A Journey to a more Sustainable Campus

Meet Lauren Dey, Central Sustainability coordinator and president of Take Back the Tap

Lauren Dey picks up trash outside of Towers Residence Hall on the campus of Central Michigan University, Mount Pleasant, Michigan, Saturday, October 21, 2023. Dey invited people of all ages to this campus clean up to teach younger people about sustainability.

Lauren Dey pushes a cart full of supplies to Dow College of Health Professions on the campus of Central Michigan University, Mount Pleasant, Michigan, Friday October 20, 2023. Dey and her Central Sustainability partner Claire DeBlanc took turns pushing the cart back to their office.

While walking across campus during the month of October, you may have seen groups of students picking up trash or doing a tour looking at sustainable areas on campus. When you looked at the people involved, you would have  seen the same person at each and every event leading the group. 

These events are hosted by Central Sustainability (CS), a platform dedicated to making Central Michigan University a more sustainable and clean campus. Behind creating and following-through each and every event is Central Sustainability Coordinator, Lauren Dey. Dey is an Environmental Studies and Spanish Major.

October is CMU's 'Sustainability Month.' There, multiple events are held to allow for a cleaner campus and to educate students on sustainability. 

According to Dey, sustainability is the ability to maintain a process, in this case the environment, continuously over time. 

“I’ve always been passionate about sustainability and really liked the idea of helping CMU’s campus in any way and this (Central Sustainability) is one of the best platforms,” Dey said. 

Sustainability month included a weekly farmer’s market, a campus clean-up, a sustainability fair, and two sustainability tours. Dey said she created the farmer’s market to include outside vendors throughout Isabella County. Dey was there to educate people on sustainability and try to hire a new CS member. 

“We decided to do this farmer’s market on campus to introduce markets to students on campus and create easy accessibility to one,” Dey said. “It was a way to bring community to campus and unite people to sustainability.” 

Dey is also the president of the registered student organization (RSO), Take Back the Tap. Dey said she started this organization in an attempt to ban plastic water bottles on campus. She said plastic is one of the worst things for the environment and they support the water bottle filling stations around campus. 

“Take Back the Tap has been struggling a lot recently, the turnout has been low,” Dey said. 

Lauren Dey and others carry trash across train tracks on the campus of Central Michigan University, Mount Pleasant, Michigan, Saturday, October 21, 2023. Dey said the train tracks tend to be the most trash-filled area on campus.

She said she is trying to include as many students as possible in her efforts to protect the environment. According to Dey, involvement for both her RSO and Central Sustainability have been rather low. CS sends out surveys about events to do, and according to Dey, several students say they will participate in a campus clean-up, when this year, less than 10 people showed up. 

Although the turnout has not been great, Dey still held events to get students involved. 

Walking tours were the most nerve-wracking, yet most anticipated event, Dey said. There, Dey and her colleague, Claire DeBlanc, led about 10 students around campus. This walk was a way to educate students on sustainable locations across campus.

“It’s very important that we point out geographical locations and how they’re connected to sustainability,” Dey said.

In order to promote sustainability and keep it going, Dey said she needs to get more people properly educated and eager to cause change. 

According to Dey, if we want to make a change to the environment, unified people are needed to make a change together. It is important for students to know how they can be involved on campus and how the campus has sustainable options.

Although the involvement has been low, Central Sustainability has had a lot more engagement than before. In May 2020, they expanded the office to hold up to six people, whereas before it could barely hold two people comfortably. 

CS is the only student-run sustainability office in Michigan and Dey said she is extremely proud of that. 

“Anyone can be part of sustainability, no matter how big or small of a contribution,” she said. 

Everyday Sustainability

Dey said she does several things throughout her everyday life to promote environmental, cultural, human and social sustainability. Dey walks to and from her apartment when going to classes and the CS office on Mondays and Wednesdays. 

Lauren Dey carries her compost bucket from her apartment in Northwest Apartments, Mount Pleasant, Michigan, Tuesday October 31, 2023. Dey takes out her compost every week to stop it from smelling.

“I enjoy actively making a difference by picking up garbage when I can and going outside when possible,” Dey said. “I try to walk instead of drive when I can, it is something easy I can do to reduce my carbon footprint.” 

In her apartment, Dey has a compost bucket under her sink to reduce waste. She empties it out about every week or so in the compost bin near her apartment. It goes to Morgan Composting, where the rest of the compost from campus goes. Dey said composting is a simple but effective way to give back to the environment. 

Dey joined Central Sustainability in the fall of 2022 and Take Back the Tap in the first semester of her freshman year in the fall of 2021. Dey said she has always been interested in the environment but her senior year of high school inspired her to pursue it.  

"I joined AP Environmental Science in senior year of high school and it really kickstarted my love for the environment and I knew I wanted to do something with the environment in my future," Dey said. 

Dey plans on graduating in December of 2024. Throughout her time at Central, she plans on continuing her efforts with the environment and spreading sustainability awareness to all students across campus. 

“Sustainability is always continuous, there is no finish line,” Dey said. “There is always a way to improve sustainability."