Students design global change

Carnegie Mellon’s School of Design was featured in the January issue of Sierra Magazine for its posters on environmentalism.

The posters came from a project assigned by School of Design professor Melissa Cicozi, in her class Design and Social Change. For the project, Cicozi challenged her students to design eye-catching posters that encouraged environmental activism.

“I wanted students to realize the impact a designer can make, and this topic in particular is on everyone’s mind and is a meaningful one for the students,” Cicozi said.

Cicozi has a history of environmental activism as a member of the board for Construction Junction and chair of the Parks Advisory Board. As a board member of Construction Junction, she assists in the organization’s conservation efforts and reuse of building materials within Pittsburgh.

Cicozi urged her students to aim their posters at the college-age demographic by using design techniques to catch their attention.

Sierra’s praise has spurred various articles and websites to be written about the posters, and they are now even available as postcards.

“I was flabbergasted with how amazing the posters came out, but the publicity we’ve received is completely unexpected,” Cicozi said. “The more people see it, the more their messages will spread.”

Cicozi’s next assignment for her students is to design posters for Giant Eagle encouraging shoppers to use reusable bags.

The design posters are indicative of continuing campus trends in environmentalism.

“They are being taken seriously now and students see it as being relevant,” Cicozi said of environmental initiatives on campus. “Keeping up with eco-friendly designs is savvy.”

In Nov. 2007, Sierra Magazine ranked Carnegie Mellon the 10th “coolest” school in the U.S. for its efforts to become a greener campus. This year, about 20 percent of Carnegie Mellon’s electricity comes from renewable resources such as wind energy or small hydropower.

Cicozi’s assignment is just one of many advancements Carnegie Mellon is making in green living. There are numerous student groups on campus focused on making changes.

Sustainable Earth is one example, joining hundreds of schools across the nation in an effort to improve the environment. The organization is currently formulating a petition to sign for a “President’s Climate Commitment.” The aim is to persuade the Carnegie Mellon administration to reduce carbon emissions and gradually bring the school’s carbon footprint to zero.

Sarah Strano, a sophomore civil engineering major and president of Sustainable Earth, spoke on the club’s intiatives.

“Last November, we also sent delegates to Power Shift, the largest global warming conference ever held, and then even lobbied in Washington,” she said.

A few weeks ago, Sustainable Earth participated in Focus the Nation, a nationwide teach-in on environmentalism. Strano described the event as “an effort to network between the various environmental groups on campus and get more people aware and involved in current environmental issues.”

The eco-rep program, in which selected students educate their fellow housemates on living in an environmentally friendly way, brings environmentalism to student residences.

Eco-reps host events on campus; past events include an organic food tasting and a screening of An Inconvenient Truth.

“We have so many opportunities on campus to be eco-friendly. We have the funding,” eco-rep Andrea Tan, a sophomore biology and psychology major, said. “We have the faculty support. We have the facilities. As long as we apply ourselves we have the ability to make great changes.”

Some environmental groups focus on improving the environment through their majors.

Net Impact and Engineers for a Sustainable World (ESW) focus on using educations in business and engineering, respectively, to make an impact in environmentalism.

Eddie Wuen, a sophomore civil engineering major and member of ESW, said, “We’re a new club. For the first meeting we held, a great number of people showed up, which only goes to show how enthusiastic and active many students are about this issue.”

Besides campus activities, environmental initiatives extend to the campus itself, as evidenced in a number of campus buildings.

These green initiatives can be seen in the LEED-friendly (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) New House, Henderson House, and Posner Center. Other green initiatives include the green roofs on Margaret Morrison, created to help regulate temperatures in the building and reduce heating and cooling costs while also extending the lives of the roofs themselves.