University Housing Blog

Conference inspires Sustainability resident to explore new ways to communicate about climate change efforts  


A blog post written by Jane Halloran, a first-year student majoring in Agricultural and Biological Engineering. Jane is a member of the Sustainability Living-Learning Community. In October, she was part of a nine-member group of students from Sustainability who attended the AASHE Sustainability Summit in San Antonio, TX. AASHE works with higher education institutions to drive innovation in sustainability and transform ideas into action. 

She shares her experience and her thoughts on climate change communication:

The negative rhetoric around climate change is clearly not resonating with the public. I want to know how sustainability advocates can engage a wider audience by using positive climate change messages. I was hoping to learn more during the AASHE Student Summit this October. This year, the conference was held in San Antonio, Texas where students and professionals from colleges across the country came together to discuss environmental issues we face today. During the Summit, I attended workshops involving carbon neutrality on campus, food security initiatives, and organizing sustainable change with an obstructive administration. The session I connected with the most, however, was “Climate Communications: Strategies to Build a Political Will.” 

I knew I wanted to do a project inspired by one of the workshops at the Summit, but I was not sure what that would look like until I learned about positive climate change marketing at the session. The speaker, Natalie Lucas from Care About Climate, spoke about how the typical way of explaining the climate crisis is negative–if we do not do something immediately, the world will be destroyed. This sounds effective on paper, but it usually makes the situation feel hopeless and results in people not taking action or caring about the issues at hand. A different way to address the climate crisis in the media is to show people how very small lifestyle changes can make dramatic changes towards a better environment. 

Applying this knowledge to life on and outside of campus is what going to the Summit with Sustainability is all about. The AASHE Student Summit was a chance for me and my peers to explore what needs to be done to make a more sustainable future for all of us and how to be more effective in our efforts. 

Participating in the Summit was definitely a highlight of my first semester at UIUC and will be a highlight of my college experience. I am super excited to continue working on the positive climate change marketing project, and I wouldn’t have done it without attending the AASHE Student Summit with Sustainability!

The Sustainability Living-Learning Community welcomes students to live and learn about diverse aspects of sustainability in a variety of ways: academically, organically, and experientially. Located on two floors in Shelden Hall, part of Lincoln Avenue Residence Halls (LAR) in Urbana North., students with similar interests and intents from a range of different backgrounds participate in this community where there are multiple opportunities to learn from professionals, peers, and shared experiences. Students can take credit courses right in their hall, participate in field trips and projects throughout the year to explore the environment and sustainability efforts on campus and in the community, and get support and resources to explore their personal passions.