SDP 2021-2022 Week 9: Recalibration

This was a pivotal week for the framing and planning of our groups’ strategies. The assigned reading on Design Justice from Sasha Costanza-Chock’s novel as well as our discussion with Leana Houser has greatly influenced our process. I titled this week’s post, Recalibration, because we spent most of our time together rethinking, reprocessing, and possibly restarting our approaches in our respective tracks.

We spent the first 30 minutes reflecting on this week’s reading and last Friday’s event at City Hall. While I was unable to attend, I watched the accompanying videos and viewed pictures of a unified group of people that are enthusiastic about a Zero-Waste future! I found it particularly inspiring to hear the voices of community members, classmates, and even DPW Director Mitchell on their testimonials and commitment to more accountability and responsiveness. In Nicole’s conversation with Director Mitchell, he stated, “ If Hopkins goes, everyone goes.” in reference to Hopkins becoming the first anchor institution for this effort. This statement set the tone for our class discussion on how we can use Hopkins as a pressure point. Hopkins has an aura that they’re thoughtful about communities and uses jargon that boasts on their commitment to equity – however, the Hopkins Environmental Justice webpage is a bit underwhelming in this respect.

In our discussion on Sasha Constanza-Chock’s work, we all had an epiphany that we may need to readjust our approaches to truly incorporate the community’s desires. While we may have good intentions in our strategic planning, we want to refrain from “a spiral of exclusion.” I liked the way Ryan described design justice, as a matter of noticing as much as creating. Going forward, we believe our next steps are to gain input from Greg and Shashawnda before continuing this process, but also to prioritize the community.

Leana Houser joined the class to provide more context about the Hopkins-side of operations from the Office of Sustainability. I gained a better understanding on what is done on the staff side of operations and what we, as students, faculty, and supporters, can do. Leana emphasized the power that students have in decision making processes. In the coming weeks and months, there is an engagement process for the development of the new Sustainability Plan, where we can express our wants, desires, and concerns. Additionally, there was a slight push for forming a coalition among other campuses, universities, and students for a huge movement of support – similar to ,“Because “, an inter-university group. I was brought back to reality when we were told that there is no commitment to waste, Homewood was way beyond waste tonnage, and the process for change is very slow. However, we were able to re-strategize when we heard about the requirements for a composting facility and what haulers might be interested in. There is a 3:1 ratio of Carbon to Nitrogen needed for a compost facility. Hopkins, with the addition other institutions, has exceeded the tonnage minimum plus a local composting facility would require less energy and cost for haulers. For the short-term vision, a viable pilot would require 6000 tons and a long-term vision would require 100,000 tons. Apparently, just from solely Homewood, we have over 500 tons of waste! The wheel’s started turning in everyone mind. Perhaps we need to refocus our scope?

In our share back time, it seemed like a poetry slam of inspiring metaphors! We are aiming to create an ‘ecosystem’ to build and flesh out networks and to create a bridge between both. There is a symbiotic relationship between this ecosystem, where we are dependent on one another. There is a nexus between the community track and the institutional track -they are not independent of each other. We also mentioned that is not about bringing people to the table, the table is already there! We need to be facilitators of the table and have the community design for themselves. This goes hand-in hand with our Design Justice discussion from earlier. Although this was a discussion heavy class, it does not feel like a setback. In this non-linear process, we are simply recalibrating and devising a new strategy with input from all of our ‘accomplices’.

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