“The earth is hurting,” says Eric Woods, PΔ ’23. “Climate change is real. The facts are out there, and major changes need to be made. This initiative we’ve created at Rho Delta is a way to make a small change.”
The initiative Woods speaks of is the creation of a Sustainability Chair in the Rho Delta Lodge at Miami University, which he gladly took ownership of. The position was created after Woods and Rho Delta Lodge Manager Andrew Gherlein, PΔ ’22, expressed interest in creating the specialized position.
“I was really conscious of sustainability at home, and felt a little disappointed when I came to school seeing no access to a recycling bin at the Lodge,” says Woods. “We brought it up to a few guys and announced the initiative at our first chapter meeting this semester.”
With nearly 30 Brothers living in the Lodge at any given time, Woods and Gherlein saw an opportunity to provide education on environmentally-friendly practices while reducing the Alpha’s footprint. They purchased a huge recycling bin to place next to their normal dumpster and three large bins for inside the Lodge.
“We’re emptying the outdoor recycling bin twice a week now because of how much the guys are recycling,” says Woods. “We’ve incorporated emptying the inside bins into our weekly chores. We’ve already accomplished so much, even though this is a brand new thing.”
Woods took the lead on educating everyone on correct recycling practices, how to be more environmentally conscious in general, and which materials are and are not recyclable (like, for example, red solo cups – NOT recyclable, for the record).
It was after a conservation trip to Belize in high school that Woods’ interest in the subject really peaked. The experience fundamentally altered what Woods wanted to focus on, and he felt that the education he received on the trip was best shared by implementing the practices into his life at home, and sharing with as many people as he could.
“I realized my family could do so much better,” says Woods. “I wanted to use what I learned to educate others around a common goal. At home, my family switched to a bigger recycling bin, became more cautious of purchasing products that create waste, and started a compost bin.”
It’s small changes like this that Woods believe can take Rho Delta – and the rest of the Miami University community – to a greener place. He says he focuses on being thorough and educational, but not too pushy. He tries to use “suggestive phrasing” to get his points across gently.
Woods, Gherlein, and the other men of Rho Delta are eager for the future and to pass the Sustainability Chair position down over the years. As fraternity men, they feel a duty to expand into philanthropy, and environmentalism is going to be a key one for future generations.
“I would absolutely encourage other Alphas to adopt this project and this position,” says Woods. “I think it would be an excellent addition to Chi Psi at a national level, too. I want to grow our philanthropy with a focus on conservation in the future, and I’m super excited to see where it goes.”
The men of Rho Delta hope this will lead to bigger things. Next, says Woods, is working on the purchasing step, to avoid having excess waste in the first place. He wants to get Brothers not living in the Lodge involved at their residences, too, and then pivot towards the larger Chi Psi and Miami communities.
But the biggest challenge may remain a general disregard for the main issue at hand. Climate change and environmental activism are not necessarily the priority for college-aged kids, even if they do agree with policy that supports it. To Woods, it’s just a matter of educating Brothers, fellow students, and members of the community at large to take the onus of research off of them.
“Seeing everyone being on board with the idea was a pleasant surprise,” says Woods. “I’ve yet to come into contact with anyone who is against the idea. Even if I send a photo of something that shouldn’t be in the recycling bin to the group chat, the reaction is still positive. It’s nice that Chi Psis seem to be open to new ideas like this, and that they’re okay with me educating them on best practices.”