One of the biggest adjustments junior mechanical engineer Travis Kwee had to make when he came to Rice from California, was to his expectations about people’s attitudes toward sustainability and the environment.
“In California, you’re almost expected to be environmentally conscious,” he said, referring to the state’s water issues, wild fires and an overall outdoor lifestyle that makes nature and conservation part of the fabric of everyday life. “Here, there’s a little less of that. And I thought, ‘I can either assimilate to this culture or I can go in the other direction and work to change the culture.’”
Kwee opted for the latter, and has become a leader in Rice’s campus sustainability effort. He works at the University’s Administrative Center for Sustainability and Energy Management, and through the Center, serves as the EcoRep for Baker College; he’s also the president of the campus Environmental Club.
“EcoReps lead the Green Dorm Challenge, where we encourage students to come up with ways to reduce their waste and think about making more sustainable choices,” he said. “That might include more recycling or reducing water waste.”
With the Environmental Club, he’s led students on field trips such as a beach clean up, and has helped club members partner with Rice’s Community Agriculture club on a compost project the group had started.
“We take the waste from the serveries and the coffee grounds from Coffeehouse and we add them to these piles behind the Rec Center,” he said. “It all breaks down and then we have fertilizer for the grounds crews to use.”
Kwee says he finds that many of the students and members of the campus community are actually interested in the environment and sustainable measures, but they don’t always know how to start doing something themselves.
“Showing people what they can recycle, and making recycling available, for instance, is helpful,” he said. “One of the initiatives we wanted in the Environmental Club was to have recycle bins in all the classrooms, and we worked to make that happen. Part of being sustainable is about seeing how your actions affect others, so educating people about how composting makes sense for the campus, for example, shows them there are tangible benefits.”