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Giant green paw print marks campus spots in quest for 'Big Red Small Green Steps'

Be on the lookout for a 7-foot-tall green paw print that will soon appear around campus, part of an effort to make campus more sustainable, one small green step at a time.

After all, life can be much more "exciting and juicy" when you live in a way that's really "conscious, mindful and connected," a sustainability expert told about 35 Cornellians in the Big Red Barn Nov. 10. The event was a follow-up to the Sept. 26 Sustainability Summit for Student Leaders, sponsored by Cornell's Sustainability Hub and the Office of Environmental Compliance and Sustainability.

Student leaders representing various student organizations shared how they met sustainability goals set at the Sept. 26 event, and Jeff Bercuvitz, president of the Center for Leadership, Innovation and Community, spoke on "Creative Strategies for Boosting Enthusiasm and Involvement in Sustainability Initiatives at Cornell."

Bercuvitz discussed ways to develop innovative sustainability initiatives and asked the students to brainstorm catchy ways to capture people's attention and promote green causes.

"I want you to come up with something good and creative," said Bercuvitz. "Just don't let it be boring. … We're so afraid to be weirdoes that we're desperate to look as boring as everybody else, and as a result we're capturing the imagination of, I would say, nobody."

Bercuvitz encouraged unconventional ideas that push limits to engage students. "Never have a meeting when you can have a party," he said.

His presentation succeeded in getting "student leaders to think outside the box when they are working on any initiative," said Christina Copeland '11, president of the Sustainability Hub.

"Jeff's insights can help all student leaders increase creativity in their actions, let them reach out to a larger audience and have more fun while doing so," added Barry Beagan '11. "I'm pretty sure a lot of people in Cornell aren't used to thinking like this."

At the Sept. 26 summit, students developed sustainability goals for their organizations. As the summit concluded, each group was allotted a wooden puzzle piece that they could contribute to a giant green paw print puzzle once they achieved that goal. On Nov. 10, such organizations as Engineers for a Sustainable World, Greeks Go Green, Big Red Bikes and Take Back the Tap (to reduce bottled water use) were able to place their pieces into the puzzle.

"The follow-up event really drove home the message of thinking big and starting small," said Copeland.

For example, Mollie Futterman '10 representing Big Red Bikes, a campus bike share initiative, spoke of their recent success in achieving some funding. "Big Red Bikes will become a reality," she announced.

Meanwhile, the Sustainability Hub and Office of Environmental Compliance and Sustainability have extended a challenge, says Copeland, to contribute "their piece of the puzzle and take at least 'one small green step for Big Red-kind'" by e-mailing their sustainability step to

Caitlin Krekel '11 is a writer intern at the Cornell Chronicle.

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Joe Schwartz