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Universities and big-picture sustainability

Alex Steffen, editor and co-founder of, encourages college to take charge in the green movement.

Alex Steffen thinks we're doing almost everything wrong when it comes to sustainability.

The editor and cofounder of suggests we need to think big to handle a big problem. Driving less and eating less beef are important choices, but they only represent a fraction of what we can do to enact major changes to the system. 

"We become too obsessed about the small things," Steffen in an interview with The NewsHouse before speaking at Hendrick's Chapel Tuesday.

Steffen challenged us to reform every aspect of our lives. 

“It’s far more important that each of us, in the big things in our lives, starts to address sustainability, social justice, and economic innovation," he said.

Steffen is part of the movement known as “bright green environmentalism.” What sets bright green enthusiasts apart is the belief that environmental change, through technology and improved design, will bring prosperity. They adopt a more optimistic outlook, that radical changes to the foundation will benefit everyone.

“Optimism is a choice,” Steffen said “It’s a bit of a footrace. We can choose to be discouraged by the fact that we’re not going fast enough, or we can choose to be optimistic about the fact that we’re going faster than we ever were.”

Universities should lead that proverbial footrace in green innovation, Steffen says. But they aren't doing enough to facilitate student learning and community interaction in shaping the environment, he says.

 “It’s really important that universities take the lead, not just for the moral leadership that implies, but also because the best way to learn to do something new is to do something new,” Steffen said.

Whether that means teaching engineering students green-innovation practices, or simply informing students of more sustainable transportation means, universities can start the charge toward a more sustainable future. They possess the power, resources, and most importantly to Steffen, innovative young minds in the green solutions of the 21st century.

See photos and coverage from Alex Steffen's talk at Hendricks Chapel.

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