Sustainability Champion - Robert Banales

Robert Banales is a passionate CSUMB student dedicated to his community, and to sustainability. He volunteers with a hydroponics farm in Monterey, he’s working on creating a Green Events Guide on campus, he serves on the Resident Housing Association Facilities and Sustainability Committee, and he’s an active member of the Environmental Studies (ENSTU) Club on campus. We sat down with the 3rd Year Environmental Studies major to hear more about him.

Tell me about yourself- what do you do? Why do you do it? I want to be more than just a consumer, I have a passion for what I do. Even when it doesn’t pertain to the environment. I like to inspire people and help people think outside of the box. I’m an R.A (2nd year). I play roller hockey on Mondays. I volunteer with BothCo through hydroponics. That’s been really eye opening, engaging with the things that I am learning about in school. I also love to be in nature. What is a Hydroponics Farm? Hydroponics is an agricultural system that grows food in a system devoid of soil, in this case a water based and closed loop system that uses fish and other organic waste (compost) to sustainably grow food. Hydroponic systems usually are able to produce more food in a condensed space due to their design. I understand hydroponics as one solution to providing food and solving these huge ecological and social issues that surround food insecurity and food justice. A lot of ecological justice issues are solvable when community members work together to find solutions. Every community member brings a lot to the table; finding solutions to massive problems like this is a group effort. It’s also a circular learning experience, you are always teaching people and learning from people; when that stops happening then you know it’s not a good social environment.

Robert Banales

You’re on the RHA Facilities and Sustainability Committee, what can you tell me about that?

We’re relying on a lot of input from fellow students, especially who live on campus. I really appreciate that we are keeping an open mind and exploring all of our options. We really want to build a legacy of transparency. We use a lot of single-use items in RHA, and weighing cost and storage has been an uphill battle. However, I think we’ve done a pretty good job at troubleshooting these issues, and I like that about the committee. I also like that we’re working with other organizations.

You’re also working on creating a “Sustainable Events Guide” for the campus, can you tell me more about that?

Within this class we all have our own tasks, and I’m working on outreach and communication. The whole project is to create a guide that everyone on campus can refer to when we are planning events. This includes making guidelines and references, what a sustainable events look like, and how an audience works with sustainable events. Especially with event planning, a small change makes a huge impact. For example, using a glass straw or even better, no straw at all, is better for the environment.

As a result of the Sustainability Committee this year, what is happening in RHA?

I asked to join the Sustainability and Facilities Committee because I am passionate about sustainability and wanted to make a difference on my campus. As a result, RHA is looking at events or programs that we can make more sustainable. One example of this is looking at using a ceramic water cup instead of a single use disposable cup.

You’re in the ENSTU Club. Can you tell me a little more about that?

Next year I plan to run for a position in the club, so that is exciting. This year, the club was pretty active due to the election. We helped with Measure Z. The “Yes On Z” campaign was a grassroots campaign to prevent oil companies from polluting groundwater and injection wells. That was awesome because through the club, we were able to engage with a lot of voters in a really grassroots way. I think that we have really made a lasting impact for the better in the community, our water and air are so important.

You worked pretty extensively on the plastic bag ban, Prop 67, what happened since then? How did you get involved?

I was a campus volunteer coordinator intern through the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Me and another intern, Morgan Fisher, were both working on campus to advocate for the plastic bag ban. Morgan and I worked extensively on a campus-wide voter education project. That was the first experience I had where in class and out of class education really came together, and it was really incredible. Prop 67 was a referendum: we were re-voting to make sure that we really wanted to ban the plastic bag ban after plastic bag industry sued California. The referendum was a reminder that California wanted to ban single use plastic bags and replace them with reusable bags.

What does Sustainability mean to you?

It means that you are aware of the impacts you have on the environment and people. Sustainability is a way to interact with the other living things around you. It’s about closing the loop and phasing out certain things that don’t contribute to human and non-human lives.

What do you want to do after College?

I’m a 3rd year, so I’ve got 1 year to go. I’m from Southern California so being around agriculture has been inspiring. I hope to be able to work to improve water quality in places impacted by agricultural run off. I’m really passionate about consumers and the power they have. Plastic pollution has been part of me since going into high school. I’m going to be a life long learner. One of my life goals help other people understand sustainability.