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 Matt Smith, Campus Ministry

Posted on Thursday, Mar. 11, 2010

When Matt Smith, Director of Social Justice Ministry at SCU’s Campus Ministry, talks about ways he lives sustainably, he begins with a relatively simple concept: taking the train to work instead of driving. Smith, a Menlo Park resident, says that he chose where he would live purposefully so that he could walk to do his errands, shop at a local farmers’ market, and commute to work using public transportation. His home life is, in fact, a huge factor in Smith’s conception of what sustainability means to him. He defines sustainability as finding a solid balance in life, which he achieves by setting boundaries between his work and home lives. Included in his life outside of work are his hobbies, which he practices faithfully. He has these written on a card he keeps by his desk: sleep, prayer and solitude, food and cooking, relationships, and exercise, almost as a way of reminding him to stay balanced and live sustainably. As a sustainability leader on campus, therefore, Smith says he tries to model the balance for which he strives. Particularly within campus ministry, he hopes that he and the rest of the staff can display such a balance so that students and SCU community members who need their help and advice receive the best attention and the full presence of the Campus Ministry staff and their human resources.

Smith's primary responsibility as a Campus Minister is to help "students formulate responses to injustice", which he largely accomplished by initiating one-on-one conversations which allow him to build relationships with the students with whom he works. It is these relationships, says Smith, which he wants to cultivate and put into focus as the conversation on sustainability continues. He adds that instead of just preserving and cultivating the physical resources we have on our earth, we should also look to preserving the resource of our human energies and talents in order to better serve others. He gives a cause dear to him, the Latino immigrant community of East Los Angeles, as an example of this interpretation of sustainability. Each year, Smith leads a group of students on a Spring Break immersion trip to Dolores Mission, a parish in Boyle Heights, one of the most troubled neighborhoods in East LA. Smith claims that experiencing what life is like in this neighborhood makes him and others like him want to create a more just society, which, he says, translates to a more sustainable society.

The second notable action Smith takes to live more sustainably goes above and beyond just reducing how much he drives. Six years ago, after reading One Makes a Difference by Julia Butterfly Hill, Smith began composting his food waste. With one worm bin in his office in Campus Ministry and now a second at his house, Smith is known around his office and around campus as taking a huge step in a very sustainable direction. For him, the idea is simple: “We consume food, what’s leftover is thrown into a bin teeming with life, the worms turn it into nutrients which covers plants, which in turn feed us all over again”, he explains. For a man who loves to cook and eat, composting his scraps is a truly full-circle way for him to practice sustainability. Smith says that when he thinks of sustainability, he thinks of what brings life, and his worm bin is certainly a representation of that. A clear advocate for composting, Smith has conducted several "wormshops" on campus for those interested in starting their own composting. He can also frequently be seen removing composting and recyclables from the garbage as part of his attitude that he takes action toward making SCU more sustainable by focusing on the "little things everyone can do".

As Smith looks to the future of sustainability on our campus, he identifies a few concepts he would like to see addressed. Campus Ministry is in the process of developing a new Strategic Plan, and he expressed his strong belief that sustainability must be a part of that plan. He hopes to address an aspect of sustainability which he feels has not yet been touched on enough on our campus: opportunities for self-reflection. He believes that if members of the SCU community can reflect on the balance that brings them and other life, we will be able to conquer the “culture of saturation” he has observed on our campus. By this, Smith means that so many influences are coming at us from so many different directions that we often do not have time to reflect and figure out what these mean to us and which are the important ones. Smith believes that we can all benefit from reflecting on our lives to find a balance that best preserves our personal resources that we can offer to others, which, in his book, will make for a more sustainable community.

Profile by Hannah Slocum, '11, Sustainability Intern.

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Tags: Co-Curricular Education, Office, Profiles, Spirituality, Waste Diversion