Lizzie Stifel (‘24) is a Political Science and Global Affairs student at Notre Dame. As of April 2023, she assumed her role as the new Director of Sustainability for Student Government. For the 2023-24 academic year, she and her fellow student representatives have developed their platform: A Move Towards Zero Waste. Working to achieve zero waste is all-encompassing for them: from energy, clothing, and food to everyday materials like plastic.
Even before Lizzie assumed the role of Sustainability Director, she had regularly engaged with the Sustainability Office and Building Services to discuss the possibilities of reducing waste at Notre Dame, and has had a long-standing passion for this work. “I first became interested in sustainability during my time serving with AmeriCorps in Oregon, where my crew and I lived in the wilderness conducting conservation projects. I learned to find balance within that environment and gained such a deep respect for nature and the sheer amount of power and beauty it holds,” says Lizzie. This led to her working with Trout Unlimited the following summer at their headquarters in Washington, DC. “There, I gained perspective at the national level, working as their Government Affairs and Communications intern,” she reports. Lizzie continued to be invested in sustainability work while studying abroad in Copenhagen, where she “experienced the integration of sustainable solutions into everyday life.” Finally, this past summer, she was chosen to partner with Citizen United 632 in Dublin through the ND Irish Internship Program and worked on a project aimed at creating a scalable model to gather water quality samples using citizen scientist volunteers in areas where there is currently a data gap.
While the Student Government Department of Sustainability platform’s goals are focused on student perspectives, everyone can play a part in reducing waste. To Lizzie, “The most important thing people can do is to recognize their role in effecting positive change on the environment. With more minds actively thinking about sustainability, we will have more opportunities for collaboration, leading to creative, effective, and inclusive solutions.”
For Lizzie, sustainability work reminds us that we are not separate from the natural world. And by pursuing sustainable solutions, we can better understand our community’s needs. “My sustainability role has allowed me to better understand both the environment and also my community,” says Lizzie. “I am excited about the work we are doing. During move-in this year, we worked with St. Andre committee volunteers to increase accessibility to plastic bag and film recycling bins on the North and South quad. Looking ahead, we are organizing the Sustainability Cup with ND Energy and working in partnership with the Office of Sustainability and NDI to organize a Global Day of Action where ND students around the world will participate in one specified sustainability effort. In addition, my department is working on a collaboration with Strike Magazine to increase the lifespan of clothes and reduce material waste. We are also partnering with a production class in the FTT department to create a Net Zero Video." In total, Lizzie says that she is "grateful for the opportunity to work with campus partners to progress strategic sustainability initiatives and appreciate[s] their willingness to share their knowledge and incorporate student voices."