On September 21st over 400,000 people from across the Northeast flocked to the streets of New York City to take part in The People’s Climate March, a worldwide campaign to raise awareness about the fight on climate change. It was an unprecedented event that attracted global leaders attention as the U.N. Summit on Climate Change began two days later. Northeastern University’s Husky Environmental Action Team, referred to by its members as HEAT, came out in full force to be sure their voices were represented. “The People’s Climate Change March showed how far the environmental movement has come. Thousands flocked to the streets to demand climate justice,” says Austin Williams, HEAT’s Executive Director. “We had roughly 100-150 HEAT members that were able to attend all there helping make an impact and strengthening the movement.”
HEAT, originally started as the Northeastern Energy Action Team with the goal to have Northeastern adopt a carbon neutrality plan, which the University did in 2010, with its own Climate Action Plan. Since then HEAT replaced the word “energy” with “environment” and adopted a mission statement that states the student organization is “working towards environmental sustainability, raising awareness about sustainability issues at Northeastern, working to establish and advance related initiatives and host events that promote responsible use of energy and waste.”
What truly makes HEAT so unique however, is the scope of what the members are discussing, working at to implement change, and the ability to actually see progress as they work towards making Northeastern more “green” and combat climate change.
“HEAT gives students a voice and allows them to make a difference on campus,” says Marley Kimelman, HEAT’s director of Marketing and PR. “It allows for students to take what they learn in the classroom and use it to effect policy changes.”
Since the issue of climate change has a wide variety of specific issues that fall under the over arching category, HEAT has composed within itself specific committees all with the aim to work toward HEAT’s mission statement.
“As great as it is for us to meet as one big group and community, to really change things in sustainability at Northeastern it simply can’t be done with a one hour meeting once a week,” explains Williams. “Thankfully with the diligence, initiative, and effort of our members we have set up multiple subcommittees.”
These committees are as follows: Trash2Treasure, Urban Agriculture, Green Office Space, the Divestment Campaign, and the newest addition: the University Pass Campaign (aimed at forging a relationship with the MBTA for providing universal coverage to the T for all University students at a low cost. Each committee has an internally elected chairman who organizes events and reports back to HEAT the variety of projects they are working towards.
So who exactly are these students? Almost every major can be seen represented from physics, to mathematics, to international affairs to art history. But according to Williams what a makes a true HEAT member is “Someone who cares about more than just themselves. They care about their community as a Northeastern student, as a citizen of Boston, or just as a global citizen.” Indeed the conversations held at their general meetings touch upon not just what can be done to uphold the University’s goals to enacting sustainability. Videos, articles, major news events, upcoming rallies and protests are discussed in great detail with a dialogue on how HEAT members can contribute to the causes.
“These students realize their role as young adult as more than just being a student, they see and seize upon the opportunity to make change,” says Kimelman. “The more they learn in the classroom the more motivated they are to take their own initiative.”
There is no denying the passion and ambition of the students that are a part of HEAT and the projects they are dedicated to in pursuing Northeastern’s commitment to sustainability will continue to make an impact on the “fight for climate justice”. If you’d like to help with their efforts or simply check out more of what HEAT is up to this fall stop by their general meeting on Wednesdays at 7:00pm in West Village G 106. And be sure to follow them on Twitter @HEATNU or email them firstname.lastname@example.org.