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If you want to irk Nick Alderson and Alyssa Schroder, throw something away that could be reused.

“The big goal, for me, is to reduce,” said Alderson. “Reduce your water usage; reduce your electricity consumption; reduce your trash. I try to remind people of this in the friendliest way I can.”

Environmental consciousness is engrained in the first graduates with a sustainability major in UT history.

Alderson used to play in a creek behind his house in Portland, Tennessee and pick up trash accumulating in the once-pristine water. Schroder grew up in Clarksville, Tennessee, watching her mom recycle and take canvas bags to the grocery store.

Now, the two want to influence the world to be environmentally conscious.

“The world doesn’t have anyone to speak for it but the people who care,” said Schroder. “I would like to leave future generations some of the beauty that we enjoy today.”

The sustainability major, launched last fall, is interdisciplinary. It offers a curriculum that enables students to learn the policy and procedures behind reducing the impact on the natural environment to create a healthy economy and meet the needs of citizens.

UT is one of the first large universities in the Southeast to offer such a major.

“I love this major,” said Alderson. “By encompassing so many disciplines, it has given me a foundation that will allow me to pursue a job in almost any area that involves sustainability.”

The interdisciplinary curriculum spans law, business, and science, focusing in areas of economics and sustainability, resource management, ethics, and sustainability and climate change. This gives Alderson and Schroder the platform to achieve their dream careers in which they influence people and organizations to reduce their consumption of energy and other resources while saving money.

“I would like to work for a corporate company because they tend to have very large environmental footprints so a lot can be done to change that,” said Schroder.

The two are already changing behavior.

Alderson is actively involved with S.P.E.A.K. (Students Promoting Environmental Action in Knoxville), a student member of the Chancellor’s Advisory Committee on Campus Environment, a student worker for UT Recycling, and a senior student member of the Student Environmental Initiatives Fee Committee. He also received the Chancellor’s Award for Environmental Leadership on campus and interned for organizations such as the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy.

Schroder is president of a new student group called Net Impact, which has launched an international competition called “Small Steps, Big Wins” that encourages people to make small changes in their daily lives that have a huge impact on the environment. She is also a part of the Student Service Coalition, has worked to push LEED certification on campus, is the 2013 Martin Katzman award recipient for Environmental Studies, and volunteers any chance she can.

The university also offers a minor in sustainability. Four students are graduating this spring with the minor.

For more information about the program, visit the program’s website.

The major is part of UT’s Make Orange Green environmental initiative. For more information, visit the Make Orange Green website.

C O N T A C T :

Whitney Heins (865-974-5460,