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Students 'walk the talk' for sustainability

February 03, 2011

Each semester, the School of Community Resources and Development, in the College of Public Programs, offers a course titled, “Sustainable Communities” (NLM/PRM/TDM 301), in which students have the opportunity to apply what they’re learning about fostering sustainability in the community.

“Focus Phoenix” is a semester-long community service component of the course, with the goal of connecting students directly to the Valley.

Students work in teams, with names such as “the Green Divas,” to tackle issues impacting sustainability in Phoenix. In the fall, eight teams worked on diverse projects, including how to recycle jeans into energy efficient housing insulation and how to create a community garden. “The idea is to provide opportunity for students to build community with their own teams and then reach out to help our larger community in which we live, work and recreate here in Phoenix,” says Rhonda Phillips, the professor for the course. 

The teams are given a topical area for the focus of their work ranging from environment, infrastructure, transportation, to air quality.

“Each team has to identify and pursue a community service project in one of these areas.  This helps them to learn more about our city as well as encourages them to develop connections,” says Phillips.

This semester, teams will focus on issues including encouraging more awareness of the need for a vital local foods system, by working with the nearby nonprofit Phoenix Urban Market and Community Food Connection, to exploring the possibility of starting a no engine idling campaign for helping air quality in the Valley.

“It involves a high level of interaction to run this many projects each semester.  I wouldn’t have it any other way considering how much we all learn about our city and how we can impact sustainability at the local level,” says Phillips.

Student Travis Kim says the course provided him with a great environment for learning about sustainability.

“The various range of topics helps motivate students by allowing them to partake in a project of their interest.  The best part of the course is the ability to apply our knowledge to current trends and concepts.”