Building a better tomorrow

Caryn Massey 225x150
Caryn Massey pioneers sustainability on campus.

As a child, Caryn Massey expected her first trip to the beach to be paradise. But instead of gazing upon crystal blue water and white sandy beaches, Massey witnessed a very different reality.

“I saw trash littered across the beach and I wondered how someone could deface something so beautiful,” Massey says. “I just couldn’t stand it, so I said to myself, ‘I have to do something.’”

On that day, Massey vowed to make a difference. Over time, she became dedicated to battling environmental negligence as both a volunteer and environmental club leader in high school. 

“I’m really passionate about improving our community,” Massey says. “Growing up, I was always volunteering and helping local chapters of The Nature Conservancy.”

However, it wasn’t until she arrived at Northern Arizona University that Massey found the support base necessary to create a better tomorrow.

Branching out 

In her effort to further promote harmony between humans and nature, Massey chose to double-major in environmental studies and public relations. She hopes to use her experience, education, and writing talent to make a difference on a much larger scale.

“I really love the idea of marketing, but I also enjoy the environment and sustainability,” Massey says. “When I think of sustainability as a word, it makes me think of human rights and the environment together. If we don’t have an environment, we don’t have a place to live.”

Soon after enrolling at Northern Arizona University, Massey earned an internship with the Environmental Caucus, a grassroots group of faculty, students, and staff who work together to help build and support sustainability-related programs. 

A more environmentally-conscious campus 

In addition to her other contributions, Massey is making a significant difference through her work as committee chair for the Green Fund, a program that strives to create an ecology-conscious campus through student-driven ideas.

The Green Fund began in 2010 when a group of students petitioned the Arizona Board of Regents to add a five dollar fee to each student’s tuition. This “green fee” would then be used to fund projects that advance the university’s sustainability efforts.

“That idea alone is a game-changer,” Massey says. “Students who have these great ideas would have not otherwise made it a reality if they didn’t have the money.”

The Green Fund board is comprised of six students and three staff members who decide how the green fee should be spent. Since its inception, the group has approved 20 projects, which include a compost program, an organic garden, and even a bicycle hub that offers repairs and advice for new riders.

“We want to focus on the culture of sustainability and reaching carbon neutrality,” Massey says. “We want students to see how it’s affecting campus.” 

In the future, Massey hopes the Green Fund will be able to increase its fee to better organize renewable energy source projects and other full-scale ventures. She believes working to create a closer interaction with students will make the Green Fund successful – and sustainable - for future generations.

“The Green Fund is unique because it is very much for the students, by the students,” Massey says. “This is something directly linked with administration, but also student-based; it cuts out that middleman by bringing those two worlds together.”

Staying true to her roots

As Massey’s on-campus efforts continue to grow, she is preparing to draw on these experiences as she pursues a career that blends her passion for environmental and human rights.

“I would love to work with a business that is philanthropic and cares about our environment,” Massey says. “One that is hoping to protect it, but also cares about human rights and how the two are very closely linked together.”

Massey is grateful for the opportunities she’s had at Northern Arizona University, and how they’ve enabled her to stay true to the vow she made that day as a child on the beach.

“If you’re sustainability-focused and minded, it’s easy to get involved at Northern Arizona University and be passionate,” Massey says. “It’s been such a great experience.”