The 2019 School-wide Sustainability Challenge

By Annika Erickson-Pearson

A month ago, a couple of Environmental Committee members came to the rest of the group with an idea: what if we could do a sustainability or “green” challenge to educate and motivate our student body to take more sustainable actions in their everyday lives?

Naturally, we loved the idea and jumped on it. Using Project Green Challenge as a model, we quickly threw together 15 days worth of challenges that led up to the opening of this year’s Sustainability Week in Geneva. Over 100 people signed up to participate on over 60 teams in just 7 days!

Our challenges ranged from the hard (making your own wellness products like soap or cleaning solution) to the simple (going to the farmer’s market or identifying plants around your home or office). Each day, participants received an email with the challenge and a short description about why it mattered, so all participants got some short education on things from food systems and carbon footprints, to water use and political activism. They could opt for an “easy” challenge for 1 point, or a “hard” challenge for 2 points.

The Graduate Institute community is competitive, of course, so after 15 days we had a 5-way tie between finalists who had completed every “hard” challenge, every single day. Naturally, we launched a tiebreaker, asking each of our finalists to collect as many commitments for sustainable actions (like eating less red meat, taking alternate transportation to work, and more) from their friends, family, and colleagues as they could.

The winning team collected 148 commitments for sustainable actions! Andrea Almeida was one of the members of the winning team. She says, “This challenge was a lot of fun and really made us think about the impact that our daily actions have on the environment!”

Her teammate, Lotte Wolff says “While the whole challenge was really enjoyable, we particularly enjoyed the tiebreaker since it made us connect with family and friends all over the world and encouraged them to think about sustainability in their lives.”

We found ourselves thinking out of the box, to ensure that we achieved the most sustainable goals as possible. As a result of this challenge we collectively continue to think about sustainability and how effectively use the challenge in our everyday lives.

Obviously, the challenge was a great success, touching over 400 members of the community and spreading the word about the small, practical actions people can take in their regular lives. We can’t wait to do it again next year!

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