It Isn't Easy Being Green

Photo Credit: Karina Munguia

This year, the streets of West Campus will contain some new landmarks. Side-by-side with the bright lights, wooden letters and neon T-shirts will be bright blue recycling bins among the rows of fraternity and sorority houses. Recycling and other sustainability efforts are the result of Green Greeks, a new student organization that is facilitating a “greener” Greek community at UT.

“Green Greeks is basically a sustainable initiative that we started within Greek Life to promote recycling within the houses, to promote clean-ups around West Campus, to just promote sustainability and ‘going green’ more in the West Campus area and in the Greek houses because we noticed there was kind of a lack of it,” Abz Zeitler, Green Greeks coordinator, said.

Green Greeks is working to implement a variety of initiatives that will make Greek Life more environmentally friendly. The organization just finished a five-week sustainability competition among sorority houses.

“The sorority challenge that is taking place right now is a huge accomplishment, since we are getting so many girls involved who might have otherwise not participated in green events and activities,” Green Greeks Founder Liz Harroun said.

It’s currently working on making Round-Up a sustainable event and starting recycling programs in more fraternity and sorority houses.

Many colleges around the country have similar organizations to Greek Greeks, so while Green Greeks is an independent organization, it is part of a national trend of making Greek Life more sustainable.

“I know that at the University of Florida they have Greeks Going Green, and Greeks Going Green is actually a national thing,” Zeitler said. “So basically schools will go, ‘Hey, I want to have this at my school,’ and they’ll start a chapter there, so I think it’s cool that we started our own version of that.”

Working within the Greek community to promote change entails unique challenges.

“Greek Life is very large and already has well-established networks. We must be careful not to offend anyone or overstep boundaries when offering our help,” Harroun said. “Also, most Greek organizations have set budgets, and therefore we must get our own funding for special events and initiatives.”

While the organization has seen early success, Green Greeks still faces an uphill battle as a new organization on campus.

“Sometimes it’s frustrating because we wish that everyone would be really into it right off the bat, and it’s not that people aren’t interested; it’s just that we have to build the organization from the ground up,” Zeitler said. “So we’re still working on that, but it is growing.”

Despite the challenging aspects of implementing these initiatives, Zeitler and Harroun are optimistic about the impact Green Greeks will have.

“I think it’s cool that this is something that takes part in the houses and their daily living practices,” Zeitler said.

“I think this is cool that it’s tailored to a specific section of students, rather than being a general org. We’re going make a big impact because we can actually reach out to these buildings or these specific 200 girls in a sorority or 300 guys in a fraternity,” Zeitler said, “so hopefully reaching out to a big enough number of students will make a big impact. And we’ve already seen some houses taking Styrofoam away or instilling recycling practices that haven’t had it in the past, which is the first step in anything — just doing little things that in the end are going to have a big impact.”

 

After the Sorority Water Challenge wraps up, Green Greeks will have weekly meetings open to anyone who is interested. Contact Abz Zeitler at abzzeitler@gmail.com for more information about how to get involved.