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In September 2020, we had the great privilege of hiring six students at six different universities in the Ohio River Valley to challenge the oil and gas industry’s plans to turn this region into the next petrochemical corridor. This was made possible by the Funders Collaborative on Oil and Gas. Over the course of this fall semester, students have had weekly meetings as a cross-campus cohort. These meetings have been used to strategize together as well as host guest speakers from local grassroots groups. Read below to learn more about each school and what these incredible students have accomplished over the last three months!

Bethany College, West Virginia | Tatum Dyar, 2021

One of the primary goals of this semester at Bethany was to have an official (Student Government Approved) environmental club on campus. The group Greener Bethany was founded in September, and since then, they have built a membership of 22 students who meet weekly. With the power of this student organization, a petition was created to eliminate Styrofoam and plastic take-out containers from their campus. The petition has 200 signatures, which is over 30% of the student body. This petition helped the students get a meeting with the Provost, Dean of Students, and Chief Financial Officer to begin the planning process. Additionally, the students have started a student lead recycling program, in which 100 students participate in transferring their recycling to an off campus facility, because it is not provided on campus. Tatum will continue organizing next semester to further this programming. 

College of Wooster, Ohio | Lia Kahan, 2022

Lia has been busy this semester. They started out with a voter education project, providing information about the impact the election would have on the community in relation to the petrochemical buildout, and registering students to vote. They also organized a clean up and restoration of a trail near the college campus, in a larger effort to promote campus sustainability and stewardship. Lia is investigating what implementing compost on campus would look like, working with the community group, Rural Action in Athens, Ohio. They have also been in close contact with the dining director to look into implementing reusable containers on campus, and building more sustainable options into the dining hall renovation. 

Marshall University, West Virginia | Baleigh Epperly, 2021 

This semester Baleigh’s goals were to complete a waste audit, meet with the President of the university and host two events. They were able to complete all these goals, and even made the front page of their campus newspaper with their brand audit. Their work was  also mentioned in a press conference by the City of Pittsburgh Mayor Bill PEduto in a press conference about how “educational institutions have the ability to bring [sustainable] innovation” to their surrounding communities. Baleigh will continue to organize with STOP next semester. 

Washington and Jefferson University, Pennsylvania | Selena Easley, 2021 

The main goal at W&J this semester was to improve recycling education to reduce cross-contamination. To do this Selena applied for and received over $2000 for new recycling bins with better signage and multiple streams. Moving forward, Selena hopes to continue educational campaigns as well as advocate for recycling on her campus’s Sustainability Committee. She will also be working with the Center for Coalfield Justice to host movie nights for students and research putting in a community pollinator garden.

West Virginia University, West Virginia | Rachael Hood, 2022

Rachael has been busy laying the foundation for plastic elimination at their school. They joined the local Student Sierra Club and led a campaign planning session for the club to establish a plan to eliminate single use disposable plastic on campus. They have also met with members of the sustainability faculty committee and the sustainability manager to build support for the project. In the spring, Rachael hopes to work more with community organizers in Morgantown to figure out a waste prevention program that works for the university and the city. 

University of Louisville, Kentucky | Briant Grant 

Briant set out to improve the relationship between the environmental justice community and the campus this semester. He has worked with Change Today, Change Tomorrow and West Jefferson County Community Task Force. Additionally, he set up a community connection that resulted in the release of  a podcast about the toxic chemical often found in local water sources, PFAS. Next semester Briant is focusing on passing resolutions to ban plastic water on campus, and renegotiating the campus contract with Pepsi.