Bringing people together to find solutions; this was the goal of the Intermountain Sustainability Summit at Weber State, according to summit coordinator and general sustainability coordinator Emily Mead.
Hosted by the Weber State Utah Recycling Alliance, the sixth annual Summit brought together a wide range of environmental professionals last week to discuss one topic: sustainability.
“The Summit is unique because it really brings together a lot of different minds to solve some of our biggest environmental challenges,” said Mead, who said this year’s summit was a huge success.
Taking over the third floor of the Shepherd Union building, the Summit welcomed nearly 370 attendees to the two-day event on March 5-6.
The first day featured conferences and lectures while the second day introduced various workshops.
According to WSU sustainability specialist Jennifer Bodine, the summit was a great opportunity for students to network with environmental experts and like-minded people.
“I know college students are focused on their studies, but the whole point is to graduate and get out in the world,” she said. “Attending professional conferences like this is a great way to connect with people and to understand your field of interest better.”
Kicking off the first day of the Summit, plenary speaker P. Wesley Schultz opened with a new angle on sustainability by addressing environmentally-friendly behaviors and attitude changes.
Along with his speech were workshops called “Social Marketing” which discussed sustainability behaviors through social media, according to Mead.
“This topic was really something we’ve never covered before and it was something that people were interested in. It was definitely a highlight for the event,” Mead said.
Afterwards, the 2015 keynote speaker David W. Orr talked about the Oberlin project, which is a partnership between the city and Oberlin College to become the first climate-positive community in the United States.
Bodine thought Orr’s lecture addressed the importance of the planet’s sustainable future.
“At the end of the day, I think these are all issues that we have as citizens living on this Earth,” she said. “Talking about taking care of our one life-support system is really important.”
After the lectures, the conference split into breakout sessions which divided the crowd into four different tracks: sustainability, energy, waste and agriculture.
According to Bodine, the track conferences were geared to be more technical to ensure attendants got practical, “on-the-ground” information about sustainability.
“We’re trying to get the best practices into the hands of people who can implement those solutions,” she said. “It was just a great opportunity to educate people about the variety of sustainability issues.”
Throughout the conferences and workshops, the crowd was also treated to various exhibitions to learn about the latest sustainability innovations.
From the Utah Department of Environmental Quality to the Ogden Nature Center, nearly 50 booths showcased research from non-profits, businesses and government-agencies.
Students were also welcome to participate in the Summit poster session, a competition where students presented their own undergraduate research.
Mark Stevenson, the MBA enrollment director who helped sponsor the event, said the Summit is especially unique because of the broad range of organizations that come to collaborate on the issue of sustainability.
“(The summit) is a great regional focal point for professionals in this field,” Stevenson said. “All across the spectrum are different types of organizations that are given this opportunity to get together and share information and new innovations.”
Evolving into a regional event, Mead said the Summit all started with one Weber State student who wanted to bring more awareness to environmental sustainability.
Now after six years at Weber State, the Summit has grown from its humble roots and is showing no signs of slowing down.
According to Mead, they are already planning for next year. She believes environmental sustainability is something everyone should be concerned about.
“It’s really a benefit to come to this Summit to learn about how we can change lifestyles to become more sustainable or how we can get more involved to really change things,” Mead said. “It’s all about ensuring a healthy future for our planet.”