Posted: September 20, 2008
The green movement has rapidly made its away around campus and now it’s knocking at the doors of UCLA’s Greek organizations. UCLA’s more than 60 fraternities and sororities are being nudged to make their homes more environmentally friendly as well.
Founded last spring, “Green the Greeks” is an organization that has recognized about 500 Greek-system members. Taking notice of the mounting trash heaps and inefficiencies in their houses, Greek-system members are fighting to make their houses more sustainable, group leaders said.
In the past year, the group has encouraged the installation of fluorescent light bulbs and automated light timers, and the elimination of Styrofoam plates, which are common during Monday-night house dinners. The group has also placed recycling bins for items such as aluminum cans in fraternity houses.
Most houses have started implementing those policies, said Vincent Phamvan, internal vice president of public relations for Green the Greeks.
In the next year, there will be a competition to measure which house consumes the least amount of energy, he added.
Phamvan, a member of Delta Sigma Phi, credits the group with eliminating a culture of wastefulness that pervaded Greek life.
“When it’s one person changing things, you can only have so much impact on the environment,” Phamvan said. “But when you can influence your friends and peers, it’s so much more.”
Initially going door to door to hand out organic gift baskets or fluorescent light bulbs, Kappa Alpha Theta member Erica von Trapp said she cofounded Green the Greeks to make small changes that would change her surroundings.
“I’ve always been taught not to be wasteful, and we know how wasteful the Greeks can be,” von Trapp said.
She uses her experiences at seminars, events and lectures to suggest ideas for improving sustainability efforts.
“During the meetings, we have a discussion time going, and it’s the culmination of ideas that makes the group so powerful,” von Trapp said.
The ideas are apparently powerful enough that Theta Xi, which is rechartering this year, two years after being suspended for policy violations, is embracing von Trapp’s ideas for reducing trash.
Von Trapp calls Theta Xi the “guinea pigs” of the green project. Projects in the works include solar panels, an exercise facility that harnesses the power of workouts for a generator, a garden with fresh-grown vegetables and citrus trees, said Theta Xi member Luke Campbell.
“It’s OK to think of these unconventional things. I hope that our projects will go well in a way that will motivate other houses to follow suit and make a positive impact,” Campbell said. “The Greeks are a major population at UCLA, so the more the Greek population knows about it, the more it will spread out.”
Campbell said the social networking and influence of fraternity life means the Greek-system members have a responsibility to protect the environment and spread the knowledge to others.
In the fall, leaders say all 28 of the houses owned by UCLA’s Greek organizations will have the opportunity to join the council. Non-Greek-system “independents” are invited to join as well, they added.
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