Eric Urbaniak spent a lot of time wondering, “What are my skills and how can I use those to make the most impact on the world?”
The answer was waiting for him in a dumpster here at Central Michigan University.
As a freshman, Eric began an internship with the CMU Department of Environmental Health and Safety. He worked on the Andahwod Food Waste Reduction project with the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe.
“Empowering and educating others are the ways I love to lead while making sure everyone has access to new programs and can become involved if they want to,” Eric said.
Developing a composting program with the tribe and the resulting cultural exchange fueled Eric’s passion for sustainability. He presented to the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe Tribal Council and the CMU Board of Trustees. Those efforts resulted in the diversion of 6,000 pounds of food waste from landfills to compost.
“When people think of the word sustainability, they think of the environment,” Eric said, “but I think education, social awareness and community-building is a key component.”
Eric loves to collaborate with others and organize sustainability projects. His roles on campus have allowed him to lead in his own way, by building community and enabling others to pursue their passions. He partnered with fellow student Teresa Homsi to establish Central Sustainability through the Office for Institutional Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and works as a sustainability liaison in Facilities Management.
As a sustainability coordinator, Eric has worked on reports that track carbon emissions and sustainability engagement on college campuses. His most recent report moved Central from a Silver rating (or 55% sustainable) to Gold (65% sustainable).
“CMU has provided me with the opportunity to lead in the sustainability realm,” he said.
Eric has developed CMU’s Sustainable Purchasing Policy, helped run the annual Campus Race to Zero Waste, and developed a sustainability walking tour for campus and community members. He hopes to build the foundation for an office of sustainability on campus and to leave a legacy at CMU for sustainability education for students.