February 03, 2023 | Matt Kucinski

A close up of a light bulb
Courtesy: Alessandro Bianchi

Sam Steen grew up loving the outdoors. As a huge camper and hiker, he marveled at the beauty of creation and took notice of the impact people’s decisions were having on that creation.

But for most of Steen’s life, his educational spaces didn’t encourage him to pair his passion for sustainability with his Christian faith. At his Christian K-8 school, they didn’t talk much about sustainability. At his public high school, it was Christianity that wasn’t talked about.

Discovering the intersection

“So when I came to Calvin and I heard about both ideas and both were being talked about together, it was so cool,” said Steen.

Steen is now a junior at Calvin studying biology and chemistry and he’s now in a leadership role overseeing the sustainability coordinators in the residence halls. He recently led the community through the 2023 Kill-A-Watt Challenge.

“The goal of this three-week challenge is to help people understand ways that they can make a concrete difference for sustainability,” said Steen.

Taking sustainable steps

From limiting the time lights are turned on to taking the bus, from taking shorter showers to going vegan, organizers hope students can see tangible things they can do that collectively can make a big difference.

“This three-weeks [Kill-A-Watt] is not unsimilar to Lent, where you might try a practice and experience some uniqueness and then decide from there if there are things you might want to keep doing,” said Becki Simpson, who has been the staff advisor for Kill-A-Watt since 2009. “So maybe you try 10 different challenges in January, and you find that some may be too extreme to continue long-term, but maybe there are one or two things you can incorporate into your life.”

For Steen, one of the things he tried was being vegetarian. While he says he isn’t going to become a vegetarian, he did get some good meal ideas that he’s going to incorporate into his diet and “be more vegetarian than I was.”

Building awareness, making a difference

Throughout the month, Calvin students picked up some tangible ways to live more sustainably. In total, the sustainability coordinators sponsored 11 events, including cooking and mending workshops, a chapel service, panel discussion on sustainability and justice, and a composting talk. Campus ministries student leaders collaborated to provide creation-care themed bible studies and worship times in each dorm.

Hundreds of students participated in the three weeks-worth of events, and many of the students in the residence halls worked to conserve energy to help their residence hall win bragging rights for the dorm that saved the most energy. While Boer-Bennink took home the top prize and those bragging rights, the residence halls collectively saved 53,000-watt hours of electricity per day in the dorms, which represents enough electricity each day to power about two average American houses.

Recent stories