The Office of Sustainability serves as Auburn University’s resource for building a more environmentally friendly and sustainable campus. The office hosts a multitude of events to provide resources and raise awareness of their goals.
When the University closed in April because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the office canceled the events it had planned. For this semester, it has adjusted events to follow social distancing regulations and provide a safer environment.
Jennifer Morse, the Office of Sustainability’s outreach and communication manager, works with organizations to plan outreach events and develop more sustainable options across campus.
The office has already held two events for the fall semester. The first was their Welcome Week event, which the office scaled down from a what the event was last year — a large sustainability picnic with 25 supporting organizations — to an informational event, with four organizations focusing on waste reduction and recycling.
“So, I mean it was a huge event, and we scaled it down to four tables,” Morse said.
Morse said they adapted the event to the regulations at the time by taking temperatures, using AUInvolve for check-in, providing reusable utensils and using proper spacing.
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The office’s most recent event was the Oscillation Transia Film Festival held in the Donald E. Davis Arboretum on Oct. 14 at 7 p.m. The festival was originally planned to take place in April and underwent major changes for the Wednesday showing.
The film festival’s director, Jess Giacobbe, would travel with her solar engineer to power the film showing with solar energy only. The director was unable to attend and instead was introduced at the beginning of the event over Zoom.
“For me, the takeaway overall was that sometimes we forget about maintaining the relationships and also our connection — our relationship — with the natural world around us and the people important to us,” Morse said.
The viewing took place outside on the green space of the arboretum. People at the viewing were required to wear masks, and seating was spaced 10 feet apart.
Giacobbe picked eight short films about the human connection with nature, and all films were shown in an hour. At the end of the event, viewers were encouraged to leave their masks on and maintain their distance from others.
Daniel Fischer, 31, an Auburn alumnus, attended the event on Wednesday because his fiancée was showing one of her videos from the Lee County Film Club.
Fischer said he felt safe and comfortable while viewing the films. He also felt the films had a significant impact on himself and others.
“It’s really eye-opening to see what people are feeling and thinking in other parts of the world and that there are people that have ideas in common with myself and others,” Fischer said.
Morse said the Office of Sustainability is looking forward to conducting more events throughout the fall and spring semesters. It will utilize virtual meetings and hold in-person events with the appropriate regulations in place.
“We’d like to do a tree-planting event again because that is outdoors,” Morse said. “We can do spacing and wipe down the tools.”
The office will continue to use social distancing regulations in their offices and at events. It will also examine how the University’s pollution and production of greenhouse gases has been affected by the pandemic.
“One of our biggest contributors to greenhouse gases is University-funded travel,” Morse said. “So it’ll be interesting to see the effect of COVID on that.”
Besides focusing on creating a more sustainable campus, the office has also noticed an increase in stress and anxiety because of the pandemic. It is hoping to partner with Student Counseling and Psychological Services to help increase mental wellness among students in more ways than it did before.
“We have a lot of potential here to do a lot of really amazing things,” Morse said.
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