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Senior Spotlight: Student won’t let environment go to waste

Nicole Santos

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Mitchell Hayes, a senior business project management major and managing for sustainability minor, works as coordinator for the Green Events Consulting Team and helps student groups keep their events as waste-free as possible. Photo credit: Malik Payton

Whether Mitchell Hayes is camping or enjoying his favorite local park, it’s hard for him not to notice the pervasive presence of waste in the environment.

“I notice myself upset and troubled when human waste impedes on my ability to appreciate the elegance of nature,” Hayes said. “Being able to enjoy the beauties of nature has been one of the driving forces motivating me to lead the Green Events Team at Chico State.”

Hayes, a senior business project management major and managing for sustainability minor, is the Green Events Consulting Team coordinator for Associated Students Sustainability.

As a subgroup of the A.S. Sustainability program, the Green Events Team is responsible for reaching out to student groups on campus and ensuring that their events are carried out in a sustainable manner, Hayes said.

“We specialize in devising waste stations for event attendees, providing volunteer waste advisers to help educate, hosting how-to workshops to green your event, promoting digital advertisements,” he said, “and even offer sustainable walking tours of the entire campus.”

The team’s efforts in helping Chico State be a more sustainable campus have been very effective, he said.

“Last year when I was an intern, our leader, Courtney Silver, went to the California Higher Education Conference, and the Green Events Team was recognized and won an award for best practices,” Hayes said.

The group has had numerous zero-waste events, meaning that only a small portion of the waste collected goes to the landfill, Hayes said.

“At least 90 percent of the waste that was thrown away needs to be compostable or recyclable, and only 10 percent can go to the landfill,” he said.

Coming up this semester, Hayes and the team are going to be working on doing a waste audit for the This Way to Sustainability Conference on March 26 and 27.

“It’s the largest student-organized conference in North America,” Hayes said.

In the past, the team has set up waste stations throughout the Bell Memorial Union so people could throw away their food in the correct places, he said.

“This year we are doing a waste calculation and waste audit, so we will actually see how much waste was produced throughout the entire day of the conference,” he said “and we’ll actually be able to see if it qualifies as a zero-waste event.”

The best part about his job is working with the interns and inspiring them, Hayes said.

“When I first got to A.S. Sustainability, I really didn’t have much knowledge about the environment or what sustainability was at all,” he said. “Now that I get to teach other interns the value that I got taught, that’s the most rewarding thing because when I leave this campus, I want to make sure that the team is still running well.”

Chico State has a solid record on sustainability, but there are still more steps that can be taken to continue improving, Hayes said.

“Right now, a big push this semester was banning plastic water bottles on campus,” he said. “Silver, the commissioner of sustainability affairs, really wants to do that, and we also want to have more hydration stations accessible for students on campus.”

He didn’t realize that environmental issues were so prevalent today, and that he could take action professionally, Hayes said.

“I’ve always known I’ve had a passion for the environment, nature, camping and stuff like that — growing up, doing that with my family and being active in the outdoors,” Hayes said. “As soon as I started interning at A.S. Sustainability, realizing that I can have a job and a profession where I am helping the environment and social equity diversity, instantly I knew that’s what I wanted to do.”

Nicole Santos can be reached at [email protected] or @Iam_NicoleS on Twitter.

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Senior Spotlight: Student won’t let environment go to waste