Student Environmental Activism at MHC

Posted: March 9, 2007

What do water bottles, climate change, and tampons have in common? Just ask any of the members of Mount Holyoke College's Environmental Action Coalition (EAC). This spring EAC is involved in several campaigns, including bottled water usage, menstrual health advocacy, and climate-change awareness.

As one of the most active and visible student groups this year, EAC has led numerous campaigns and worked with staff and the administration, including facilities management, to make positive changes for the College. Since the creation of EAC almost three years ago, the group has worked with the administration to initiate composting in the dining halls, to recycle and set energy challenges that engage the entire campus, and to help form a community garden initiative.

"Before EAC, there were many different environment-related initiatives happening on campus, but no one was talking to everyone, which was a huge problem. EAC helped to pull students, faculty, staff, and the administration together to work toward common goals. As result, a lot of progress has been made in the past three years, but there is still much more that we can do," said Michelle Moon '07, former EAC cochair.

EAC began this semester with a campaign to educate the community about the problems associated with the bottled water industry, such as lack of EPA regulations and contamination in the bottled water sold in the United States. This campaign uses discarded bottles in the form of an art installation around campus.

Another ongoing campaign this semester is "Tampaction," which is part of a larger national campaign led by the Student Environmental Action Coalition (SEAC). Members of EAC have stationed themselves at events for the Center for Environment, the Weissman Center for Leadership, and the Vagina Monologues to educate women about menstrual and reproductive health. The coalition hopes that through education women will begin to think about menstruation in a different light and become aware of the problems associated with the products they use. EAC is also collaborating with the Sexual Health Educators (SHE) and the Student Coalition for Action (SCA) to increase awareness.

EAC launched another weeklong campaign in early March called "Trash on the Lawn Day," which involves collecting the trash from a selected dorm and administrative building. Once the trash is sorted into the waste and recyclables it will be put behind Blanchard Campus Center for students to see how much of what they throw out could be recycled.

Other ongoing EAC campaigns, including Green Computing, Focus the Nation, and the Campus Climate Challenge, are all working to reduce the College's energy consumption and create awareness of the global problem of climate change. In April EAC will participate in the second annual Roots of Community Festival and various events surrounding Earth Day.

In addition to the campaigns the coalition works closely with the other Green Partners, including the Center for Environment (CE), Environmental Stewardship Office, the Botanic Garden, and the Five College energy and recycling programs. This is where ideas, campaigns, and initiatives truly come together. EAC has been instrumental in helping to plan and publicize the CE's winter-spring program, Voices from Silent Spring, which focuses on women, health, and the environment.

EAC realizes the importance of working together with the entire College to create solid campaigns and to make positive changes on campus. As made clear in their mission statement, "EAC aims to educate and engage the Mount Holyoke College community in ecological responsibility, which shall be both locally and globally focused. As members of this community, we challenge the College to adopt and commit to conservation and sustainability through its institutional practices." The 30 active members of EAC are continually striving toward the goals of the coalition: to improve Mount Holyoke College's responsibility to the community and the planet.

Related Links:

MHC's Environmental Action Coalition

Center for the Environment

Student Environmental Action Coalition

Campus Climate Challenge Focus the Nation