Emerolina Cantu and Pria Cid sat motionless on the couch. Their jaws were dropped and they didn’t utter a sound. Their dilated pupils replaced the need for words. There was instant grief, instant shock,instant accountability.
The end credits for the documentary Tapped started rolling and Cantu vowed to never buy a case of plastic water bottles again.
The following day she followed suit on her vow and raced to Cid with her new, reusable water jug. However, Cid pointed out that Cantu’s new reusable bottle itself was made of plastic.
They both laughed at Cantu’s silly error and realized that the journey to becoming more sustainable was going to be a learning process.
“Changing your lifestyle to be more sustainable, it’s not really easy to do overnight. It’s really something that you learn about, you grow and you change,” said Amanda Lopez, founder and former chair of the Associated Students, Inc. Environmental Sustainability Committee.
The committee advocates for environmental consciousness and sustainability by hosting events on campus to raise awareness among students.
Cantu, an international business major, joined Lopez’s committee as a volunteer in fall 2013 in response to the documentary.
She has since transformed her lifestyle with the positive influence of its members.
“I was just in shock. I wanted everyone to know this is a big problem. What can we do?” Cantu said.
She made the commitment to use reusable water bottles and tote bags instead of plastic bags, buy locally and give up meat. Cantu decided to grow her own produce, wash the dishes with a bucket and reuse that water on her plants. She also started taking shorter showers and changing small habits like turning the faucet off while brushing her teeth.
“Now I feel like I have a cause—like my lifestyle is supporting something,” Cantu said.
As the current vice chair of the committee, Cantu is fulfilling expectations that her predecessors had for her.
“The first thing I noticed about her was that she was smart and has a lot of potential—a lot of hidden talent that she probably doesn’t know about,” said Cid, former vice chair for the Environmental Sustainability Committee.
Cantu’s humility is one of many respectable traits her peers admire about her and what makes her so approachable and influential.
Austin Tureaud, coordinator for the Environmental Sustainability Committee and close friend of Cantu, joined the committee because of Cantu’s influence on him.
“Whatever she says, you just feel inclined to listen to her because her approach is an interesting blend of assertiveness with that motherly feel—so gentle but serious,” Tureaud said.
Since joining the committee, Tureaud has also adopted a more environmentally conscious lifestyle.
He is now more consciously aware of his effect on the environment in regards to water usage and waste management.
“(Cantu) makes me want to learn more from her. She has always been a very positive role model in my life … and she has a lot to offer this Earth and the people that inhabit it,” Tureaud said.
However, even with her great influence over students like Tureaud, Cantu’s first priority and loyalty is to the cause.
Carrying her produce to the car by hand because she forgot her tote is just one of the ways that her dedication and effort is exemplified.
“Small changes make a big difference and every drop of water counts, every little change that you make counts,” Cantu said.
After completing her sophomore year, she will continue her efforts to educate students and will be available to them during the Environmental Sustainability Committee meetings on Wednesdays at 11:30 a.m. in the Titan Student Union.