Photos courtesy of Caton Deuso Students, faculty, and other organizations filled the courtyard outside of Jeffords and Stafford halls with environmentally-friendly tables, decorations and messages. Christin Palmer, professor of natural sciences, displays her electric bike at the event.
Now, imagine if your round trip to work is 54 miles. That’s not the quickest drive, yet one Castleton professor thought it was still short enough to make it a bike trip.
Christine Palmer, a professor in natural sciences, has been riding her new electric bike to work from East Wallingford, Vermont, right near White Rocks Cliff Trail and Okemo Mountain. The trip is long, but for the environment, it’s worth it.
“My goal is to not be using fossil fuels to get to work,” she said. “I’m part of the leadership of the Green Campus Group, and yet I come to the meeting by driving in and using how many gallons of gas? It really bothered me.”
Palmer’s electric bike was on display on Sept. 20 during a Castleton University event for the Global Climate Strike. All over the world, people protested and called for action in the climate change crisis. Castleton was part of it.
Castleton’s Green Campus Working Group organized the Climate Action Rally. Students were encouraged to make their pledge against climate change, find out their carbon footprint, and learn more about the climate change crisis.
Beth Thompson, a professor of applied voice in the music department, passionately spoke at the rally about the importance of action at Castleton.
“Instead of staging a walk-out strike, we thought, ‘let’s stage an awareness, make-a-commitment event,’ and so we’re asking people to sign pledges of one thing they could do, or more, that could help avert the climate crisis that is currently in progress,” Thompson said.
Kyle Dash, a senior at Castleton and member of the Green Campus Working Group, was also committed to the goals of the event.
“We’re trying to get people more involved by going to different natural science-related events,” said Dash. “Essentially, we’re just trying to get more students aware of the issues that we’re dealing with, what they can do, how they can act, and how they can be more involved on campus.”
The rally had multiple stations where students, faculty and staff could do climate-based activities. People could write their pledge on a piece of paper, which was displayed for all to see at the rally. Another table featured iPads that had an app where people could calculate their carbon footprint.
There were climate change posters and signs decorating the courtyard outside Jeffords and Stafford halls, and climate change messages were etched into the ground with chalk.
The global event was catapulted by Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old Swedish environmental activist who called people to action in the climate change crisis.
Mary Droege, a part-time faculty member in natural sciences as well as the manager of the greenhouse at Castleton, spoke highly of Thunberg.
“She’s the global leader, I mean she’s the youth activist that is inspiring people all over the world to come out and demand action,” she said.
Droege also talked about the importance of fighting environmental issues locally and personally.
“It’s great that stuff is happening all across the country and the world as well, but we’re also looking specifically to find the students who are interested in taking action and making stuff happen right here, locally,” she said. “What we need to do is examine our own behaviors and make our own changes and pledges. That’s why we have this very positively oriented towards solutions, and behaviors we can change to help contribute. If millions of people do it, it will make an impact.”
Local businesses and organizations were also present at the event. Kinder Way Café, located just down the road from Castleton at the Depot, and 350 Vermont, a Rutland-based climate change group, had their own tables at the rally.
Kinder Way began an initiative that eliminated all plastic from the café. They now serve their cold drinks in mason jars, and they will soon do the same for their hot drinks, which are currently served in paper cups.
Customers deposit $1 dollar for the mason jar. They can bring it home and use it for as long as they want, and then they can return it to Kinder Way to be reused.
Owner Mark Gutel spoke excitedly on how his initiative could leave its impact on the climate issue.
“We have to start somewhere, so if a small coffee shop like us can do it, Dunkin can do it, Starbucks can do it, all the big guys can do it,” he said with a smile. “It’s working, everybody cares man.”
In one month of the mason jar initiative, over 2,000 jars are out in circulation.
Members of the Castleton Chorale also performed at the rally, playing Argentinian and African songs with positive messages, according to Alyssa Winckler, one of the performers.
Megan Hunt, another performer and sophomore student at Castleton, was honored to be part of the event.
“This is great. I saw the UN speech with Greta,” Hunt said. “We need to change now, and it’s such a great thing that Castleton is joining the world in this march.”
The climate change initiatives are not over yet at Castleton. The Green Campus Working Group has two more events lined up as part of the Global Climate Strike.
On Sept. 26, there will be a panel discussion on “Green Campus Culture” (which will take place) in the Calvin Coolidge Library from 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. On Sept. 27, there will be a viewing of Greta Thunberg’s speech to the UN from noon to 2:00 p.m.
Beth Thompson is hoping that these events will inspire people to act now.
“Action does make for change,” she said.
Kinder Way Cafe set up a table with climate change pledges and posters hung behind them.