Mindfulness, Meditation & Environmental Change on Campus

Guest post by Sina Berndt, Emma Ulveland, Jamie Ball, Karli Mann (AKA: Alternative Space Makers)

How do you get a dancing coffee mug to ride a tricycle while giving away free coffee?

How do you forge meaningful relationships with UVic officials and advance environmental education on campus?

How do you end up with a shiny new student group (logo and all) in the matter of two months or less?


(Sort of…)

This past Winter semester, our group had the opportunity to plan a political action project which advanced our shared passion—Environmental Education. This task was charged by our professor James Rowe in his class ES 407: Mindfulness, Sustainability & Social Change.

Mindfulness & Meditation for Social Change?! Is THAT a university course? Much to our delight, it is indeed. This course gave us the tools we needed to make meaningful action in a subject we care deeply about, while still working on our four double major degrees from the faculty of Environmental Studies combined with the respective faculties of Geography, Sociology and English.

We soon found ourselves in Bibliocafe, post a ten minute meditation at our first meeting. We bounced ideas off of each other for what seemed like hours and eventually our idea was born.

We decided to address paper cup waste from the numerous cafes on campus; one group member had the brilliant idea to enact a temporary ban on the sale of paper cups for a day at a campus cafe. This idea excited everyone and we immediately got to work!

However, we realized disrupting people’s routines by removing the ability to receive a paper cup for a day would be impactful—but we were wary on what actual impact we would create. The current consumer paradigms at UVic and in society involve little to no thought from consumers or providers about the waste associated with single-use food/beverage purchases. Although our goal was to increase environmental education on campus, we did not want to alienate or impact someone negatively by advancing this message.

Thus, the second part of our idea was formed—we would create a Mug Drive to support those who came to our Break Up With Your Paper Cup Day without their own reusable mug!

We still receive surprised looks when we tell people that our successful project, Break Up With Your Paper Cup, was born out of a meditation class. Our class taught us that having a mindfulness practice can lend extremely well to increasing people’s ability to broaden their perspective and begin to change deep-rooted habits.

This all goes to show how a bit of meditation and thoughtfulness mixed into our studies can achieve wonders on campus, above and beyond the expectations of our professor and ourselves! Being a UVic student was more fun than it ever this past semester. We would encourage anyone to get involved and to believe in themselves—you never know what can happen!

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