Friday, September 15, 2017

HUMANS OF SECS: REBECCA VINING

Today is an exciting day- it’s time for our very first Humans of SECS post for this school year! We’d like to introduce you to Rebecca Vining, who is our Community Outreach Chair. As Community Outreach Chair, she is working to connect SECS with the broader Champaign-Urbana community and to coordinate service and volunteer opportunities for our members. Becky is a junior studying Anthropology, and is beginning her third year in SECS. She is also part of our Beyond Coal committee, and served as one of its co-chairs last year. Outside of SECS, Becky is also a part of Students for Economic Empowerment, Undergraduate-Graduate Alliance, and Illini Emergency Medical Services.


“I’ve cared about the environment for pretty much as long as I can remember. My first ‘campaign’ was when I was about eight, and I hung homemade animal rights flyers all over the neighborhood.  Of course, flyering was illegal, so they were gone by the next day, but my fate as an environmentalist was sealed.
As far as I’m concerned, it is one of our fundamental responsibilities as human beings on this planet to care about making it better. Whether you’re in a position to care a whole lot or just every once in a while, there’s always something you can do to make the world around you kinder, safer, and fairer. The Earth and all its creatures are gifts to be treasured, not resources to be exploited.”

Photograph by Maggie Golden




Tuesday, September 12, 2017

WELCOME TO SECS: 2017

            Greetings wonderful Earth people, and welcome to Students for Environmental Concerns’ very first blog post of this school year! If you’re unfamiliar with who we are and what we do, we are UIUC’s oldest and largest environmental student organization, and this blog post will give you a full rundown of how we work.
As this week is the third week of the semester, it will be the second week of work at our meeting tomorrow. But it’s absolutely not too late to join if you haven’t already- our doors are always open to everyone! This year, SECS has four working groups, including the brand new Urban Agriculture comittee. Each group has distinct goals and objectives, but we share a common commitment to protecting this planet and environmental activism. Without further ado, here is a crash course on each working groups’ plans for this semester!

Beyond Coal
            Our Beyond Coal group began as a subsidiary of the Sierra Club’s national Beyond Coal movement. Since 2011, UIUC Beyond Coal has been fighting to convince the university’s Board of Trustees to divest the roughly $5.1 million of our endowment it has invested in coal. Despite a recommendation by the Academic Senate in Spring 2016 to do so, the BoT has taken no action. So, last school year this group spent much of its time researching methods to feasibly divest, and meeting with various members and committees of the university government and administration to attempt to facilitate divestment, which is work that will continue this semester. Beyond Coal is also seeking a statement on divestment from Chancellor Jones, working with the Student Senate to pass a resolution re-acknowledging RS16.06 so that the BoT must address it, reaching out to peers at UIC and UIS, and developing the canvassing skills of its members. At last week’s meeting, the group went over Beyond Coal’s history, plans, and the university’s power structure. Beyond Coal is chaired by Caleb Brandmeyer (calebbrandmeyer@gmail.com) and Laura Schultz (lauravschultz@gmail.com).

Political Action
            Political Action’s main function is to train and engage students in political lobbying and activism in support of pro-environment policies. Over the past academic year, the group’s biggest events were outreach. They spoke to many UIUC students about the many environmental problems we are currently experiencing and their potential solutions. The group also made some progress working on the ongoing Skip the Bag campaign that the Sustainable Business committee leads, which is an effort that will continue into this year. This year, the SECS PAC aims to become a student lobbying team and political interest group to advocate for improved environmental protection through government action. Specific plans include speaking directly to the politicians who represent us and encouraging them to champion environmentally friendly policies. At last week’s meeting, the group looked up their hometown representatives and learned about their positions. They also looked into the platforms of the local congressional candidates in the IL-13 district. Political Action is chaired by Sofiya Bobrovska (sofiya.bobrovska@gmail.com) and Ben Chapman (bbchapm2@illinois.edu).

Sustainable Business
            Sustainable Business’ main function is probably exactly what you think it is: advocating for increased sustainable practices at businesses in the Champaign-Urbana area. The group has been intensely focused on the Skip the Bag campaign to reduce the amount of plastic bag usage at local businesses. Last year, they designed their own reusable bags, many of which were given out to students. For this upcoming year, work on Skip the Bag will continue. Sustainable Business will be talking to the local County Market grocery store in particular, which they hope can be convinced to sell reusable bags. Plans also include fieldtrips to Common Ground Co-Op, Waste Management, and local recycling facilities. At this past meeting, they went over last year’s work, talked about sustainability issues that the group has seen on campus, and brainstormed solutions that could potentially be implemented to solve these problems. Sustainable Business is chaired by Jackie CoreƱo (coreno2@illinois.edu) and Mali Velasco (vlscdlg2@illinois.edu).

Urban Agriculture
            Urban Agriculture is a brand new committee, starting this semester! Their main goals are to develop the gardening skills of their members and educating the campus community on sustainable agricultural practices, and especially in an urban setting. They plan on working closely with the YMCA’s building committee in order to install raised garden beds at the YMCA. The group will also be tending a garden at the Sustainable Student Farm south of campus. For winter, they will learn to can, compost, and build various sustainable projects for personal use and as contributions to the YMCA. They may also reach out to speakers that can talk about their work relating to sustainable farming practices, and pitch a project for funding to the Student Sustainability Committee. At their very first meeting, the group went over these upcoming plans, and then visited the aquaponics system that co-chair Justin Vozzo works on at the university greenhouses, where he demonstrated how it functioned and how group members could get involved. Urban Agriculture is chaired by Matt Martinez (matthew.mtz34@gmail.com) and Justin Vozzo (jtvozzo@gmail.com).

Other SECS News

Community Outreach: This past Sunday, a group of SECS volunteers met to collect trash and recycling from around campus. In one hour, they filled approximately 25 bags from the area between Green Street and Armory Avenue. Throughout the year, SECS will be continuing to participate in campus cleanup projects as we raise awareness for a more sustainable lifestyle. This ongoing effort is led by our Community Outreach Chair, Becky Vining (vining2@illinois.edu).  By far, the most common item picked up were beverage containers, at 61. Please remember to use a reusable beverage container when you can, and recycle the disposable bottles you do buy!

All the beverage containers collected in one hour's time on Sunday.
Photo provided by Marie Fuchs.

Fundraising: SECS will be having its first fundraiser of the year on Thursday (9/14). It will be a vegan bake sale, and you can find us on the quad from 9:30am-1pm. Please don’t miss it! If you have any questions about the sale, feel free to contact our Fundraising Chair Abbi Pstrzoch at agp3@illinois.edu