Rowan event explores global sustainability goals – and what they mean locally and on campus

The sustainability development goals lab event was held at Rowan University on Feb. 17, 2023. - Photo / Amanda Bingham for South Jersey Climate News

Rowan University students and faculty gathered for a day-long workshop to learn about the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) designed to inspire the best environmental practices across the globe.

The SDGs are 17 initiatives focused on holistic environmental, economic and social growth. The nonprofit organization Foundation for Environmental Stewardship helps raise awareness of the goals and facilitates university events that equip students to take action.

“The goal was to create an opportunity for students who maybe are not in one of the environmental majors or classes to come and engage on this topic,” said event organizer Dr. Jordan Howell, associate professor in the School of Earth and Environment and co-director of the Rowan Center for Responsible Leadership. “There were some hardcore environmental people here and maybe others who haven’t thought about it before.”

The event included a speaker series, seminar and interactive workshop on how youth can engage with the goals in their communities.

“I thought this was a great introductory event for explaining how you can actually implement the SDGs in our campus community,” said Aarushi Gupta, a member of the Rowan Environmental Action League (REAL). “A lot of times we talk about change and the things that could happen but we never create a plan… she talked a lot about how to actually put that plan in practice, and I think that’s very beneficial for environmental groups on campus.”

One example, Gupta said, is that the REAL student organization is currently in the midst of advocating for the reduction of single-use plastic in campus dining halls.

Mariana Cardenas, another REAL member who helps run the Rowan Community Garden, said she believes the event helped foster collaboration between various campus groups.

“So many people are already doing the work in their own areas,  but I don’t think academic departments are leveraging each other enough,” said Cardenas. “They could be so much more powerful if they worked together.”

The event also provided an opportunity for growth and action.

“Even if you’re not an environmental or sustainability studies major, you can still do environmental activism, environmental action in your own major here,” said Dr. Ted Howell who teaches in the writing arts department.

That was a key takeaway, too, for management major Leah Clemenson. 

“I learned so much about sustainability goals than I did before coming into this,” said Clemenson. “I thought sustainability was all about climate change, but it’s so much more than that, and I’m excited to see what this community does in response to these goals.”

Read more coverage about climate issues in South Jersey at South Jersey Climate News.

South Jersey Climate News is a collaborative journalism initiative that explores the effects of climate change on a local and regional level in southern New Jersey and is a content partner with The Whit.