Two summer grads earn recognition in Green Graduation Cord Challenge

Graduation is a moment of pride and excitement. Students are proud of their academic achievements and the fulfillment of a life goal. But what if graduation could mean more than just obtaining a degree? What if it was an opportunity to proof to others you care about the environment?

The Green Cord Challenge, a program run by Student Government’s Gators Going Green in collaboration with the Office of Sustainability, recognizes students who have been involved in sustainable initiatives during their time at UF by granting them a green cord to wear at graduation.

“Having that on me when I graduate it’s like making a statement that I have put on all this work and all this effort towards sustainable activities,” said Sigal Carmenate, one of the recipients of the Green Cord this summer.

Justine Wandell was one of two Green Cord recipients this summer.

Justine Wandell was one of two Green Cord recipients this summer.

Out of the program’s structured point system, students have to earn at least 10 points in order to receive the recognition.  Points can be obtained from four different categories that range from volunteering at sustainability-related events to enrolling in sustainability-focused courses or conferences.

Carmenate, 22, who majored in Sustainability and Built Construction, earned more than just 10 points. She said sustainability has always been part of her lifestyle.

“Coming from a low-income family, it made me inherently sustainable,” she said. She explained her mom always taught her to be frugal with water and electricity and that became her everyday life.

“When I came to school, I learned about the major and I just thought it was something I connected to,” Carmenate said. Her major alone granted her 7 points.  But that was only a small part of accomplishing the challenge.

Justine Wandell, a telecommunications major and Spanish minor, also earned her green cord for the summer commencement ceremony. Wandell learned about the challenge in spring through a fellow member of the IRHA EcoReps. After looking through the criteria, Wandell realized that she had already collected enough points through her student organization involvement and volunteer participation.

“The whole [application] process was really simple,” Wandell said. She used Facebook memories and photos to help her track down a list of her involvements, from volunteering at the Sustainable UF Green & Clean events to helping write one of the winning proposals from the Pepsi Refresh Challenge last year.

Like Wandell, Carmenate earned a number of points from her involvement in student organizations and sustainability programs. She received points for having participated in a Florida Alternative Breaks trip to New Orleans during the spring break of 2015. The trip had a focus on nutrition, which plays an important role in sustainability.

In summer of the same year, she went to the Netherlands to participate in a sustainability study abroad program, where she had to learn about the country’s green lifestyle.

In the fall of 2015, she also completed a sustainability-focused internship at Porter’s Community Farm and Garden, where she helped the farm provide free healthy food and crops to people in that neighborhood.

All these accomplishments allowed Carmenate to complete the challenge and, ultimately, receive the Green Cord.

“It was fairly easy for me because I came from a sustainability major, and I also have a sustainable conscious,” she said. However, she recommends students to look for opportunities within their own groups to lead green practices and host green events.

“You can make sustainability happen in places where it doesn’t exist yet,” she said.

As for Wandell, she expressed her hope that students continue to find ways to connect to sustainability and environmental issues during their time at UF and that they’ll use those opportunities toward their own green cord applications.

“Talk to Sustainable UF or just look online at the list of student organizations out there,” she said. “There are tons of groups that represent different causes. The really great thing is that there is something here for everyone.”

Published: August 29th, 2016

Category: Highlights, News