husmann and Bakenhus see success with Greeks Go Green going forward.  Small steps and simple education about sustainable living will make a great impact on the university, they said.

“Through the house audits and our overall education on green living, we are hoping that more people will recognize the importance of living sustainably,” Husmann said.  “The Greek system can blaze the trail of sorts for this movement on campus.”


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