For the past 12 years, Carla Iansiti has served as the sustainability officer for Student Life and Engagement, or SLE, at Michigan State University. In this role, she educates students and trains staff in stewardship practices and implements innovative sustainable initiatives within the residence and dining halls. Iansiti joined MSU in 1997.
The most exciting part of my position is cultivating an environment in which students can become better people and Spartans. I’ve noticed over the past few years that students have become increasingly passionate about the topic of sustainability, and it’s been a pleasure to help amplify their enthusiasm. With campus partners, I host a variety of opportunities and events for students to get involved. I take pride in working with a diverse mix of student organizations and groups to increase the impact of our offices and further embed sustainability into MSU culture.
SLE is a champion for important initiatives that reduce our environmental impact while providing valuable learning opportunities for our students. One program I’m extremely proud of is SLE’s Eco Rep program which provides students with a unique opportunity to become sustainability leaders within their residence halls. Eco Reps serve as peer educators and coordinate sustainable activities for students. They learn how to put an action plan together and implement it. We support their professional growth by taking them to sustainability conferences and help them reflect on what they’re learning through the Spartan Experience Record. I enjoy seeing how students start as Eco Reps and then develop into strong, smart leaders who pursue careers in sustainability. It’s an incredible benefit of my job to have the ability to watch these future leaders grow and graduate.
We also coordinate the long-running Pack Up. Pitch In. program, which is a substantial effort to reduce waste and increase reuse during moving periods at the residence halls. It’s one of our most successful initiatives, and it raises awareness that students can make a big difference. This past spring, we collected more than 12,000 pounds of non-perishable food items that we donated to local organizations. During fall move in, we diverted more than 82,000 pounds of cardboard, polystyrene and other recyclable materials from the landfill. This program wouldn’t be possible without strategic partners like the Surplus Store and Recycling Center. They do an outstanding job during this transformational moment in our students’ lives when they first arrive on campus. While here, students learn how to use campus recycling opportunities that are built right into their experience, as well as participate in various sustainability events, which are a great way for students to begin their journey in building more sustainable lifestyles and behaviors.
In my time at MSU, what motivates me the most is the camaraderie of the students involved in these efforts and how those efforts show the entire MSU community what our student body is capable of. Over the years, I’ve seen the community of empowered staff and students who care about sustainability grow immensely. The intricate dynamics of the students and campus partners like the Office of Sustainability, the Surplus Store and Recycling Center and SLE Sustainability create a strong foundation for integrating sustainability into every fiber of MSU and keeping this important work moving forward.