SMC Board of Trustees honored as "Eco Heroes"

Squirming and smiling, Andy Jr., son of SMC Board of Trustees member Andrew Walzer, giggled and reached out toward the plaque that was presented to the Board at the Center for Environmental and Urban Studies on Wednesday, April 21.

The young boy, unaware yet of the sustainable community that his father and the Board of Trustees are building, stared out into the room at the faces of many of the college's most dedicated environmentalists.

"I have the baby up here because I just want to say I just feel a sense of pride in this college and all that we've accomplished and a sense of hope for future generations, and that's what Andy Jr. symbolizes," said Walzer.

On Wednesday afternoon SMC students, faculty and community members were invited to the CEUS's open house event. Attendees were given tours of the newly renovated green building and a chance to learn more about the Sustainable Works program, and to witness the presentation of two awards: one to the SMC Board of Trustees and the other to the Big Blue Bus.

The Board of Trustees were given the "Eco Hero" award for their intense commitment to SMC's sustainable agenda. The Big Blue Bus was awarded for their commitment to providing environmentally friendly and safe transportation to thousands of students at SMC.

SMC environmentalist leaders such as Stephanie Calderon, president of the Eco-Action Club, and Natasha Gorodnitski, AS director of sustainability, were also there to show their appreciation for the Board's support in many initiatives affecting them as earth conscious SMC community members. Also in the audience was college president Dr. Chui Tsang and environmental politics professor Amber Katherine.

Genevieve Bertone, director of sustainability at the CEUS, and Barent Roth, executive director of Sustainable Works, presented the Board of Trustees with a plaque commemorating a grove of trees that were planted by the center in their honor. Bertone informed those attending the event about the efforts that the Board has made to go above and beyond any other school's Board of Trustees with regards to sustainable planning.

The list of initiatives and plans that the Board has supported include the Zero Waste Initiative, the president's Global Citizenship Initiative, and the Big Blue Bus.

"When the center was founded in the early 1990s the administration and the leadership didn't always make the connection that our leadership does now and I know that there were struggles in helping our leadership see the benefit of environmental practices and being on the cutting edge," said Bertone.

"When they tell me these stories I just cannot relate at all because I have not known a Santa Monica College like that," she said.

Bertone and other SMC faculty expressed a great appreciation for the work that the Board of Trustees has done to exhibit how dedicated they are to keeping SMC's spot high on the list of most sustainable learning institutions.

"What they do is they support the environmental students, faculty, and staff," said Katherine. "And not every Board of Trustees supports their environmental faculty and staff."

Bertone illustrated how the Board of Trustees does not need to be convinced or pushed to be green, emphasizing that they actively agree with it by readily accepting proposals made to them.

The Board members' close relationship with the CEUS and Sustainable Works program has taught them about "going green" and they've applied it to their personal lives.

Board member Susan Aminoff proudly exclaimed during her short speech that the time she spent with crew members and Bertone had paid off, making her a more environmentally conscious and active person.

"I put out no garbage can this week because I learned so much from Genevieve and the crew," said Aminoff. "I compost at my home. I just put out recycling and everything else went to the worms!"

Aside from her personal efforts Aminoff made it clear that the Board makes a point to help the school as an institution take a similar approach to environmentalism. She informed the crowd of the many sustainable features present in the new buildings funded by measure AA, which the Board has adamantly supported.

Some of those features include natural ventilation, water efficient landscaping, solar power, use of recycled waste water and enhanced bicycle access. The sustainable building program also supports the use of public transportation, storm water management, and waste water management and recycling.

"There are people who work very hard in this college to help put this program together and to make this is a real learning expereince, so that our students can come and talk about what they're doing in their own lives and how it's going to affect a lot of other people in the future," said Tsang.

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