Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
August 1, 2021
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COURTESY OF STUDENTS FOR ENVIRONMENTAL ACTION

SEA’s pollinator garden, which features plants native to Baltimore, is located by the FFC.

Despite the pandemic, student groups continue working to improve sustainability at Hopkins. Many have launched various initiatives and events to celebrate Earth Day on April 22.  

Students for Environmental Action (SEA) is holding its annual Planet Runway show virtually. The event is intended to raise awareness about the fast fashion’s negative effects on the environment. Submissions were collected throughout the month. 

SEA Treasurer Keelin Reilly described the concept of the show in an interview with The News-Letter.

“The idea is to show us how you have reused old material in an exciting way to create a new fashion piece,” he said. 

SEA is also hosting a native plant giveaway on April 30 and will be distributing materials for community members to grow their own pollinator gardens at home. The organization has been developing a native pollinator garden on campus, which is currently located outside the Fresh Food Cafe. 

According to Reilly, the event highlights the success of the campus garden thus far.

“We have all sorts of lovely things in that garden,“ he said. “At the native plant giveaway, we'll actually be giving what we’ve planted there.”

Those who are interested in picking up their own plant kits can sign up here. The pickup will be an outdoor, socially distanced event. 

Other groups are focusing on different aspects of sustainability. Last February, Hopkins announced its shift to a self-operated dining model, terminating its contract with Bon Appétit Management Company. Real Food Hopkins has been working with Hopkins Dining Programs to plan for this transition after years of lobbying for a more just and sustainable campus food system.

Sophomore Casey Levitt, an executive board member of Real Food, reported that the group met with administrators to discuss its proposal for the transition. Real Food is advocating for a dining model guided by four principles: centering students, investment in Baltimore, supply chain responsibility and waste reduction. 

“It’s still going to be about a year and a half before the new dining model is actually achieved,” she said. “We want to make sure that this new dining program will reflect what students and community members want.”

According to Levitt, the organization outlined two demands for Hopkins in preparation for the new dining model: transparency and the appointment of a Baltimore-based food specialist. The food specialist would be in charge of representing the needs of local stakeholders and preserving the networks between Hopkins and the city’s food systems.

Since having a Baltimore-based food system is important to the organization, she stressed that these demands are meant to give students and community members a chance to voice their concerns and be a part of the process.

“Hopkins really isn’t trusted in Baltimore, and our dining program is another major way that Hopkins will be affecting the community,” she said.

Freshman Jason Lin, another executive board member, noted that while the administration was supportive of the organization’s four pillars, it was more hesitant about meeting the two demands.

“It seemed that Hopkins administration wanted to be in the front seat for the transition rather than let students take control,” he said. “We were unhappy about that since they were not as receptive as we hoped and didn’t make any concrete promises.” 

Levitt added that Real Food Hopkins will continue sharing its petition to garner support.

“We’re definitely going to use the momentum of increased awareness around environmental issues during Earth Day to further promote what we’ve been working on,” she said.

Additionally, The Sustainability Leadership Council (SLC) hosted its second annual symposium on April 9. The theme of this year’s symposium was “Collective Action for Environmental Justice,” featuring author Carolyn Finney as the keynote speaker. SLC’s purpose is to advise the provost on how to increase sustainability in different aspects of campus life. 

Senior Mack Taylor, a representative of SLC, emphasized that environmental justice has been a focus of the council this year. 

“Because Hopkins has such a large effect on its surrounding communities, it is especially important for the administration to put sustainability at the forefront of its decision-making processes,” she said. 

She noted that SLC’s GreenGroups 2021 initiative ends on Earth Day. GreenGroups is a one-month program launched by SLC to encourage student groups to be more sustainable. Organizations that signed up for the program chose different behaviors to make more sustainable for each of the four weeks. Accordingly, SLC created the Sustainable Living Guide to help affiliates become more environmentally conscious. 

“We found that we could target student groups and use their leadership structures to get them engaged,” Taylor said. “We wanted to help students adopt a mindset of sustainability and reflect on ‘What is the purpose of this? How can I get an environmental bang for my buck and make a significant impact on my surrounding community?’’”

Students registered and logged their actions on CampusGroups, and SLC will award prizes to the top-three students whose actions made the most eco-friendly impact. According to Taylor, over 20 groups have signed up, and 200 students have been actively participating. 

The University’s Office of Sustainability has been organizing for Earth Day as well. It created Earth Week 2021: Strive for Zero Waste Challenge to encourage students to engage in environmental issues and incorporate sustainability into their everyday lives.

The challenge is taking place from April 19 to April 26, and students can register at this link anytime before April 26 to join. Participants will record their points in a Google Form, and the top-three scorers will be awarded prizes. 

Sophomore Talia Shadroui, an eco-representative for the Office of Sustainability, described the purpose of this challenge.

“Earth Week is a way for students to engage with sustainability issues and try to get involved in sustainability efforts,” she said. “A lot of the action items are simple and very doable. The goal is to help people realize that these changes are sustainable beyond Earth Week.”

 As of press time, The News-Letter was unable to reach out to Hopkins Dining Programs for comment. 

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