Ramapo celebrates efforts towards sustainability at fair

Photo by Erica Meline

Ramapo College has been devoted to sustainability since its founding and uses sustainability as a “guiding principle,” according to Ramapo College’s website. On-campus clubs are an integral component to Ramapo’s commitment to sustainability.

Many of the College’s student-led organizations focus on promoting sustainability and help students implement it into their everyday lives.

To celebrate these clubs’ shared dedication to sustainability, Ramapo hosted a Sustainability Fair last Thursday. At the event, like-minded students had the opportunity to learn more about sustainable practices as well as become familiar with the campus organizations.

There was a healthy mix of fun activities and informational tables located throughout the Trustees Pavilion, giving students both an educational and enjoyable experience.

The organization 1STEP had members scattered throughout the event, running many of the tables at the fair. Senior Co-Presidents of 1STEP Afnan Khairullah and Cassie Bernyk greeted attendees as they arrived, welcoming them into the celebration of sustainable living.

“The point of the event is to have students get together and do something related to sustainability, something that they’re passionate about.”

Bernyk then went on to explain that 1STEP is very influential in orchestrating environmental efforts at Ramapo and is on the “front line of the sustainability movement on campus.”

This year, 1STEP has been focusing specifically on advocating zero-waste efforts, and many of the activities at the fair represented this. One of these events was zero-waste snack activity, where students could bring their own jars to fill with delicious and nutritionally beneficial treats.

Sophomore and secretary of 1STEP Pete Besegai was running this activity, and he explained that minimizing wasteful practices can have a considerable impact on the environment. He stated that they purchased the snacks for the activity at ShopRite from the store’s bulk section, opting to use cloth bags and glass jars instead of plastic bags which are not recyclable.

He explained that decreasing the amount of packaging that people use is an easy way to make a big difference. Khairullah echoed Besegai’s thoughts, explaining that so much of packaging materials just ends up in landfills and eventually the oceans.

“We really have to think about our cohabitants of the planet, the animals, the ones that can’t speak for themselves,” said Khairullah. “We don’t give mind to packaging but it is very impacting.”

Other tables at the event that emphasized zero-waste initiatives were a DIY toothpaste activity and clothes swap, where attendees could give their own clothes in exchange for another piece of clothing.

Besides 1STEP, organizations like the Beekeeping Club and the Garden Club also were at the fair. Junior Jazmine Garcia, the co-president of Garden Club, shared her excitement about participating in the fair.

She explained that since Garden Club is new to campus, with Ramapo recognizing it as an official organization only a couple weeks ago, the event was a great way to raise awareness and gain exposure.

Garcia was giving away seeds to encourage people to take up gardening. She explained that gardening is a great example of a sustainable hobby that is not only fun, but also benefits the Earth.

“It connects you a little bit more with the Earth and with the soil,” said Garcia.

Other tables were aimed at purely educating attendees, which is what junior and 1STEP member Caitlyn Montgomery was doing at the fair. As an accounting major, Montgomery explained that she was interested in sustainable business.

Montgomery was giving away handouts that she explained were about the “seven fronts of mount sustainability,” as well as the “B Corp’s Declaration of Interdependence.”

Montgomery expressed that she saw a need for businesses to be added to sustainable conversations, and that business’ practices can have a major impact on the planet.

“A lot of environmental and sustainability talks tend to exclude business,” said Montgomery.

The Sustainability Fair was not only a way for students to bond over their shared love for sustainability, but also a demonstration of all the options people have to become more sustainable.

Whether it be through cutting back packaging, getting into sustainable businesses or even taking a little time to garden, the students at Ramapo showed that little changes can make a big difference.