Creating a Greener Campus for Pitt Students by Pitt Students: Pitt's Student Office of Sustainability - Christy Kim '24

Hi there! My name is Christy Kim, and I am a junior studying environmental studies and economics here at Pitt. Along with my academic studies, I have had the pleasure of being the Program Associate for Social Media and Communications for Pitt’s Student Office of Sustainability (or SOOS, for short). The SOOS has given me the opportunity to connect with like-minded students who are passionate about environmental issues, and it was through the SOOS that I met some of my greatest friends and coworkers.  

I started working for the SOOS in my sophomore year, after a whole virtual freshman year due to COVID. After spending most of my freshman year remotely, I was extremely excited to become more involved on campus. I felt a disconnect between the Pitt community and myself when I was a freshman, which motivated me, even more, to start becoming more involved in student-led spaces, like the SOOS. I wanted to be a voice that could help uplift and educate the University’s efforts with the Pitt Sustainability Plan, and I knew the SOOS's Social Media and Communications Program Associate position could be perfect for that. I am passionate about outreach, especially when it comes to engaging a diverse group of students.  

The SOOS is a student-founded and student-powered office under the division of Student Affairs, working in close relation with the Office of PittServes. It was established in 2014 by the Student Government Board Environmental Committee, and it serves to provide, support, and enhance sustainability initiatives at the University of Pittsburgh, especially student-run initiatives. As a Program Associate for the SOOS, a lot of my responsibilities include supporting affiliate organizations with planning and promoting their events/projects. For example, I had the amazing opportunity to help organize and plan an environmental justice panel last year. The event featured panelists representing different organizations who discussed and reflected on their experiences in their respective environments to educate students about the intersectionality of the environment, race, class, and gender. The event focused on how race, gender, and class affect the spaces you are in, and how people in privileged positions can harness their privilege to uplift underprivileged communities toward an inclusive and sustainable future.  

We also participate in an annual friendly competition called Campus Race to Zero Waste. During this time of year, our team really focuses on a wide range of programming to engage and educate students about various sustainability topics. For example, I got to spearhead the Sustainable Valentine’s Day workshop with Claire Kemick (the Program Associate for Affiliate Organizations and Member Outreach), Han Lempert (the Social Media Coordinator for Thriftsburgh), and the Center for Creativity. We all collectively worked together to host an educational workshop about sustainable gift and craft-making for Valentine’s Day and educated students about the excess waste that is produced from a traditionally materialistic holiday. It was so fun seeing all the passionate students who were eager to learn more about how to express their affections to their loved ones while also creating as little waste as possible for the environment.  

At the end of the year, we also participate in the annual Clutter for a Cause. Clutter for a Cause is a joint effort between the SOOS, Green Team volunteers, Thriftsburgh, the campus police, and grounds crew to participate in a donation drive where unwanted items can be resold and can find a new home for the next school year. Move-out week can produce a lot of unnecessary waste that can end up in landfills, especially items that are too big to be taken back home (like chairs, fridges, microwaves, and TVs). We collect these items from students who bring them to collection centers and donate these items to Thriftsburgh where they resell these items in the upcoming school year for students looking for furniture, clothes, and dorm essentials at an affordable price. That way, students are making a conscious effort to divert their landfill waste while also providing other students with affordable essentials!  

In addition to programming, the SOOS hosts a meeting every first Thursday of the month – called First Thursdays - to get all the SOOS-affiliated organizations to come together, have some pizza, and talk about the various projects or events that they are working on. Essentially, First Thursdays are the time for the SOOS family, as I like to call it, to bond together and potentially collaborate and share ideas. The SOOS oversees about 17-25 different affiliate organizations each year, and these organizations focus on aspects of sustainability and environmentalism in different ways. Plant2Plate Garden is dedicated to sustainable gardening, Food Recovery Heroes work to fight food waste and food insecurity on campus, and there is so much more! You can head over to our website or Instagram @pittsoos to find all the different SOOS organizations you can be a part of.  

Overall, the SOOS has allowed me to voice my passion for environmental work, especially regarding environmental justice. Next year, I will be moving to become the Program Associate for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion position to focus on more environmental justice programming. I am more than excited to continue to be part of a growing team that is dedicated to sustainability engagement and supporting my fellow students! If you want to learn more about what else the SOOS does, how to become more involved with sustainability on campus, or just want to talk about anything at all, you can come to visit me in the SOOS! My office hours are every Wednesday and Thursday from 4-6 PM. The SOOS is in the William Pitt Union on the fifth floor, room 510. 

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