Sustainability Q&A with Grace Redpath
What is your position at Gonzaga?
I am serving as this year’s Sustainability Chair for GSBA, and I work with the Office of Sustainability to oversee the Gonzaga Green Fund which provides student-grants for projects in sustainability.
What does sustainability mean to you?
Sustainability, to me, is the greatest good for all, forever. This is not necessarily a unique definition of sustainability, based off of the conservation ethic, but I think there is a profound importance in the use of the words “for all” and “forever”. The original definition comes from Utilitarian ideas of the greatest good for the greatest number of people for the greatest amount of time, but I think it can be easy to use this wording to justify environmental inequities that affect individual populations of people, especially when these groups are disproportionately BIPOC, individuals of lower SES status, women, developing countries, etc. We have a duty as global citizens to ensure the greatest good for all, forever, and I think the work of sustainability attempts to address the areas in which we have failed this mission.
How have you been involved in promoting sustainability on campus?
Sustainability has been a huge part of my Gonzaga experience and has taught me so much about my responsibility to others and this planet. Throughout my time at GU, I’ve been heavily involved in attempts to make Gonzaga a Fair Trade designated university, demonstrating a commitment to conscious consumerism and providing students with the ability to vote with their dollar and purchase items on campus that are ethically sourced. Additionally, this year, I have spent a large portion of my work focusing on the intersection of menstruation and women’s health with sustainability. In November, I hosted an event called “Sustainability. Period.” where we facilitated discussions around the impact of traditional menstrual products both on the environment and women’s bodies. As a part of the event, I was able to distribute over 200 sustainable menstrual products to students both on and off campus to encourage the switch to more sustainable and healthier period practices.
What are some things you do in your personal life to live sustainably?
In the past few years, I have been attempting to become more conscious of how much I consume in my daily life. As a part of this, I’ve been working to not only consume fewer articles of clothing, plastics, and reduce food waste, but I also try to limit what I purchase to items that I know are ethically sourced, or recycled, or organic. In practice, I often purchase most of my clothing from thrift stores, gravitate towards food items that are organic or plastic-free, and grocery shop more frequently with fewer purchases to avoid wasting food that goes bad. I’ve found that there’s a lot of room to be creative when practicing sustainability, especially in coming up with ways to reuse, repurpose, or recycle items that we would normally throw away. Some of the most creative ways I’ve practiced sustainability have been making my own paper with old class notes and egg cartons, making home décor from empty wine bottles and pasta sauce jars, and repurposing torn or tattered clothing into something completely new!
How could Gonzaga continue to improve its sustainability efforts?
I think one of the biggest weaknesses I’ve noticed in sustainability efforts at Gonzaga has been the lack of consistency in some areas. We’ve implemented several campus-wide efforts that seem to be forgotten or loosely enforced months later, only to be re-introduced several years later. Additionally, we contradict ourselves a lot when it comes to the practice of such initiatives. We have a really dedicated team of students and staff working within sustainability on campus and pushing for such efforts, but I think the trouble lies in a lack of campus-wide commitment to sustainability, including from an administrative level. My biggest critique of Gonzaga as an institution has always been that we love to talk the talk of our mission, but we don’t always walk the walk. We need to see a tangible and continual commitment to our “care for the planet” from both administration and students. In my opinion, the first step towards this formal commitment to sustainability is the complete divestment in the fossil fuel industry.
How will you continue to promote sustainability at Gonzaga?
In my last semester at Gonzaga and as the Sustainability Chair, I hope to engage as many students as possible in this work and foster conversations on the importance and complexity of sustainability. I also hope to continue my work on the intersection of women’s health and sustainability as well, and potentially host another discussion on sustainable menstruation later this semester.
How do you see environmentalism as intersecting with social justice issues on an institutional, country, or global scale?
Environmental issues across the globe are not isolated problems, but are deeply connected with various systems of inequality, especially white supremacy, capitalism, and the heteropatriarchy. Institutionally, it’s important to analyze which individuals are fully able to engage in sustainability, and which individuals may not have the choice to engage in practices that are better for the planet. There is privilege in this choice. Nationally and globally, we must look to who is most directly affected by environmental degradation, pollution, and the climate crisis, and recognize that there is also privilege in our ability to turn a blind eye to such issues and remain unaffected. This intersection of environmentalism with various inequities is rooted in the ways that systems of power create and perpetuate an “us and them” narrative, keeping certain individuals at a disadvantage and effectively leaving them more vulnerable to the negative impacts of industry and the climate crisis.