Clarkie of the Week: Sharon Bort

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Sharon Bort

Sharon Bort

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Anna Spack 
Scarlet Staff

Sharon Bort is a junior at Clark from Green Brook, New Jersey. She is majoring in Global Environmental Studies and has played a huge role in implementing many sustainable initiatives around campus. I interviewed Sharon about her work at Clark and her thoughts on environmentalism in general.

 

Scarlet: What is your involvement on campus, specifically in relation to environmental issues?

Sharon: I’m not exactly involved in specific clubs (I was never actually an eco-rep), but I’ve always gone to their events and supported them. My involvement has been more overarching. Since my freshman year I’ve worked with Jenny Isler, the sustainability coordinator, and with Sustainable Clark (the Office of Sustainability). I started out working on recycling, going to every single building and dorm on campus and counting the amount of trash cans and recycling bins – finding out where they were missing, rearranging them, and putting up signs. I saw what we needed, what was good, what was bad, and following that I worked with student council to get money from the surplus to buy all new bins around campus. I helped with arranging those but the Recycling Crew did a lot too. Also, last year we came in second place with Clark’s U-reka contest for our idea of outdoor recycling bins – which are still being built. (It’s still a problem, you still need to carry your bottles inside, but again, we’re working on it.) So recycling has been my main focus.

Last year’s big project was getting the Student Sustainability Fund passed. It was an all-year process of researching other schools, writing the resolution and the charter, and making all the applications for it. I worked with two other people, Jordan Daley and Heather MacKenzie, and we met with administrators, faculty, staff, and other people all over campus before we had to get signatures and work with student council to get the referendum passed. It passed by three votes. Now it’s actually happening, which is so exciting. There’s now $20,000 for sustainability projects, which is incredible. I wasn’t able to be on the committee because I’m going abroad [to the Netherlands this spring], which has been difficult because I haven’t been able to do a lot of the projects that I normally would – I don’t want to just leave things hanging. But it’s happening; they got fourteen applications for the fund, which is very exciting, and they have a committee. I’m glad that I’ve been able to get this started and put some work into it this semester.

I am also the PLA for “Sustainable University,” which is a class based entirely around projects. One group is working on rainwater catchment, and since one of my particular interests is banning bottled water, I’ve been working with the group on that. I’m leaving it in other people’s hands because I’m going abroad but hopefully it will be banned by the time I get back. And then I also do general stuff, again with Jenny. For example I wrote Clark Dining Services’s application for MassRecylce’s contest and we won gold, and this year Clark as a whole won third place in Massachusetts for greenest institution. I guess I am formally in a club too – I’m the outreach coordinator for Clark Sustainability Collaborative, which again has an overarching goal. We meet once a month with delegates from all the different environmental clubs [on campus] to have food and talk about how we can help each other out with funding, support, and advertising.

 

Scarlet: Why are you interested in helping the environment? What first got you into it?

Sharon: Originally when I came to Clark I thought I was going to do International Development, but it switched because I realized that you can’t develop without doing it sustainably. Also I felt like I could feel the results more when working with environmental causes than with international development. Not that climate change isn’t a huge, scary idea, but when I work with recycling it’s more tangible. You can see the results. You are able to physically put the can in the recycling bin and you know you are making a difference by not putting it in the trash can – by making those small changes, like getting the referendum passed. I’m seeing things happening on campus and I’m learning tools that I’ll be able to spread to other businesses and schools. I’m also learning how to organize and plan.

 

Scarlet: Do you plan on pursuing a career in environmentalism?

Sharon: Yes. I would love to be a sustainability coordinator, maybe at a school. My big dream would be working for a not-so-great corporation, but doing good from the inside and getting them to see that even though they might not think it’s the right thing to do, [going green] would help them save money and look better. Because as bad as we say businesses are, they’re not going away. We have to change them.

 

Scarlet: What’s your favorite part of what you do on campus?

Sharon: I love that there are so many different components to it. I’m not just doing recycling, I’m not just focusing on food. I’m focusing on all of them –on waste, on reducing waste. There are so many different parts and it’s constantly changing. I love being busy with all of it. And I like how there are so many dimensions to it – you have to look at the cost-benefits of it, then there’s behavioral change and psychological components to it too. I love that it’s a challenge; it’s a really difficult issue.

Scarlet: What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced so far?

Sharon: Getting the referendum passed was definitely really difficult. Also for me, just staying calm is a challenge. For me sustainability, and doing all these things, is just so obvious, it’s like second nature. Understanding that it’s not as obvious for everyone is hard. Being more understanding, communicating that, getting other people to think similarly and have it connect to what they’re interested in as well as finding those connections, is hard.

 

Scarlet: What else do you like to do?

Sharon: Well of course I’m not always doing stuff with the environment. I also like to read, and hang out…Making earrings out of recycled materials is a hobby of mine. I love to bike; I especially love biking around Worcester and exploring new parts of the city.

 

Scarlet: Do you have any tips on how people can be more environmentally-friendly?

Sharon: People don’t realize that when they bring their mug instead of taking a paper cup from Jazzman’s or the Bistro, that one paper cup is part of a problem. But then you look at how many paper cups you use in the whole year and you understand. People need to realize how important their every single action is. One thing builds up from your own actions and builds up from everyone else at the school. You are important. It’s the same with voting, with being a vegetarian – every time you don’t eat meat you’re part of a larger picture. People need to remember that. We’re all part of one big planet. When you can think of your life in that context it’s easier to take action and eventually