UA organization focuses on environmental sustainability and justice in Tuscaloosa – The Crimson White


The Environmental Council has focused on advocacy and justice this past school year. In its efforts to provide Tuscaloosa and the University with a cleaner and more sustainable environment, the city’s two biggest projects this year were addressing the sewage leaks in the Black Warrior River as well as promoting sustainable shopping habits.

The Stop Sewer Spills project was intended to raise awareness of Tuscaloosa’s water infrastructure problems, said Delanie Williams, secretary of the Environmental Council and a senior majoring in environmental engineering.

Williams also stated that the organization was able to collect over 500 signatures on a petition the group presented to Mayor Walt Maddox on future plans for the county’s sanitary sewer system.

“Our second major project was a continuation of last year’s UA Free Market by one of our directors, Dania Botello,” Williams said in an email. “This program collects used clothing and distributes it for free in dorms and on the student center lawn to everyone. This past year we hosted four pop-up events and special swap locations in Ridgecrest East and West.”

The council has also focused on this promoting the use of reusable utensils in the dining areas through discussions with Bama Dining and the SGA. Megan Neville, the president of the Environmental Council and a senior majoring in sports management with a minor in hospitality management, said it is important to vote for individuals who advocate for the environment.

“Look for candidates with strong environmental campaigns and sign petitions for charities. It is very important to leverage local government and councils as this is where most of the change (that can be implemented by an individual) happens,” Neville said. “I feel like it’s more satisfying that way, when you see your problem being taken seriously because it’s happening on a smaller scale.”

Neville and Willaims also shared that students can make a change by focusing on reducing their overall consumption of clothing items and being mindful of the utensils they use in the dining halls. Overall, they both hope for a change in the consciousness of individuals and the government when it comes to environmental friendliness.

“On campus, I hope more students prioritize recycling and composting efforts,” Williams said. “Much of the feedback we have received from the university is the lack of care students take in properly sorting recycling and waste. A big step would be to get recycling into the dining halls, but that requires students to be aware and caring.”

Williams said she is also excited to see the city implement new infrastructure to rehabilitate Tuscaloosa’s sanitary sewer system. She hopes new infrastructure will reduce the amount of overflows and reduce exposure to local river bodies.

Neville stressed that she hopes the university will put a plan in place to work on sustainability and that the council has been trying to find out whether the university receives some of its money from fossil fuels. She hopes that if that is the case, she would like to see them move away from that.

“I would like to see the university really have a concrete plan for how they are going to reduce their emissions,” Neville said. “There is so much novelty. We’re constantly making this place better, which is great for students, but I’d like to see more attention to (sustainability) because whether you like it or not, the climate is changing. If major universities don’t take it seriously, who will?”