Jorge Montezuma saw firsthand what a water treatment plant did for the quality of life in his community in Lima, Peru and it sparked his interest in water pollution treatment and sustainable practices. Early in his college career he became involved with the Empower Poly Coalition to better facilitate his ideas for a sustainable future.
The Empower Poly Coalition is a coalition of campus clubs interested in sustainability; it was created to serve as a unifying center for sustainable movements on campus. Since it was founded in spring 2006, that coalition has seen enormous growth in membership and diversity with more than 20 member clubs ranging from engineering to business.
They are trying to ban the sale of plastic bottled water on campus, though Empower Poly hasn’t endorsed the program yet, Montezuma said. Still, his passion for improving the environment is not unlike many other people that make up several clubs and organizations united by Empower Poly.
“If you have any idea of the impact the bottled water industry has on the world, you would know why I would feel that way,” he added.
“Everybody’s voices should be heard. Empower Poly serves as a catalyst where discussion and ideas can turn into action,” he said.
The coalition recently participated in the second Focus the Nation: building a sustainable economy at Cal Poly. The three-day event drew hundreds of students to a green job fair, a sustainable project showcase and student-led sustainable living workshops.
Currently the coalition is working with campus administration to propose a $5 tuition increase to create The Green Initiative Fund (TGIF) that would finance student’s sustainability projects at Cal Poly.
“Generally (the administration) has been really supportive. With any student organization, you just have to find the right channels of communication to get things done,” business senior and president of Empower Poly Coalition Ben Eckold said.
Improving the communication between sustainability-focused groups was the basis for which the coalition was created and a venue where opposing ideas can find common ground.
By bringing in different perspectives, the coalition aspires to aid its member clubs reevaluate their projects so they not only take into consideration the environmental impact of projects, but the social and economic impacts as well.
Apart from educating its members, the coalition aims to improve the communication with the general population on campus because “The average Cal Poly student is probably not as aware as we would like them to be,” Eckold said.
Getting them to the meetings would be a great start, if their experience is anything like Montezuma’s.
“I get really motivated when I attend the meetings because of all the energy people bring and seeing all the different faces,” he said.
In addition to attracting Cal Poly students, Eckold said they coalition is building off the Focus the Nation momentum and hosting more sustainable events.
In April the coalition will host the spring convergence for the California Student Sustainability Coalition where 400 students from across the state convene at Cal Poly and “showcase our university and the sustainability measures that we will be pursuing,” he said.
The efforts don’t stop at hosting events. Every Tuesday, members of the coalition write a column in the Mustang Daily dubbed “The Green Spot.” The column addresses a variety of environmental and sustainable issues and how students can get involved.
“I’ve probably learned more being involved with Empower Poly Coalition than I have being in the classroom and I feel like I have learned more about the industry I want to go in by being involved,” Eckold said.
With a nationwide economic recession, and with fears of climate change and escalating student fees, Eckold said now is the time to make a change.
“As students, we’re customers of Cal Poly and if you’re not happy with the product you’re getting here, stand up and do something about it,” he said.
The main focus of the coalition is to inspire people to do what they can to be involved in sustainability, he said.
To find out more about Empower Poly Coalition visit empowerpoly.calpoly.edu