In the last two weeks of September, over thirty Ursuline girls gathered behind the construction that encompasses our beautiful campus; armed with garden gloves, small spades and fresh manure, they are ready to make a change and help turn Ursuline green.
Seniors Juliana Stanford and Emily Martin led the endeavor as co-presidents of Ursuline’s Environmental Science Club. They picked up plants and supplies at Home Depot and planned to revitalize two garden beds and produce herbs and vegetables for food-bank donation. Club moderators Ms. Bové and Ms. Merani were there to aid supervision and support.
The club planted the garden as part of a “systems approach” to help aid parts of the community left hungry.
“A systems approach is a wholistic approach that analyzes a given problem and finds an eco-friendly solution. Not only does our garden promote biodiversity, teach girls basics about planting, and is a fun outdoor service project, but it also provides organic and healthy donations [to feed greater Dallas],” explains the Environmental Science Club in an Instagram caption concerning the garden.
As one of the presidents of the Environmental Science Club, Julianna Stanford claims, “all I want to do is beautify our campus and hopefully help beautify our Earth. I hope that by helping the environment and engaging my Ursuline community I am able to accomplish this goal.”
The Environmental Science Club is not alone at UA. Youth for Our Home, a student-led environmentalist group conceived by Ursuline seniors Emma Grimes and Julianna Sierra, is also working to educate and engage Dallas teens in their effort to save the environment.
“I hope Youth for Our Home will impact Dallas high schoolers by simply knowing what is going on. Emma and I want to make YFOH [Youth for Our Home] a non-profit so it will stay active even after we leave for college. We also hope to encourage everyone to make eco-friendly habits,” said Sierra when recapping the club’s goals.
A huge tool for these student-led environment organizations is social media. Through trendy Instagram infographics and scenic pictures urging followers to preserve the beauty of the earth, clubs are able to reach across the screen and engage their followers in their effort to help spread environmental awareness.
“Instagram has been our best way to engaging people. Posting weekly tips has changed some people’s habits. Even I have adapted some from seeing what Emma or the UA Environmental Club posts,” said Sierra.
The effort is part of a bigger shift happening on campus, a rising concern for students’ environmental impact and a recognition of their ability to make a change. This movement, though especially visible at Ursuline, is not in isolation. Teens have united under 17-year-old Greta Thunberg’s battle-cry and are ready to reverse generations of pollution and climate change.
“We showed that we are united and that we, young people, are unstoppable,” said Greta at the UN Youth Climate Summit in New York City on September 21st, 2019.
At Ursuline, efforts to make an environmental impact are visible everywhere, whether it be by students bringing their own water-bottles, wearing re-usable masks, or reducing their single-use plastic consumption.
“I really hope we have shifted the conception of what it means to be an environmentalist. I was so scared to start my club because of the prejudices I had in my mind about environmentalists: I didn’t want people to see me as that hippie, vegan, socialist, etc, not that it’s bad of course to be those things, but that’s not me,” said Grimes on her hopes for Youth for Our Home.
Another important credit to the movement is Ms. Bové, the teacher of Ursuline’s Environmental Science class. Through teaching, she has empowered her students to change their habits. Students find that by engaging in class discussions, watching well-curated documentaries, and conducting research-based projects, they are motivated to lead more sustainable lives. Some examples of this lifestyle include decreasing meat consumption, abstaining from worshiping at the fast-fashion alter and using re-usable items.
“Last year in Biology Ms. Bove showed us a video of the reality of climate change. After seeing the terrible damage humans have made, I felt terrible and wanted to help,” said Sierra, co-founder of Youth for Our Home.
The empowerment of education is an important aspect of environmental change. No one can force a lifestyle on anyone, but by education these clubs hope to inspire change. For Ursuline students, it is up to them to make the most out of these education opportunities.
“I think Ursuline has tried their best but it’s about us, the students, to make change. No school or organization can make everyone vegan and zero waste but they can provide education and opportunities. Ursuline has several sections of Environmental Science and AP Environmental Science online,” said Sierra.
Through learning, Grimes was also inspired to make a change. Her passion for the environment started after reading The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming by David Wallace Wells.
“After just the first page, felt dumfounded. I was shocked and speechless by how serious climate change is, and how nobody is doing anything,” said Grimes.
For students interested in contributing to this movement, there are plenty of places to start. Whether it be by taking Environmental Science, joining a club, or scrolling through an Instagram, any effort makes an impact.
For newcomers to environmental activism, Grimes said, “Start small, like bringing reusable bags, a reusable cup, stop buying plastic water bottles, and reduce meat consumption. Also keep in mind that 100 companies are responsible for 71% of the global GHGs, so don’t feel too guilty for not doing a “perfect” job. The best thing to do is vote! Put people in office that have vowed to act on climate change and don’t take money/donations from big oil!” Sierra adds, “I would say to educate yourself. My goal is to show you the facts and from there you will decide what to do. Becoming more eco-friendly can’t be forced.”