What happens to green initiatives and clubs on campus when the cold Wisconsin weather is uninviting and hardly even green itself? While some facets of environmental awareness and activism are put on hold during the winter, others remain in full force and continuously benefit the earth.
According to sophomore Chelsea Johnson, co-president of Greenfire, “Environmentalism doesn’t really change in the winter. In fact, sometimes it gets harder because we depend so much more on energy and imported food.”
However, she thinks it is important that everyone try to remain as conscious about environmentalism in the winter as in the spring and summer. Johnson said, “We shouldn’t forget about these issues in the winter. In fact, we should be more aware of them.”
Johnson explains that political activism remains very active during the winter, regardless of the weather. Last November, Johnson and other members of Greenfire traveled to Washington D.C. to protest the creation of the Keystone XL Pipeline.
On March 3, a group of Lawrentians will be protesting again — but this time they will stay much closer to campus. At 11 a.m., protesters will join members of the Appleton community and gather outside of 8th Congressional District Representative Reid Ribble’s office.
According to Ecology and Conservation Organization Greenfire member junior Caitlin Buhr, this protest aims to “call out Ribble on allowing fossil fuel companies to influence his environmental decisions.”
ECO is a small and relatively new club at Lawrence that was created at the end of last year. Currently, it serves to bring awareness to environmental concerns by sponsoring guest speakers, working closely with Greenfire and aiming to educate members of the Lawrence and Appleton community about biology and ecology.
ECO plans to reach out to children of Appleton March 10 at the International Wildlife Center of Wisconsin in the Appleton City Center. At this event, held from 1 to 3 p.m., volunteers from Lawrence will be teaching about different aspects of wildlife.
Aside from these events, both Johnson and Buhr agree that environmental awareness and activities do not necessarily diminish in the winter. While Buhr said, “there is definitely less work to be done outside” in the winter, the need to continue environmentalism continues throughout the year.
According to Johnson, “Greenfire started a food co-op last year.” This co-op strives to make guidelines that require mindful eating and food purchasing. The involved members make “environmentally-friendly rules that are strict but not limiting,” said Johnson.
For example, the co-op does not buy any produce from Mexico, but only from the U.S. and Canada. They eat fresh greens raised in local hoop houses and rely on canned and frozen food they preserved from last year’s fall harvests.
Johnson thinks practice is a great way to be environmentally responsible during winter and surprisingly satisfying experience to eat local and seasonal food. Said Johnson, “It’s gratifying to see that you can eat well, get all your nutrients and eat really tasty food in the winter.”
Aside from political activism and events of Greenfire, there are ways to stay committed to protecting the environment, even in the barren depths of winter.
Recently, new recycling receptacles were placed in various locations throughout campus. The blue bins, usually next to the wooden, brown trash containers outside of academic and residence hall buildings, provide easily accessible recycling locations.
Buhr is excited about these new additions to campus because she “knows that people on campus really care about recycling.” Freshmen Caitlin Tracy and Annica Mandeltort also see the value in these new bins.
Tracy and Mandeltort both agree that Lawrence students are committed to recycling. Said Tracy, “I think we could do a better job at separating the recycling, but overall we’re very aware of the environment.”
Johnson also sees value in how we usually respond to winter weather: staying inside and spending time with others. Said Johnson, “I think winter in general is more of a time for reflection.”
She also explains that Greenfire spends time preparing for upcoming events and initiatives. “It’s a time when we get a lot of new ideas for the spring and do a lot of planning, such as planning for trips and organizing ‘Earthweek.'”
Even if the outside environment seems less than green during the winter, it is still important to remember to treat the earth with respect and continue to practice environmental awareness.
If you are interested in participating in the upcoming protest, contact Chelsea Johnson for more information. If you are interested in volunteering at the International Wildlife Center of Wisconsin, contact Caitlin Buhr.