Green Team lead and journalism student Jamie Verwys (right) with other team members (from left) Hector Garavito, Harrison Hughes and Michael Beauregard. (Photo: Julia Rudnick/UA Residence Life)
Green Team lead and journalism student Jamie Verwys (right) with other team members (from left) Hector Garavito, Harrison Hughes and Michael Beauregard. (Photo: Julia Rudnick/UA Residence Life)

UA Student Gets in the Game to Learn About Sustainability

School of Journalism student Jamie Verwys has been working with the UA Office of Sustainability to aid with zero-waste efforts while covering campus sustainability issues.
Nov. 16, 2016
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The UA's next zero-waste game will be the men's basketball game against Sacred Heart on Friday, Nov. 18.

"Striving to keep the UA green is no easy task, and the Zero Waste Competition is easily one of the hardest events I've worked. I didn't always feel sure of myself, but I saw the real story right away," says Jamie Verwys, the UA's Green Team lead.
"Striving to keep the UA green is no easy task, and the Zero Waste Competition is easily one of the hardest events I've worked. I didn't always feel sure of myself, but I saw the real story right away," says Jamie Verwys, the UA's Green Team lead.

As editor-in-chief of Pima Community College's newspaper, the Aztec Press, I covered public records violations, children's garden projects, state legislation and federal regulations.

Now, in my second semester at the University of Arizona, I already have explored many other issues — including institution-wide sustainability efforts.

I like to say that my blood must be newspaper ink, alive and vital, fueling every part of my life and dreams. I never feel intimated if I have my recorder, a pen in my pocket and the pursuit of truth backing me.

When it came to the recent Homecoming football game, however, that plucky reporter confidence felt as if it had just been tackled.

This is my first semester as the Green Team lead and, although I always had cared about the planet, I had much to learn about greening the campus. The work being done in the UA Office of Sustainability sparks my journalistic interest daily, but the Pac-12 Zero Waste Challenge intimidated me a little.   

Homecoming was the University's second time competing in a challenge to divert recyclable and compost materials from landfills. This involvement is made possible by a collaborative effort of various UA organizations and student clubs focused on environmental issues. 

The plastic gloves seemed to be second skin for the seasoned students I worked with. It clearly was not everyone's first time sorting trash, and even those who were new impressed me.

They lived for this, eager to reach into trash cans for cups that could be composted. It wasn't just in the spirit of competition. These people wanted to save the planet, bottle by bottle. 

I was there from 4 p.m., walking the tailgating scene to check on the small group of students volunteering to sort before the game. They never complained. They believed so strongly in what they were doing.

I didn't need to be nervous. The whole group did an incredible job in the sheer volume of waste it kept from the landfill, and there was always someone to ask how I was doing. 

It was the first event I had worked on my feet since I seriously injured my knee during a bicycle accident in February. I had been walking for only a few months and had no idea how my metal knee would last until 2 a.m. By the end of the night, I was sore. But it never stopped being worth it.

Striving to keep the UA green is no easy task, and the Zero Waste Competition is easily one of the hardest events I've worked. I didn't always feel sure of myself, but I saw the real story right away.

Amid the first bags of recyclables, under the green vests beat the hearts of young people trying to make a difference. They're millennials breaking stereotypes about their generation's ambivalence. I felt humbled.

While it's incredible what we accomplished, the most meaningful part of that long night was the authenticity of these UA students and employees in their pursuit of a better planet.

And I can't talk any trash about that.

Jamie Verwys is a Pima Community College transfer student studying in the UA School of Journalism. Verwys plans on becoming an investigative/watchdog journalist and dreams of a life in service to the public, helping the underrepresented tell their stories and upholding our constitutional right to a free press.