It’s what every young organizer dreams of…the evolutionary transformation of a campus club, into a national movement.
From an outrageously captivating Sumatran Tiger vs. Lumberjack arm wrestling match in the middle of campus, to a game-changing meeting with our administration to discuss our tissue paper procurement policies, this past week has certainly been full of blog-worthy activism for CCNY Green and for The City College of New York.
Two short months ago, I was about to start the fall semester of my third year at The City College of New York, with a big goal for a transparent and strong paper procurement policy for my campus. However, I lacked the crucial support of a campus community. Fast forward through a hard-core recruitment drive, and I am President of CCNY Green, running a student based Operation Tiger campaign with a group of six core members. Operation Tiger, is a Greenpeace Student Network forest campaign asking Asia Pulp and Paper (APP) to stop chopping down Indonesia's Paradise Rainforest. The campaign calls for campuses to cut ties with APP in three different ways: 1. Cut existing contracts with the company 2. Institute a strong procurement policy that meets Forest Stewardship Council standards and 3. Write letters to the campus' tissue paper distributor/supplier as well as to APP and its US subsidiaries that the campus wants nothing to do with APP until it ends its role in deforestation and adopts forest friendly operating procedures in Indonesia.
Starting with six core members the group has grown to almost 40 committed members, and nearly 600 petitions signed for a strong policy. We have hosted one Sumatran Tiger arm wrestling match, and have had two meetings with the President of the University. I knew organizing was powerful, but the roller coaster of rallying a campus community where there once was none, has proved to be the most exciting work I have ever accomplished.
And we’re just warming up. (no climate pun intended).
The passion for our group and for our cause has proven to be completely infectious. Not only has the impenetrable support of the student body arisen out of seemingly nowhere, but our ability to work together to plan our campaign and recruit new members has even inspired the administration of City College. Last week we met with CCNY President Lisa Coico, Vice President Rodriguez, Vice President Santos, and a few other suited administrators to discuss our goals for Operation Tiger. We had come prepared—agenda, roles, and a strong ask all at the ready. Students spoke about the relevance of APP’s actions on CCNY and its students, and how we have the power as a University, to take a stand against corporations such as APP, and change our school policy to declare its sole use of FSC approved paper products.
Our preparation and planning paid off, and I had the pleasure of listening to President Coico thank our student group for bringing this issue to her attention. She commended us for being professional and pro-active about this cause, and stressed the importance of student-run movements. After all, she expressed, nothing would have been done about our weak paper tissue policy, as long as the students did not organize on the issue. This was a powerful confirmation of what I already believed: the youth of this nation and the students in this movement hold immense power to create the change they want to see in their communities and in this world. Organizing is the path towards lasting social change. I couldn’t have asked for a more receptive administration, or for a more inspiring reaction to the Operation Tiger campaign.
I started this group with only myself, and now City College has a busy network of interested and caring student environmentalists. Look at all that we can accomplish with the power of the people.
- Lana Guardo is a member of the Greenpeace Student Board and a Campus Coordinator at the City College of New York