TSG sustainability director focuses on transit, waste

Senior Kate Lyons has worked on environmental initiatives both on campus and in the community.

Senior geology major Kate Lyons is Temple Student Government’s director of grounds and sustainability. Lyons sits in the Temple Community Garden on Jan. 10. She established a compost collection service last semester, as part of Temple’s sustainability task force. | JEREMY ELVAS / THE TEMPLE NEWS

For Kate Lyons, organizing the community around sustainability isn’t a new beat.

Last semester, as an Owls on the Block fellow, Lyons worked with community residents to reduce litter and coordinate sustainability efforts off campus. The experience has given her an outlook on sustainability that includes a heightened awareness of the importance of community relations, she said.

Now, Lyons, a senior geology major, is set to begin another semester as Temple Student Government’s director of grounds and sustainability after her start in Fall 2019.

“Hopefully working toward sustainability on campus at Temple can permeate to the mindsets of students off campus,” Lyons said. “And hopefully, we can help to be more respectful neighbors in that way with our waste footprint as well.” 

A major focus of Lyon’s work this semester, she said, will be hosting events advocating for better access to public transit and trying to increase the affordability of SEPTA’s University Pass, a discounted version of the transport group’s TransPasses and TrailPasses. A TransPass is priced at $346.56 for the Spring 2020 semester, while a Zone 4 TrailPass is priced at $736.44. 

A 2019 survey conducted by the Office of Sustainability showed that approximately 34.1 percent of Temple students struggle to afford transportation.

“We don’t often think about transit in terms of other basic needs,” Lyons said. “Sustainability is not just saying, ‘Oh, we need to cut down our carbon emissions.’ It’s also saying, ‘We need access to public transit so that people can get to school in an affordable way.’”

TSG will begin using zero-waste event kits during its events this semester. The kits, offered by the student-run café Rad Dish 3.0, provide reusable event supplies, like plates and utensils, to organizations hosting low-waste events. Student organizations can reserve a kit through Owl Connect. 

Lyons said she became interested in the position through her involvement in Temple’s sustainability task force. Created in 2016 by then-director of sustainability Aaron Weckstein, the group brings together students to give input on sustainability issues on campus.

“[Lyons] was already very well-versed with the group of people who have been involved [in the taskforce] and interested in continuing it,” said Kaya Jones, TSG’s vice president of external affairs.

Last year, as a part of the sustainability task force, Lyons proposed a student-led compost collection pilot program that was later funded by the Office of Sustainability’s Green Grant, Lyons said.

Student volunteers biked around Main Campus and collected compost from students living off campus to drop off at Temple’s community garden, which has a compost bin.

“It’s limited to a few households, but we’re hoping to expand it in the future,” Lyons said. 

She added the pilot has been successful so far, having collected almost 500 pounds of compost in 2019 from 16 homes, as well as Temple’s Math Department.

“[Lyons] is not only bright and ambitious but a pragmatic doer with a very holistic view of sustainability and personal and professional goals that extend far beyond the environmental science education she received in Temple classrooms,” wrote Caroline Burkholder, sustainability manager at the Office of Sustainability, in an email to The Temple News.

Lyons has been a great addition to the team due to her strong background in sustainability and is impressed with her work ethic, Jones said.

“It’s just been so great to have her knowledge and insight on everything,” Jones added. “She’s very passionate about the work that she does and it really shows.”

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