Features

Going Green with Campus Climate Activists

by Adrienne Hutto & Jocelyn VisnovStaff Writers  Repping some Jasper pride isn’t the only way to “go green” this year. Manhattan College has a host of students and faculty members who are passionate about promoting environmental sustainability both on and off campus. Even the difficulties of hybrid learning could not stop our staff and students in their fight for climate justice and environmental awareness. Student involvement has largely been the support system for climate justice on campus. Mary Stahl is one of the students involved in promoting environmental activism. This year, under the environmental studies program, she created the Environmental Newsletter which helps to inform and connect interested students to on campus clubs and events, issues happening here in New York City, the environmental work being done by students, and any other interesting information under the umbrella of environmental activism.

Student activists often get involved with initiatives in Van Cortlandt Park, in the backyard of Manhattan College. MARY STAHL / COURTESY

The newsletter aims to unite clubs on campus by promoting environmental events and aims to get students more involved by allowing them to share their experiences and knowledge. The newsletter’s reach has been positive, allowing for more events on campus.  “The feedback from the Environmental Newsletter has been very positive, students have responded well to being able to see everything going on at MC, but also it allows alumni to see what jobs may be an option for them, and see NYC events that could enrich their classes and interests,” Stahl said.  Upcoming events that can be found in the Environmental Newsletter include Sustainable Food Week, which is from Nov. 9 to 13. This will consist of a week-long food drive and fundraiser for the local Community Fridge (@thefriendlyfridgebox), food scrap drop-off and break down days, panels with Manhattan College faculty, a panel on Feeding the Bronx Community and another on Urban and Rural Farming, as well as other events still in the planning process.   During Sustainable Food Week students can bring food scraps to help contribute to compost. Compostable waste includes, but is not limited to, fruit and vegetable scraps, coffee grounds, tea bags and eggshells.  “Composting is one I am working for right now, trying the get Locke’s to compost their food scraps as well as allow students to drop off food scraps at a designated site where they can be composted with the landscaping scraps from the campus, and used on our rooftop garden and for our other plantings on campus,” Stahl said. “This has been done before here on campus, but it has received some resistance.”  Dylan Kadish, an environmental studies major, is another member of the student body who is devoted to promoting climate justice and environmental policy.  “The Manhattan College student body should be excited about the future of sustainability,” Kadish said. “Whether you’re a business, science, engineering, or sociology major, there is a vital connection that you can make to sustainability.”  Since late in the summer, Kadish has become involved with the Jessica4NYC campaign for the city council. After giving a presentation to the Bronx Council for Environmental Equality, Jessica Haller, a political candidate and climate activist, reached out to Kadish and he shortly became part of their team. Since then, he has helped research and construct more than 10 policies for the campaign.  “I have had a great experience working with the campaign,” Kadish said. “It has given me leadership experience, as I led about 15 other interns throughout the summer regarding policy research. It has given me research experience, policy writing experience, and public relations [and] communications experience.” Although Kadish is remote this semester, his favorite thing to do on campus is go to the rooftop garden. For those attending classes in-person this semester, Kadish shares some simple advice on how students can be more environmentally aware.   “Before you buy something, ask if you really need the item,” he said. “If you do, ask yourself if it’s reusable or sustainable. If either of the answers are no, find a different thing– sustainable options are everywhere.”  Julian Silverman, an assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry, is very involved in environmental activism both on and off campus. He works with students on projects that allow them to utilize their knowledge of biology and chemistry to create projects that promote sustainability. He also works with the Center for Urban Resilience and Environmental Sustainability, which aims to bring scientific research, social science analysis, and engineering expertise together within the sphere of environmental activism. CURES has a Manhattan College branch which lists events, projects, jobs, and internships on Manhattan College’s website. 

Rooftop Garden where produce is grown and harvested. MARY STAHL / COURTESY

Silverman will also teach a 200-level course next semester, Environmental Science, which invites students from engineering and the humanities to look at the safety and sustainability of chemicals. This class allows students to look at and decide if products are actually green and sustainable, while also keeping in mind the price of products.  Robin Lovell, Ph.D, has worked hands-on with several environmental awareness organizations on campus. As a professor of the geography and sociology departments, Lovell provides students with additional knowledge and advice from an expert in the field.  I try to show up to as many club meetings and organizational meetings so that I can be of help and guidance there,” Lovell said. “I also have students working directly for me on research, trying to help them build job skills and professional skills to make a difference when they graduate and even before they graduate.”  While Lovell enjoys helping out and getting students involved, its MC students that take the lead in improving sustainability practices and increasing awareness.  “I think that Manhattan College students are the leaders on this,” Lovell said. “Some of the faculty might know someone and bring a speaker to campus or something like that, but I really think it’s the students leading the charge on sustainability issues, especially like the fair trade movement, and bringing compost and recycling to campus.”  Dart Westphal, the department chair of urban studies, explained the importance of understanding the environmental crisis currently facing the world. He says that it cannot easily be solved with technological solutions but instead there needs to be a complete shift in our approach to things such as fashion and food. Westphal is working to get students engaged in local environmental issues, specifically in Van Cortlandt Park and along the Bronx and Harlem River.  “We’re trying to tie it into the academic program,” Westphal said. “When it comes to the move for climate justice on campus, I think that it’s students that have to make that case and be in the front for that.”