This blog post was written by Project Green Challenge finalist and rising Junior at University of Delaware, Emily Behnke. She successfully led her peers in a victory against the school administration over plans to allow a fossil fuel power plant to be built on campus. Now she is leading a campaign to Green the Green and eliminate toxic herbicides from campus commons that impact the entire UD community.
On April 27th, the University of Delaware had the awesome privilege of welcoming back Turning Green and the Conscious College Road Tourfor the third year in a row.
The day began in front of Gore Hall, smack in the middle of the Green—one of the most high-traffic locations on campus. Our amazing team of volunteers arrived right at 7:30am to assemble the immense train of earth-friendly bliss that is the Conscious Information Station. We unloaded, unpacked, and unwrapped until every little Aubrey lotion sample and Numi tea bag was on display and ready for the taking by the curious onlookers gathering nearby.
By 11AM, we were open and ready to spread the eco-love. Students travelled from station to station and learned from each volunteer about everything from hemp and zero waste to food and cleaning products. They learned the Dirty Thirty and the Clean Fifteen (who knew some fruits absorb more pesticides than others? they said). They learned what GMO stands for, (genetically modified organisms) and that hemp can become clothes and buildings and food, but that it’s illegal to grow in the United States. They learned things they never thought they would standing outside of an academic building—like that traditional condoms contain carcinogens and are often made with animal products.
Most importantly, though, they learned that there are SO MANY options for living a more sustainable life—products that are equivalent in functionality to the conventional brands they use now, but are also far superior in quality. Hundreds of students embraced the whole experience and realized that choices around conscious living are infinite. There’s no need to sacrifice human and environmental health.
At the close of Information Station part of our day, we began preparation for Part Two: the Town Hall Meeting. All during the day we spread the word about the nighttime gathering, so by the time we all met in the Redding Hall Lounge, we had a room full of students ready to talk sustainability, particularly how we were going to galvanize a campaign around Greening the Green at our school. Everyone dined on a feast of Chipotle as Judi and Erin introduced themselves and gave an awesome presentation about Turning Green.
Then we got to work. Prior to the Town Hall, our environmental groups decided that the meeting’s theme would be our ongoing campaign to Green the Green, our fight to stop the spraying of toxic herbicides and pesticides on our campus green spaces. With help from the amazing Tiffany Fink-Haynes from the DC based non-profit organization Friends of the Earth—we gave the group some background on Green the Green. Tiffany has great experience with this very campaign on other campuses and journeyed to UD for the entire day’s activities. Then Judi and Tiffany broke down the campaign process for everyone. We shared a few stories about how the herbicide usage has impacted us—from allergies to rashes—and then broke up into three committees—Logistics, Research, and Science—to discuss our next courses of action.
By the end of the night those committees had brainstormed an incredible plethora of ideas (like using one of our brave fighters to lay down on the grass and test their own blood for chemicals) from a whole range of different perspectives. Because of that meeting, Green the Green was invigorated, complete with many new passionate student activists ready to change the world, first by changing their school.
For students, this day each time Road Tour visits is more of an experience than an event, and I am so grateful to have been able to help plan it again. This year was a huge success, as it has been every year. The Road Tour continues to impact students long after the tables have been cleared and the last of Chipotle, eaten. Thank you to every single one of our unbelievably hard-working volunteers, to Tiffany for your presence and wisdom, and of course to Judi and Erin, for everything.