Guest Voices: Green Team projects help Chatham stay sustainable

Guest Voices is an occasional series that invites students to share their views about a topic of importance and interest to them on campus.


Students from Chatham’s Green Team executive board before a Student Climate Network meeting on Sept. 25. From left, Rachel Lloyd, Goldie Seddon, Ave Roberts, MacKenzie MacFarland and Shannon Long.

By Shannon Long

Chatham University prioritizing sustainable practices was one of the main reasons I chose to come here to continue my education. As an environmental science major, I found it important to find a school with values that aligned with my own. Of course, schools are never as perfect as they try to appear to recruit new students, but I do believe that Chatham tries to be as sustainable as possible.

Unfortunately, many sustainability-focused initiatives have come to a halt because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Although conditions on campus have been better due to our high vaccination rate, Chatham is unwilling to start some sustainable practices due to health concerns.

One example is Green Team’s initiative to introduce compost bins in dorm buildings. Since most takeout containers are compostable, it makes sense that those who reside in dorms would need places to compost. Now, more than ever, many students are opting for takeout dining options instead of eating in Anderson Dining Hall. It is unrealistic to expect students to bring their empty containers back to Anderson for compost once they are done eating, but, unfortunately, it appears that Chatham disagrees.

Composting has been an issue on campus from the start of the pandemic. At the height of COVID-19, school composting essentially came to a halt. Now, almost two years later, there are still problems.

Many have noticed composting in Anderson going in black trash bags or, even more alarming, being taken to the dumpster instead of the compost bin behind the building. Facilities states this is because of shortages on compostable bags, but Chatham’s Eden Hall campus doesn’t seem to have these issues.

Since our movement to add compost bins to dorms and apartment buildings got shut down, we have started a personal compost bin loan program. For those interested, we provide a small compost bin and bags that students can have for the school year. We only ask for a $5 deposit, which you will get back when the bin is returned.

This program has been highly successful since its creation. Due to high demand, we are currently out of compost bins but have ordered more that should be here soon.

Additionally, we have partnered with Chatham organizations on the Period Poverty Project, an effort focused on reducing menstrual product needs on campus. Various sizes of menstrual cups will soon be distributed across gender-neutral bathrooms on campus. The reusability of menstrual cups makes them both environmentally friendly and further reduces the cost for users, since they can last years with proper care.

Chatham University’s Green Team was created to further campus sustainability and push for change. 

Our constitution states: “The purpose of the organization shall be to teach the students of Chatham University sustainable practices and to propose environmentally friendly options campus wide.”

To further this agenda, we have recently become an affiliate of 350 Pittsburgh, an organization focused on reducing carbon emissions below the 350 parts-per-million level.

As a part of this partnership, we have begun conversations with those at Chatham about further divesting from fossil fuels. 

350 Pittsburgh has also helped us begin a Student Climate Action Network that gathers neighboring universities’ environmental groups together. So far, we have been able to have productive conversations with Carnegie Mellon’s Sustainable Earth, Fossil Free Pitt, Community College of Allegheny County and Carlow University at our Student Climate Summit last spring. We are especially excited about this group and hope that it will cause real change throughout Pittsburgh schools and the city.

Green Team serves as a great way for students to get involved in the sustainability efforts happening on campus. 

If you are interested in our projects, check out our Instagram (@greenteam_chathamu) to find out when they become available.

For anyone interested in joining Green Team, it is never too late. We welcome you to join us for our Tuesday night meetings at 6 p.m. or to reach out to our officers.