Students take lead on sustainable practices at UH Hilo

The Students of Sustainability club at UH Hilo takes seriously its mission to stimulate new ideas for “green” initiatives on campus.

By Anne Rivera.
This story is part of a series on curriculum and projects at UH Hilo focusing on sustainability issues.

Alexis Stubbs, Brook Hansen and Jack Rossen.
(l-r) Student Alexis Stubbs, recipient of the $10k Green Student Leadership Award, Brooke Hansen, co-advisor of the Students of Sustainability club, and Jack Rossen, co-advisor of SOS, stand in front of the new recycling and food waste collection bins that are about to debut in the UH Hilo Campus Center Dining Hall. The bins were built by the students of SOS. Courtesy photo, click to enlarge.

 The Students of Sustainability club at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo is taking seriously its mission to stimulate new ideas for “green” initiatives on campus.

SOS is currently working on a campus compost initiative by securing bins for the Campus Center Dining Room. The bins will help UH Hilo reduce its food waste because the waste collected will be composted near one of the campus’s sustainability gardens. Members of the SOS club are providing the labor for this project and will help ensure the composting process is completed correctly and safely.

Students build bins.
SOS members build waste bins for the UH Hilo Campus Center Dining Room.
Compost bins.
One of the six composting stations around campus.

Sustainability projects on campus also give students the chance to apply the learned theoretical material they are receiving in class to real world problems.

“The SOS group offers to do zero waste for community events,” says Brooke Hansen of the UH Hilo anthropology department and SOS advisor. The club also includes coordination with Recycle Hawai‘i for programming and events through Vicki Haili, a UH Hilo alumna who was a sustainability intern two years ago—now she has graduated and works as an administrative assistant with RH. “She comes to SOS meetings where we discuss how the club can work with the county on solving our enormous land fill and recycling issues,” says Hansen.

Group of six stand for group photo.
SOS executive board members and advisor Brooke Hansen (at right) at the most recent Chamber of Commerce event hosted by Sustainable Island Products and Recycle Hawai‘i.

Award-winning leadership 

Alexis weighing a bag of waste.
Alexis Stubbs takes measurements of collected waste material on the campus of UH Hilo.

As part of a delegation of 12 from UH Hilo attending the 5th Annual Hawai‘i Sustainability in Higher Education Summit on Oʻahu last spring, Alexis Stubbs, former president of SOS and a senior specializing in plant science and agroecology, won a $10k Green Student Leadership Award for the composting initiative. The prize money will go into expanding the composting program into other parts of the campus such as the dormitories.

“This is all really student driven,” Hansen says. “The rest of us are here just to help make it happen but it’s coming from the students.”

“We are an island,” Hansen adds. “We have to think like an island. The reality is we need to do something—this is about human and cultural survival.”

Group of students carrying bags of shredded paper.
SOS group collecting the first community donation of shredded paper from a local advertising company.

10/23/17: This post was updated to correct a caption, correct Alexis Stubb’s year in school and focus of her studies, and to clarify Vicki Haili’s time of internship. 


About the author of this story: Anne Rivera (senior, communication) is a public information intern in the Office of the Chancellor.

-UH Hilo Stories

Also in this series

Energy savings are a top priority at UH Hilo

UH Hilo takes first steps toward a Certificate in Sustainability program

UH Hilo student from Marshall Islands creates performance art about rising sea levels in his homeland

UH Hilo course on climate change challenges students to find solutions

UH Hilo students practice sustainable agriculture in gardens around campus