Green is the new black at Mason this year, thanks to a group of student ambassadors for the Office of Sustainability who identify themselves as the Green Patriots.

Chris Baumgartner, Mason’s Sustainability Outreach and Communications Coordinator, started the group last spring. According to President Giulia Manno, the team of about 20 members aims to help communicate sustainability initiatives to the greater Mason community.

The group’s members cannot be identified as solely interested in environmental affairs; their fields of study range from Communications to Government and International Politics, to Conservation to Elementary Education. Roger LeBlanc Jr., a sophomore studying Environmental Sustainability Studies, joined the Green Patriots in the spring of 2011, shortly after the formation of the group.

“I joined Green Patriots because I met many people in it through the Sustainability LLC and my conservation themed alternative break to Florida,” said LeBlanc. “I like the fact that the environmental service Green Patriots does is centered on Mason’s campus. That is what keeps me coming back to it.”

The group meets on a weekly basis in September and then on a biweekly basis throughout October, November and December. In its meetings, the group discusses local sustainability issues and participate in campus events. “We discuss sustainability topics that are relevant to the Mason community. This includes recycling, sustainable agriculture, alternative transportation methods, eco-art, sustainable building and environmental economics,” said Manno.

This past semester, the group volunteered at campus events such as the Rogers and Whitetop Hall Sustainability Opening Ceremony and Concert, the Mason Organic Gardening Association’s Sustainable Food Day and Patriot Pack Out.

“The Rogers and Whitetop concert was my favorite event,” said LeBlanc. “The dinner beforehand, on top of being 100% vegan and delicious, was successfully a zero waste event. Biodegradable cups, utensils, and plates were used, and with no meat products being served, all of our food was able to be composted. This was really heartening for me because a large event like that usually has a huge environmental drain. Typical event caterers use plastic utensils, plates and cups which are made from non-renewable petroleum. It is so sad to me that oil that takes millions of years for the Earth to produce is used for a few seconds at parties and then thrown away. The Green Patriots concert gave me hope that more Mason events could be waste free in the future.”

Danielle Wyman, Interim Program Manager for the Green Patriot Program, is excited about the future of the group.

“I am beyond thrilled with the excitement and enthusiasm each of these wonderful students has for building a more sustainable Mason,” said Wyman. “I hope that this group continues to grow in size and enthusiasm and will be one of the leading features that sets Mason apart from other universities.”

“The Green Patriots have been making their presence known at a handful of sustainability-related events and have assisted with a variety of outreach efforts in the way of social media, videos, interview series and so on.”

One of these efforts includes a Recycling Awareness series called “Gunston Recycles Plastics 1-7,” which features the first recycling center located in the Johnson Center.

“Gunston is Mason’s old mascot. He is a memorable character and we would like the Mason community to recognize him as the ‘face of sustainability’ on campus. We circulate these videos through social media networks such as Facebook and YouTube, as well as on the Office of Sustainability’s website. The purpose of these videos is to help inform the Mason community in a fun, lighthearted way,” said Manno.

Another video project the Green Patriots have begun is the Green Patriot Interview Series, in which Mason faculty and students highlight their personal work in sustainability.

“An example of someone who was used for the interview series was Olivier Giron. Olivier was a fine arts student at Mason who focused on illegal dumping,” said Manno.

LeBlanc is looking forward to being a Green Patriot this year due to the multiple facets of service opportunities the group provides.

“I will be attending the weekly meetings this semester and learning about sustainability through my peers. I also plan on helping out with the educational videos, the first of which will focus on the Mason bike share program,” said LeBlanc.

When asked what the future holds for the Green Patriots, Manno said, “This coming fall, students can look forward to more Mason Green Patriot events, more hilarious and informational videos featuring Gunston and local environmental leaders, and more opportunities to learn about all of the great green projects happening on campus.”