Highland Eco: Let’s pause to celebrate

This past week, I was inducted into the Spanish Honor Society in a Zoom breakout room. I unmuted to recite the initiation lines and blew out an imaginary candle to make things official. It was fun, but it didn’t feel real. 

Reflecting on this made me think about how many accomplishments haven’t felt like accomplishments lately because I haven’t been able to celebrate them. It started out with missing my high school graduation and scholarship banquet last year. And it’s gotten to the point that when I started a nonprofit a couple months ago, something I’ve been working on for three years now, I simply shed a few tears of joy, posted to Instagram, and moved on with life. 

I never thought I’d say this, but I’d love to strap on some heels I can’t actually walk in, eat some obnoxiously colorful grocery store cupcakes, and drink a red Solo cup of watery lemonade again. We’d recycle the cups, of course, but I think it’s about time we celebrated like we used to. 

With this in mind, I’d like to close this semester’s column by highlighting three of our recent environmental accomplishments. 

1. Green Box Rewards Program 

 A student’s punch cards from the Green Box Rewards Program. Filled punch cards can be redeemed for various prizes, including reusable water bottles, stickers, and gift cards.
Photo by Emily Huffstetler

Remember when our reusable takeout boxes were filled with Styrofoam cups and plasticware? The SGA and Mountain Challenge have since worked with Metz to offer an alternative. 

Now, if a student asks, they can receive a box with just a paper cup inside. Each time they do, they’ll receive a stamp on a punch card that can be redeemed for rewards. One full punch card is worth a reusable water bottle or Mountain Challenge sticker; two, a Mountain Challenge t-shirt or sweatshirt; and three, a $25 Bookstore gift card. 

The program started on April 1 and will run through the end of the semester. The SGA has discussed bringing the program back next semester if students engage with it enough, so I highly recommend participating. I’m using it to help cut the cost of my textbooks. 

2. Environmental Policy Panel 

 A screenshot taken at the environmental policy panel of panelists Emily Guillame (top right), Carmela Lewis (middle left), and Mark O’Gorman (bottom), along with moderators Jane Meadows (top left) and Ali Lawson (middle right).
Photo by Emily Huffstetler.

MC Votes recently held a panel that broke down and analyzed President Joe Biden’s environmental policies. Panelists included biology major Carmela Lewis, environmental public policy and environmental sustainability expert Mark O’ Gorman, and environment and natural resources attorney Emily Guillame. 

They discussed the influence young activists have had on Biden’s policies and shared ways that MC students can wield the same power. Suggestions included getting involved on campus, voting in local and federal elections, making learning a part of your everyday life and creating space for others to join your efforts. 

If you missed the panel, it’s worth catching up. You can contact Jane Meadows, a member of MC Votes, to access the recording. 

3. McGill Pollinator Garden 

 A sneak peek at the brochures and seed packets to be given away at the pollinator garden. They were created by Lauren Huffstetler, a local Girl Scout, as a part of her Gold Award project.
Photo by Lauren Huffstetler.

Members of the McGill Environmental Justice cohort have recently planted a pollinator garden by the Crawford House. They plan to install a fence around it by the end of the semester that students will have the opportunity to decorate together. 

My little sister, Lauren, will be attaching an outdoor brochure box to the fence that’ll be filled with free pollinator-friendly seed packets and brochures about pollinators. She’s a rising senior in high school, and this will be a part of her Girl Scout Gold Award project geared toward supporting pollinators. You can check out @pollinateourplanet on Instagram to learn more. 

Helping the Earth is an ongoing fight, but we deserve to celebrate our progress. This summer let’s take the time to reflect and recharge. In the fall, I’ll ease us back into action. 

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