Sustainability at Bryn Mawr

From Celine Chen

Emily Barry is a math and environmental studies double major, so our paths have crossed many times in different math classes and department events.  I’ve really gotten to know Emily this year through study/work sessions, and I’ve discovered she has such an amazing, positive energy about her. Emily is also involved in a lot of interesting events/organizations around campus (including sustainability efforts) so I invited her to share her experience at Bryn Mawr.

Visiting a marsh in New Jersey for class.

From Emily Barry ’19

When I came to Bryn Mawr nearly four years ago, I knew little about sustainability and I knew even less about what sustainability looked like at Bryn Mawr. If someone would have told me then that I’d be double majoring in Environmental Studies and Mathematics and would be involved in as many sustainability related projects as my busy schedule would allow, I probably would’ve laughed at them. But looking back at my path and how I got to where I am today, I realize that it’s not so odd after all. Bryn Mawr has given me so many opportunities to learn about and care for the environment through coursework, internships, and experiential learning. Although I didn’t truly realize this passion until the summer between my sophomore and junior year, it wasn’t too late. When you’re passionate about something, no matter if it’s freshmen year, junior year, or even when you’re 50, there are still opportunities to act on it.

Visited the Washington Monument while in DC for a conference during my summer internship.

My interest in sustainability began during an internship with a professor the summer after my sophomore year. I spent the summer looking up high school lesson plans that included sustainability. The project I worked on aimed to provide actionable and applicable lesson plans about sustainability to students in the School District of Philadelphia. Although I realized that I didn’t necessarily want to go into education, I began learning about different ways individuals can make a big impact on the world.

The following semester, I had the wonderful opportunity to participate in a 360, a cluster of academic courses within different disciplines centered around a common theme. Included in these clusters is a trip somewhere in the world that serves as a case study for the course content. My 360 was on Climate Change which included a trip to Freiburg, Germany over fall break.

A picture from my 360 with wind turbines in the background.

I took a philosophy course on technology, a geology course on energy resources, and a politics course on global climate change. I like to think that this 360 is what truly sparked my interest in the environment. I became passionate about political topics I never knew about, became an advocate for renewable energy, and got into many debates about technology and whether or not we should move to outer space. It didn’t hurt that I was able to go to Germany too. I ended up loving the trip so much that during the spring semester of my junior year, I studied abroad in the exact same city in a program for environmental studies and sustainability. My 360 and study abroad experiences gave me the opportunity to get involved in hands-on sustainability projects, experience a sustainable lifestyle that was innovative and exciting, and find ways to problem solve in a world that is drastically changing.

Snowshoeing in the Black Forest on a trip while studying abroad.

View of the Swiss Alps from another trip while abroad.

In my final year at Bryn Mawr, I wanted to reign in my focus and learn about Bryn Mawr’s sustainability efforts. During this past year I’ve had an on-campus job as a sustainability coordinator working within our facilities department and alongside the Green Ambassadors, Bryn Mawr’s main green group. Some of the things I’ve learned in this role include the fact that we exclusively purchase electricity generated by wind power, we offer hundreds of courses that incorporate sustainability, and our campus is an arboretum. I’ve also been able to participate in a lot of planning processes including designing the college’s first sustainability website (coming soon!), organizing the inter-dorm energy reduction competition and Earth Week festivities, and brainstorming the possibility of reusable take-out containers in the dining halls. By focusing on the campus this year, I’ve been able to help make real, actionable change by figuring out the ways to make small, but impactful change. Bryn Mawr has provided me with so many opportunities to explore my passion for sustainability, just like it does for so many other people and their passions.

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