Get to know the Mount Holyoke environmental orgs

BY IVY LI ’21

Climate Justice Coalition

(Julia Klukoff ’21)

What is your mission as an organization?

Our main goal is to persuade the administration to divest from fossil fuels, and invest in more ethical and clean forms of energy. Climate justice [...] is social justice. It is linked to environmental justice, but in addition to that, it fights for marginalized communities that are negatively impacted by [...] climate change. A lot of people think that climate justice is just fighting for more sustainability, but it also encompasses communities that are impacted by the capitalistic industry, which is a big component in perpetuating climate violence. So for example, [at] Standing Rock, that is a human-made violence against [...] indigenous communities for the purposes of extracting profits from fossil fuels. Or another form of climate violence would be the U.S. ignoring the victims in Puerto Rico impacted by Hurricane Maria.

Why is Mount Holyoke, or a university in general, a good place to initiate climate justice movements?

Mount Holyoke divestment is not going to dismantle the entire fossil fuel industry, but college and universities are a good place to make collective statements, because environmental justice is not just an individual act. By making a statement, Mount Holyoke might inspire peer institutions to do the same.

What are the challenges in divestment?

Concerns about [...] financial aid was mainly what our op-ed we submitted last year was about. A lot of people were against the [alumnae non-donation] pledge because they thought that us trying to stop the flow of donation would affect their financial aid. And here’s the thing: Mount Holyoke wants students at the College, like they want you to be here. They would never say ‘Sorry you have to leave because we can’t financially support you anymore.’ If they saw that enough money was not coming into the endowment for the reasons they want them to divest, they would do that rather than lose students, because no matter how much financial aid you get, everybody paid a lot of money to be here. So, people who worry that this non-donation pledge would affect their financial aid, it’s not going to because there is an unimaginable amount of money in the endowment. People think that scholarship money comes out of the endowment, that’s true, but scholarship funds are often funded by specific donors who marked their donation—‘this is going to go to this particular scholarship for this kind of student’. There will never be a situation in which they would say we are [going to] lower your financial aid because alumnae donation has stopped. We are fighting for divestment because we love Mount Holyoke and we want to make it better.

What are your plans moving forward?

JK: Our goal this semester is to give out more information about CJC, because there are a lot of misconceptions spread around the campus about us. Our reaching goal is to persuade the trustees to have another vote. I don’t know if it’s going to happen in the spring, but we would like it to.

Eco-Reps

(Rebecca Parker ’21)

How did you come up with events like War of the Watts?

We are just trying to encourage people to make a game out of reducing [their] waste, to think of things that people like doing, like a craft night or a popcorn party, and to find incentive for people to be more environmentally conscious without even thinking about it [...], because nobody wants to go to a serious lecture on recycling.

Among all the educational programs EcoReps have held, what is your favorite one?

Craft night. I love doing crafts, [...] or repurposing something that would have been thrown in the garbage, and mak[ing] it into something new. That’s something I really enjoy.

How do events like this play into environmental sustainability?

We try to encourage people to have fun in ways that are still environmentally friendly[...] it’s still showing that there [is] something you can do [to] have very low environmental impact that is still enjoyable.

Students for Zero Waste

(Kalia Goldstein ’22)

Tell us more about Zero Waste.

Students for Zero Waste aims to influence the way people consume and dispose of goods, promoting a more cyclical approach to waste, where products are used and valued, and their materials eventually put back into useful circulation. We would like to help students incorporate sustainability into everyday life and work with the school to make it more accessible for them to do so by pushing for change in the institution’s practices of consumption and disposal. I’m excited about all the projects SZW has coming down the road. We have so many ideas, but how much we can accomplish depends on the enthusiasm and cooperation of the student body. There is plenty of work to do so that our school as a whole can make a significant impact on the future of our planet. In a college setting, small changes have large results.

What is the impact the opening of SuperBlanch has had on food waste?

It would be wonderful if Dining Services would perform a waste audit, but we don’t have information about how SuperBlanch food waste compares to the old dining halls. We do know that in 2014 the elimination of paper to-go cups from the dining halls saved 81,650 cups (and the 3.3 tons of paper and 23,201 gallons of water needed to make them), and about $5,000. Clearly that didn’t last. Why not? We know that we were told dining will be moving toward reusable smoothie cups, but they still serve smoothies, sandwiches and some desserts in plastic. We know that the school failed to follow through on plans for a reusable grab-and-go container system by fall of 2018, and that Grab ’n Go uses plastic clamshell containers, but has no recycling.

Why plastic instead of compostable wax-paper?

The justification is apparently aesthetic reasons, so that customers can see the food. Since conversations [about] power can be slow to produce results, it is especially important that students engage in our side of waste reduction. Take small helpings at meals and go back for more as many times as needed. This will help with the “eyes bigger than your stomach” problem. The goal of SZW’s Clean Plate Club is to encourage students to reduce waste in this way. Those with clean plates may enter in a raffle to win fun, useful prizes. The first Clean Plate Club meeting will be on Halloween, but start practicing at every meal!

We will also make composting more accessible to students by handing out compost bags for your room and collecting them when you’re ready for a fresh one. This will be on Fridays. Keep an eye on Newsflush for details!

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