Opening Doors to a Network of Sustainability Efforts

Drawing interest from across the campus community, a lively gathering of environmental groups marked the College’s annual Sustainability Showcase, held in the Science Center last week.

Education and advocacy were the themes for the afternoon as students, faculty, and staff enjoyed a lunch—offered in compostable plates and cups—while they explored exhibit tables and posters. Student groups included the President's Sustainability Research Fellows (PSRF), the Green Advisors, the Zero Waste committee, and Garnet Go Green

“With all the wonderful people who I’ve met, each of them devoted to sustainability in their own way, it was a given that I would come to the Sustainability Showcase and have a fantastic time learning more about the countless projects happening on campus and in Swarthmore Borough,” says Sacha Lin ’20, from Studio City, Calif.

Hosting the annual showcase is a favorite part of Melissa Tier’s ’14 role as sustainability program manager. “The Sustainability Office is fortunate to be able to collaborate with a wide range of engaged community members," Tier says, "so the showcase is a fantastic opportunity every year to both bring on- and off-campus partners together and to share their phenomenal work in a public setting."

Introducing the local groups that work to protect the environment helps students see the impact they can have beyond campus. Roberta Winters of the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania represented the League’s position on amassing property for the extraction of natural gas from the Marcellus Shale. “We need to have informed residents,” she said. “Education is the first step to understanding policy.”

Professor of Engineering Carr Everbach is one of many who attended Friday’s event. He believes nothing is more important to solving environmental problems than fostering collaborations between different groups, including nonprofits. “The Sustainability Showcase was a great way to bring people together,” he says.

Josh Medel ’18, a sociology & anthropology and educational studies major from Blue Island, Ill., presented on behalf of the Green Advisors program. “During my freshman year, the Green Advisors was merely a student club that struggled to attract more than five members for our weekly meetings,” says Medel. “At the showcase, I was able to share all the projects and initiatives that this year's team has spearheaded.” 

It felt strange, but powerful, Medel said, “to reflect on how much progress we, and many other environmental groups, have made in just under four years.”

Standing out among the crowd of presenters was Sayed Malawi ’18, a computer science major from Fairfax, Va., who wore a bird mask while talking about the Swarthmore Bird Club. “Students might not realize the diversity of initiatives we have taking place through academic departments, student clubs, and community organizations,” says Malawi, an enthusiastic bird watching advocate who organizes trips on and off campus. “Events like the showcase are really important for informing and expanding the sustainability community on campus. It's also a great opportunity for existing organizations to learn about each other and initiate collaboration on future programs.”

Other off-campus groups included Swarthmore Co-op and Farmers Market, the Post-Landfill Action Network, PennEnvironment, and Citizens' Climate Lobby.

“Though I've learned about many of these sustainability initiatives through my experiences with the PSRF program, I’ve realized that there are many exciting projects I have yet to encounter,” says Sue Brennan, an assistant director in Advancement. “I was excited to attend the Sustainability Showcase to learn more about the dedicated sustainability work being done by our community and I am thankful to our friends for their commitment and their passion.” 

Learn about Swarthmore’s impact on the local and global community at lifechanging.swarthmore.edu.