Climate change is such a big issue, it feels like as one person you really can’t make a difference. But if you get a group of like-minded people together, you can do more. It’s empowering to work as a group and know we can tackle these huge issues that seemed impossible.
Growing up on Cape Cod, senior Sean Walsh says he witnessed the ways in which climate change affected his surroundings.
“I’ve seen the declining fisheries, plastic pollution and rising sea levels,” the Harwich resident said. “The beaches I had gone to as a child have less and less sand each year, as erosion takes a toll. For me the oceans have always been very important.”
That’s why when he was approached about joining the Environmental Action Team he didn’t hesitate.
An economics major with a minor in sustainability, Sean is now the president of the club, which at the start of the spring semester had about 10 members and is always looking for more.
“Climate change is such a big issue, it feels like as one person you really can’t make a difference,” he said. “But if you get a group of like-minded people together, you can do more. It’s empowering to work as a group and know we can tackle these huge issues that seemed impossible.”
The Environmental Action Team was founded in 2018 by Anna Lockett, ’19, a marketing major from Somerset, who is now a volunteer with AmeriCorps working in marketing and community outreach with the YMCA of Greater Boston’s education and training branch. The student-run club’s official mission is to promote sustainable and regenerative change on campus. Members are responsible for educating the BSU community about ecological issues, providing solutions for unsustainable practices and “having fun while making positive change.”
The impetus for the formation of the club was right outside Ms. Lockett’s residence hall door.
“I noticed things on campus that weren’t that sustainable, and I thought if we had a group of students, we could make a change,” she said.
Aliza Nantais, ’20, who majored in English, was the first to sign on. She and Ms. Lockett expanded the club’s ranks by enlisting friends; word of mouth brought in others.
The members meet weekly (which they continued to do virtually in the first half of 2021 due to the pandemic) and hold cleanup events on campus. They also affiliated themselves with faculty members of BSU’s Sustainability Program and hosted movie nights, where club members and others concerned about the environment watched relevant documentaries.
In 2019, the club’s first project was a fundraiser for the United Kingdom-based Tree Sisters, a social change organization with a mission important to members of the BSU group: accelerating tropical reforestation around the world.
The Environmental Action Team partnered with local business Equal Exchange, a worker-owned cooperative, to raise money for Tree Sisters. They brought in enough funds for the organization to plant 335 trees in several rainforests around the world.
The team also procured additional recycling bins in East Campus Commons, worked on the campus’ permaculture gardens, created handbags from repurposed materials from the BSU Costume Shop, organized a campus-wide climate strike, volunteered at the Garlic and Arts Festival in Orange, hosted a sustainable items giveaway and held an event to educate students about the importance of voting for political candidates who want to protect the environment.
However, in 2020, the pandemic wreaked havoc with the team’s plans, said Franklin resident Haley Normandin, ’21.
“We were faced with two options – stop the club and return in the fall, or choose to move online,” said Haley, former club president. It was clear to the group that interrupting their work wasn’t an option. They’ve been conducting meetings online, sharing ecologically focused documentaries via laptop and remaining as active as possible in the community with socially distanced cleanups.
In addition to educating their peers and others about the environment, along with holding local events, the club has served another important purpose, Haley said, especially through its regular meetings. “I think this is a very important time for clubs because everyone is feeling so isolated. It gives people a sense of consistency.”