The Sustainable Energy Tribe: Getting Active with Renewable Energy

Justin Brightharp, President of SET, adjusts the weather station turbine located at the top of the 25 Park Place. Photo submitted by Sustainable Energy Tribe
Photo submitted by Sustainable Energy Tribe
Photo submitted by Sustainable Energy Tribe

Georgia State students play a major role in shaping the university’s culture and diversity. The Sustainable Energy Tribe (SET)  is student organization, working to create a new culture on campus, that focuses on conserving energy and the environment.

The Community

Established in 2008, SET strives to create a better environment at Georgia State, by teaching students the importance of conserving energy. Angelica Oliver, Public Relations major and PR coordinator for the Sustainable Energy Tribe, is excited to see more students taking the initiative to participate in SET’s campus events.

“Our main focus is to educate people,” Oliver said. “It’s really cool teaching people what [and] [how] to recycle.”

 Justin Brightharp, Geoscience major and President of SET, has watched the organization grow into what it is today. The Sustainable energy Tribe has flourished with more funding and membership.

“At one point we had a president and a $2,500 budget, and now we have eight [people] on the eboard and a $6,500 budget,” Brightharp said. “So we’ve grown over the years, relatively quickly in the past three to four years.”

Georgia State students are showing an interest in conservation, as more people began attending meetings and events. SET wants to encourage the campus to consider recycling plastic, aluminum and paper before throwing it into the trash.

“We all live on this earth [and] there’s definitely a big interest on being sustainable, and we can see that when we talk to students,” Oliver said. “More recycling bins and [Having] signs telling people what they can recycle, I saw some really cool things like [where] plastic, paper [and] cans [go].”

Students can get their hands dirty, while learning how to garden. SET coordinates activities on campus to educate students on local environmental projects and organizations.

“We do a lot of things involving getting students out into the community,” Oliver said. “We show them how to urban garden, do research and work with local organizations so they can educate their fellow peers.

For Brightharp, culture is what makes SET stand of as an organization. He describes the organization as growing culture, that provides a place where students can actively engaged in becoming more sustainable

“We’re kind of building a culture,” Brightharp said. “Having that culture, educating and getting people excited, to say we have a big student voice behind us.”

Weather Warriors: Conservation Projects

Installed fall of 2013, the weather station turbine located at the top of the 25 Park Place (old suntrust building), is one of SET’s ongoing conservation projects. The turbine, similar to a windmill, measures gust and wind speed. Certain seasons provide different results, the weather station gets taken down during the spring and summer season, and put back up during the winter and fall season due to the higher wind speeds.

“We have to take everything with a grain of salt, because altitude and friction has a big effect on wind,” Brightharp said.

Once the wind hits the turbine, it generates energy which provides the data that is collected every month. SET has presented the data from the weather station at the Georgia Tech International Youth Summit, and The Environmental Protection Agency.

“The wind turns the turbine blade, and it turns a generator machine which [creates] electricity,” Brightharp said. “The wind turbine that we have needs to be started by 17 kilometers an hour, and during fall and winter it’s higher.”

Providing energy for a skyscraper is far from easy. The turbine has collected enough data for analysis, but not enough energy to power a building. The solution would be reducing the amount of energy that students and the community consume.

“You’ll probably need 20 to 25 [turbines], and that probably still wouldn’t be enough, because [it’s] a skyscraper that uses a lot of water and energy,” Brightharp said. “It’s not enough to have renewable energy, you also have to reduce what you’re using so that we get that benefit.”

Overall, SET’s weather turbine analyzes trends and patterns from the wind to determine what it would take for large campuses, like Georgia State, to be more conservative with energy.

Getting Active

Students will be educated on the proper methods for recycling, and how to use less energy while performing their daily activities. Members get the opportunity to network and contribute ideas that will help inform other student on campus about the benefits of sustainability.

“Members get a chance to go out and explore different recycling events, and have [a] networking opportunity,” Oliver said.

As companies begin to make the switch towards adapting sustainability, students at Georgia State are learning how to apply conservation towards their major and potentially the job market.

“[There’s] [a] variety of majors that are involved in SET, [who] [are] interested in green initiative or being green, ‘it’s like Oh, I can use my major for this,’ and I think that’s important to learn now,” Oliver said. “So now I know I can go into PR for anything that is environmentally friendly.”

The student organization keeps students engaged by hosting events, such as speaking panels where professionals address hot topics on local issues. These events serve as a way for the students to make connections with people who are actively evolved in making the environment and community a better place.

“Last week’s panel was about environmental justice and ethics and [its] ties with social and human rights issues,” Oliver said. “We had Reverend Gerald Durley, Jackie Echols, and Michele Roberts come out to speak, [and] one of the aspects that it showed [was] [how] problems in the environment connects to [racial] issues.

SET is an organization of science majors, public relations, economics, finance, neuroscience and more. The diversity of SET allows students to make connections with people who enjoy the environment.

“We [made] it an issue this year to make sure that we connect our members with outside organizations, potential internships and jobs,”Brightharp said. “Like the CDC, all these different river networks, watershed management organizations and law firms.”


-SET meetings are located in the east wing of the Student Center, room 216 (Lanier Suite) on  Thursdays, from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.

-Topics discussed during meetings include; environmental problems around the world and the community, environmental ethics and justice, and more.