Learn How to Go Green with ACC’s Green Team

Story by Georgina Barahona

Edited by Pete Ramirez

Have you ever wondered what you could do to protect the natural environment around you? Have you ever tried to calculate and lower your carbon footprint? 

Austin Community College’s Office of Energy & Sustainability can help you address these questions and discover how you can get involved in creating a more sustainable world through green initiatives led by their Green Team.

The large and ever-growing department’s Green Team consists of ACC faculty, staff and students who volunteer to improve environmental sustainability on campus and throughout the surrounding city.

The office and its Green Team work to continuously elevate the knowledge of sustainability to those they have the opportunity to work with, students and community members alike.

The Green Team welcomes all volunteers with open arms, no matter what community they come from. 

Inspired by the work of the Office of Energy & Sustainability, Angelica Ruzanova, a first-year journalism major at ACC, decided to join the Green Team last fall.

“Our ACC Green Team works by offering particular activities, advocacy and action,” Ruzanova said. 

The organization has a calendar of events accessible to anyone who wants to join their movement in ecological restoration, including events offered by The Trail Foundation.

“The Trail Foundation is a beautiful place to start with hands-on projects,” Ruzanova said. “We do planting, weeding, invasive species removal, trash clean-up, mulching, and other ecological restoration activities on the Ann & Roy Butler Hike & Bike Trail.” 

Angelica Ruzanova works with other Green Team members to spread mulch at the Ann & Roy Butler Hike & Bike Trail. Follow the foundation’s Instagram account @thetrailfoundation.

You can find the organization’s events calendar by clicking this link. The Green Team provides a wide variety of events curated to teach individuals how to take that first step towards environmental awareness.

One of the upcoming events that is open to ACC students is the Texas Regional Alliance for Campus Sustainability on Monday, April 4, 2022 from 1 pm to 5 pm. 

The event is a free student virtual summit with the theme being student empowerment and climate action. If you would like to attend the conference, send an email to the Green Team at Green@austincc.edu

If you get involved with ACC’s Green Team, they’ll introduce you to the seemingly endless possibilities to learn new and realistic ways to combat climate change.

From helping to implement sustainable living ideas into a conference like Adulting 101, to acquiring access to off-campus events where other like-minded individuals share ideas about approaching ecological restoration, there are countless opportunities to get involved.

Jasmin Rostamnezhad, Sustainability Manager at ACC’s Office of Energy & Sustainability, works with her teammates and volunteers to find new and creative ways to make fighting climate change accessible and achievable to the everyday person.

“My passion is working with each person & getting them to understand that the little things you do have a big impact,” Rostamnezhad said. “I do that by tabling with students at ACC and creating resources for people to use after their time at ACC.” 

Jasmin Rostamnezhad, Sustainability Manager at ACC’s Office of Energy & Sustainability, speaks to ACCENT reporter, Georgina Barahona, about her office and the Green Team’s recent work.

Ruzanova says the Green Team is a place where you can share your ideas about sustainability and work with the team to turn those ideas into reality.

“Starting small, on an individual level is what makes it special,” Ruzanova said.

“You can go from so many angles with sustainability because it’s a universal movement acknowledged throughout the world, with people from different demographics and different socio economic levels bringing something to the table by sharing their stories,” Ruzanova said. 

“Having organizations such as ACC Green Team, who work so hard to organize these events, is a step towards widespread sustainability in our community in Austin and a realistic example of what action is capable of,” Ruzanova said.

But ACC did not always have sustainability in mind. As the consensus around climate change reached a tipping point during the 2000s, the college moved to change with the times.

The blueprint to enact college-wide sustainability policies was created and adopted by ACC in 2009 with the C-9 Sustainable Practices Policy and the Sustainable Construction and College Operations Guidelines/Procedures. In the same year, ACC joined the Carbon Commitment, which is a public pledge for the school to take steps to make the entire college carbon neutral. 

As these initiatives were put to the forefront of the college’s taskbook, the steps to creating climate neutrality among the college were put into full effect.

But wait, what is climate neutrality? 

In simple terms, it means reducing greenhouse gas emissions like carbon dioxide, which is created by burning fossil fuels, as soon as possible by balancing those emissions so they are equal to or less than the emissions that get removed through the Earth’s natural absorption. Fundamentally, it means we reduce our emissions through climate action.

Rostamnezhad realizes that her work is cut out for her but she is driven by the hope of building a better world for all of Earth’s inhabitants. 

“Ultimately what inspired me to get into this field is the impact that our climate issues and environmental problems have on certain communities as well as low income communities and disadvantaged communities that are unfairly targeted by our behaviors everyday,” Jasmin Rostamnezhad said. “I think that should inspire everyone to want to change the way that they live.” 

