Natalia King | Class of 2017 | Ecology, Behavior, and Evolution Major
As president of Sierra Club, what are some things you hope to accomplish/see happen with the club in the future?
Over the past year, one of the main focuses of Sierra Club at UCSD has been working collaboratively with Sierra Club San Diego on the My Generation Campaign. My Generation is a campaign that is working towards powering California with 100% clean energy by organizing communities across the state to demand local clean energy as a way to improve air quality, create jobs, and take action against climate change. Here in San Diego we have been working towards this goal in the form of a local political campaign, Community Choice Energy (CCE). CCE is a community choice program that would allow elected city officials to vote on what source San Diego residents and businesses would get their energy and how much they pay for it; if implemented, it could offer more renewable energy and lower rates than SDG&E, the region’s power monopoly.
Educating our communities about CCE and organizing meetings with our local Council-members and Mayor Faulconer hasn’t always been an easy ride, but it’s one that our club members feel strongly about. We, along with many other San Diego constituents, believe that CCE is the best and most efficient move we could make as a city in bringing our region to achieve its 100% renewable energy goal by 2035. It’s been an honor to have been a part of the team that has worked so hard to help progress this campaign. Going forward, I hope that the Sierra Club at UCSD team members continue their hard work on this campaign and that, before long, our coalition succeeds in bringing clean energy to San Diego and all its residents.
Why is sustainability important to you and what are some aspects of sustainability you are most interested in?
I first became interested in sustainability in 2013, during California’s most recent major drought. As a biology major attending community college in the Bay Area, I was shocked when I first heard about the drought – not through my biology courses and discussions nor through other community members, but instead from an electronic traffic sign on the freeway along my commute that pleaded “SERIOUS DROUGHT, PLEASE SAVE WATER”. After seeing that sign I became obsessed with learning all I could about the drought, and this obsession led me to my first sustainability passion – water conservation. Since then, I have remained dedicated to the conservation of water and community education on the matter.
After transferring to UCSD, my passion for sustainability really took off thanks to being introduced to the sustainability community, Sustainability Resource Center, and especially thanks to Jen Bowser. At the 2016 UCSD Sustainability Awards hosted by Jen, I had my first real glimpse into a world of sustainably-minded individuals like I’d never seen and I was blown away; finally, it felt like I had found my people! Since then, I have continued my education of sustainability through personal research, local and UCSD organizations, and the many projects that I have been a part of. Today, my main focuses in sustainability pertain to climate change, the journey to zero waste, water conservation, educating my communities, and empowering my fellow earthlings to create and live more sustainable lives of their own.
To me, sustainability is important because without it there is no happy future for us and the future generations of this planet. We need to learn to better coexist with our earth instead of using up all its resources and giving nothing back in return. Instead of leaving too much power in the hand of economics, we must find and fight for the ways that we can maintain a fair balance between economics, environment, and equity.
What are some easy ways that people can be more sustainable in their everyday lives?
One thing that people can do is to work on decreasing their dependence on wasteful single-use plastics by instead opting for reusable products. Easy ways to do this include bringing your own water bottle, thermos, reusable bags, straw, and even cutlery when you leave the house. I find it makes it easier for people to do this if they plan ahead and leave things in places they know they’ll need them! For instance, I carry a cool 3-in-1 stainless steel utensil in my backpack and I leave reusable shopping bags and some tupperware in my car so that when I go out to shop or eat, it’s one less thing I need to remember!
Another tip I’d suggest expands upon the idea of “reduce, reuse, recycle” to include other R’s, such as “refuse” and “rot” (or compost) whenever you can. Refusing can be as easy as asking for “a water with no straw, please” or letting the host at your favorite restaurant know that you don’t need a bag or cutlery for your to-go food!
Additionally, I always encourage people to ask questions, do more research, and take it a step at a time. There’s a lot of ways to work towards sustainability and it can be seem over-whelming if you try to change every aspect of your life all at once. Instead, focus on one or two things at a time, and then expand from there! Sustainability may be a spectrum, but so long as you’re actively working towards leading a more sustainable life – even in the form of baby steps – I think you can be proud of that! On top of that, don’t let sustainability be a taboo topic! Talk to and educate your friends, your family, your neighbors, and even the waiters that sometimes look at you confused when you pull out your bamboo straw or own utensils.
What other sustainability orgs have you been involved with?
In addition to Sierra Club I have been directly involved with one other sustainability focused organization – the UC Carbon Neutrality Initiative (CNI)’s Sustainability Ambassadors. Having been accepted into the year-long program with 11 other Ambassadors, I took on a role as one of UCSD’s Climate Change Ambassadors. We met weekly to learn about different fields of sustainability from working experts and used our gained knowledge to create engaging sustainability-focused programs, such as the series of programs we titled “Climate Change: A Culture Change”. The Ambassador program was one that I’ll forever be glad to have been a part of, as not only did it do so much to teach me more about so many aspects of sustainability, but it also worked as a “teach the teachers” program that really gave me the tools and training to best go out and effectively share these ideas with my community members.
Aside from working directly with Sierra Club and the Ambassadors, I have worked to bring aspects of sustainability to every opportunity that I can. As a Resident Assistant (RA) in the Village a majority of my programs focused on sustainability opportunities and I whenever I could collaborate with the Econauts on events, I made sure to. Two other RAs and I also collaborated on a “Village Goes Green” recycling campaign and hosted recycling parties in which people could come get rid of their recyclables that needed special handling while engaging in “Recycling Jeopardy” with the Econauts.
Today, my main sustainability focus is in working with the awesome start-up founded by Michael Mnatsakanian, SustainaBinity. Together, we work to simplify the process of beginning and maintaining sustainable lives by supporting and inspiring individuals and communities to bring the best zero-waste, sustainable products and practices into their daily lives while eliminating their dependence on single-use plastics and products. To achieve this, we work on two main goals: empowering, educating, and inspiring those on their zero-waste journey by offering ethically-sourced, high-quality sustainable products, and also providing consulting services to create customized solutions to environmental problems by integrating sustainable practices into homes, businesses, and communities. Most recently, we worked with RIMAC Sports Facilities at UCSD in conducting an initial waste audit to aid the university in working towards their zero waste by 2020 goal. The audit may have been a lot of work, but it was so fulfilling to work with our university on such an important goal! Now that the first phase of the project (waste auditing, baselining, reporting, and recommendations) has been completed, we are gearing up for phase two (waste auditing, tracking progress, determining realistic waste diversion goals, and training their staff to conduct waste audits).