Sustainability Champion - Brian DeRubes

Brian DeRubes is a passionate CSUMB student dedicated to his community and to sustainability. He drove to North Dakota in support of protecting clean water during the protests at Standing Rock, and he’s now the Co-president of the Food Advocates for Real Meals (FARM) Club on campus. We sat down with the 3rd Year Environmental Studies major to hear more about him.

Why did you choose CSUMB? I love the location of the school. It’s centered between Big Sur and Santa Cruz. The environmental focus drew me in, and a lot of professors had good reviews. I also like that there are smaller classroom sizes. What is your role on campus? I try to motivate my peers by making everyone feel welcome. I try to smile, just be genuine, and make people feel that they’re in the right place. I’m the co-president of the FARM Club on campus (Food Advocates for Real Meals). We want to request a proposal to Sodexo to add organic, healthier, free-trade food to our school. We’re lacking right now, as only 4% of campus food is considered organic or sustainable. The great thing about CSUMB is we’re surrounded by some of the largest farms in the world. We could be supporting local farmers within our area. We’re missing an opportunity if we a changes to things that students don’t find appealing, like the dining halls. Instead of complaining, we should work to change it.

Brian DeRubes

How did you get into sustainability?

Sustainability came about from my love of nature, different trips into national parks and seeing the raw beauty of nature. I also saw a huge necessity to protect it, as it continues to disappear in the industrial world. That’s what draws me to Environmental Studies, which is all about conservation, sustainability, and how people can live with the earth, not on the earth.

What are your biggest successes regarding sustainability?

Personally, my successes come in the little things in my day to day life. I have become more aware of my carbon footprint. I just pay attention to my habits, behavior, diet, and products I invest in. I’m also aware of different plastics I use, which is something that never really goes away. I try to reuse things as much as possible, and have general awareness of what I’m doing and how it will affect my children and grandchildren years and years down the road.

What are you doing on campus in regards to sustainability?

I joined the FARM Club because I saw food as being a big focus. The way food is produced greatly affects the environment. Food is important to our well being, and part of sustainability is taking care of our bodies and being healthy. I saw this as something that I can try to tackle on campus, and also, I have a new found interest in composting, and would like to see that happen more in the dorms and residence halls.

Brian DeRubes

Why are you so passionate about the North Dakota Pipeline? The North Dakota Pipeline encompasses everything that is wrong with this country, a lack of progressive thinking. To say that we are the most developed and best country in the world, and to have this conflict going on is a huge paradox, in my opinion. You have corporate America dictating what justice is, and it’s basically using the police force and laws that are meant to protect citizens, against the people. I felt that I had to at least be a part of it in whatever way I could . November break came up and I drove out to North Dakota. It was really eye opening. The blatant racism and degrading at the cost of human lives is something that people still need to be aware of, and I felt like I couldn’t enjoy Thanksgiving break while knowing that that was going on. Myself and a fellow CSUMB alumni drove 25 hours straight to Standing Rock, about a quarter mile from Black Water Bridge. We met up with a couple of my friends from the East Coast, and camped out. The night I got there, there was massive amounts of police spraying people all night with water at 25 degree temperatures. There was tear gas flying around, it was very degrading. These people on the water protective side were peaceful and prayerful, and they stayed true to that. I had collected flashlights, blankets, walkie talkies, firewood, and specific things they needed prior to arriving. I sorted the donations, participated in direct action, and was just there in prayer and support and gave my positive energy. One late night, in a mass hall tent, I met an indigenous woman I learned a lot about. One of the biggest things that stood out to me was what she said, “We must not plan for tomorrow, we must plan for the future generation.” I thought a lot about that. How is what I’m doing today affecting my children and grandchildren?

What made you decide to be the co-president of the FARM Club (Food Advocates for Real Meals) here on campus?

FARM Club is a smaller club, and I’d really like to see more people get involved with it. Our two main people who were in charge graduated and left, so there was a spot that needed to be filled. After going to North Dakota, I saw it within myself to be a leader, and I wanted to spread good energy and make people want to be involved with the club. I didn’t know that I was going to be co-president now. I’ve been in the club for a semester. Living on campus, I was forced to have a meal plan, and it affected me in a negative way, because I do feel like the quality of food isn’t nutritious. Being co-president of the FARM Club is me trying to change that.

What goals do you have after graduating from CSUMB?

After graduating, I’m debating on staying in Monterey or Santa Cruz and working in sustainability or going to trade school and figuring out how to cultivate crops on my own. After graduating from there, I’d like to travel around the world to different organic farms, and work from place to place, see new vegetables or fruits and different things like that. Everyone should know where their food is coming from, even if they don't grow it.

What power do students have over sustainability and what impact can they make?

Students really have all the power, because it’s really our university, and without students, there is no university. Students must choose to lead instead of follow. We have to create our own culture that works best for us, that’s not distracted by this throw away society. Sustainability is a healthy lifestyle, and it’s not complicated. The only way the human race will survive is through sustainability. Something that’s really helped me is getting involved with my professors. They’re not just there during class time, they want students to reach out and ask for advice, and discuss these problems that the world is facing. They have much more experience than you do. Utilize your professors, to build a better community and better understanding.

What steps are you going to take, and students can take, to have a sustainable year in 2017?

I don’t want to preach any lifestyle to anyone, it should be up to them. Diet plays a big role in the current climate crisis. Reduce the amount of red meat if possible, because cows contribute a very large portion to greenhouse gases. Plant based diet is beneficial, and easy once you learn about it. Another is just being outside more. Something I love about CSUMB is our campus is surrounded by oak trees and beautiful forest. Just be outside and be in nature and have appreciation for mother earth, and that’s what will inspire people to change some of the actions they make.