Being on the Front Lines of Advocacy, Change and Justice

We Are Here & We Will Be Seen

By: Grant E. Loveless

grant lovelessIn America we are young, tired and traumatized. We are tired of validating our space, our existence and the reason why we should have a seat at the table. Youth are continuously ignored, being dismissed, and unheard. Stereotyping youth as “too young” or “not experienced enough” has been a
consistent strategy to devalue the movements that we create.

Youth are dying. Bullets piercing our skin, the hands of our “ protectors ” bruise us, while the weight of our own communities burden us with expectations that we, as a future generation, are expected to embrace.
Not only do we confront our internalized trauma while witnessing the oppressive realities of our world, we also resist the tendency to reduce youth experiences into pure statistics, devoid of socio-political meaning. We know that if we die at the hands of police, justice will not be served within the “ justice ” system and will be left as a number to the added list of Black and brown bodies whose blood is stained in our streets at the root of America’s issue: racism. We should not have to experience the moments that are supposed to be the cornerstone of our lives in fear and uncertainty.
However, we conjured our power to disrupt the day-to-day uncertainties, disadvantages and injustices. We as youth have blossomed into an impalpable force to where youth advocates like Nahjah and Nashon Wilson in Stafford, VA; the four women who built the Teens4Equality organization in Nashville, TN; Mical Juliet, Franki Phoenix, Zauvier Fenceroy and myself in Austin, Texas continue to push for public and social policy reform, collaborative change and economic justice. With our efforts being recognized it is imperative that we continue to prepare youth for what is to come. As U.S Senator Cory Booker said, “ You don’t have to be one of those people that accepts things as they are. Every day, take responsibility for changing them right where you are.”

Below are five tips for youth I have created from my experience as a Youth Advocate and Student Leader in the City of Austin to begin their journey into advocacy, community activism and social entrepreneurship.

You are your Number One Priority
If you do not take care of yourself how can you serve others at the best capacity you can. Self care is about self-reflection and it’s a journey. Learning and establishing a self care routine does not happen overnight, it takes time. You may be thinking, what does self care mean? Well, self care is ambiguous. Self care means knowing who you are and understanding
your limits; developing a good sleeping pattern and eating habits; constructing ways to decompress and realign your mind, spirit and energy; taking time to know yourself, your goals and how you want to manifest the change-maker you want to be; identifying what you love and hate or what motivates and discourages you. Self care can be simply defined as self love,
but on that journey to that you first must identify your “why” and thrive.

Find Your “Why” and Your Vision
To find your “why” and your vision you must: identify your core values;
discover who inspires you, who motivates you to be the catalyst of change in your community; and understand that your vision takes time to develop and grow. It will change, shift and possibly renew itself over time. With developing your “why” and vision you cannot put your hands in multiple pots, overwhelming and stressing yourself. Take your time and volunteer with local organizations,reach out to community members whose interests align with yours and ask questions or do a journey of self-discovery and read books, articles or blogs to gain knowledge on your interests and whichever topic you feel touches your soul start pursuing it. However, with this journey you must understand not everyone will agree with your stance nor stand with you when you need support.

Be Aware of Who Is For You and Against You
In the world of advocacy and on your way to achieving justice and change you will have your allies and opposes. Not everyone will agree with your values, ideas or your right to have a seat at the table. You must be prepared for that realization and “no” to your cause. However, this should never discourage you. Utilize your colleagues, close peers, past and current employers, teachers or anyone who is interested in investing in you and form a community. Once you have a community backing you up, you will be unstoppable. If you are not given a seat at the table build your own table and create the change you want to see. Your existence does not need validation, you are a force and a resistance.

Time Management
Do not overwhelm, stress or burden yourself trying to take advantage of every opportunity and the issues damaging your communities. Establish a foundation for your brand and the issues you want to solve in your community as well as using your local community members and organizations to further your goals. When you use time managing tools like Trello, Asana, Google Calendar or even the Reminders app on your phone you can then begin implementing strategies to your success on how much time you are allocating for the issues you want to solve and the commitments you are going to take on.

You Are NEVER Alone
You are never alone. Whatever country, state, city or town you reside in there are organizations and individuals who will support, uplift and cherish the work you do. Remember it doesn’t matter what platform you use, it’s about the work you produce and the presence you create when you walk into a room. You will never be alone, we are here always.

I urge you to utilize these tips and start generating the momentum you want to see your community taking in approaching and addressing structures of ageism, racism, xenophobia or any sign of inequity. Start now.
Author a call-to-action plan. Engage with your communities. Mobilize and create change.

In Solidarity Say & Remember Their Names
Brad Levi Ayala | Cameron Tillman | Carey Smith-Viramontes | Diana Showman | Dillon McGee | Emantic “EJ” Fitzgerald Bradford Jr | Elijah Tufono | Jeffrey Holden | Joshua Dariandre Ruffin |Justin Howell | Laquan McDonald | Levi Weaver | Roshad McIntosh | Sarah Grossman | Sean Monterrosa | Tamir Rice | VonDerrit Myers Jr. | Zauvier Feneceroy