The Broccoli City Organic Lifestyle Group sponsored the Broccoli City Forum at the University on Saturday, May 2. Juliana Manrique ’15, Kate Weiner ’15, and Rina Kremer ’15 were joined on the panel by Director of the Office of Equity and Inclusion Antonio Farias and Director of Feet to the Fire Erin Roos-Brown.
The event took place in the Bessie Schonberg Dance Studio and featured artwork on display as well as a projected slideshow of different pictures from this year’s Broccoli City Festival.
Kimora Brock ’15 and Kafilah Muhammad ’18 facilitated a discussion focused on sustainability and the importance of uniting environmental causes with social projects. The discussion emphasized the speakers’ advice and insight, based on their personal experiences with similar projects.
Farias discussed his interest in environmental issues and their effect on communities. These interests stemmed from his own experiences growing up in the Bronx.
“I’ve been here for about a year and a half, and what I see is that we need to reconnect some of these questions of environmentalism and sustainability with ones of diversity and inclusion and equity,” Farias said. “I grew up in the Bronx, and I had asthma. And I had this question of…why do I have asthma…. And if you know anything about the environment and how it impacts underdeveloped communities… You can use the term environmental racism.”
He added that it took him a while to understand this term.
“When I went off and joined the army, we were in Jordan, and for some reason I went from…walking around with an inhaler, to all of a sudden being able to breathe,” Farias said. “It took me years to understand that it was the environment, the pollutants that were in my city.”
Campus & Community Engagement Manager Erin Roos-Brown manages Feet to the Fire, a program at the University dedicated to examining environmental issues through multiple lenses. She spoke about her past experiences and mistakes working in sustainability and what she learned from them.
“About two years ago, it…seemed like what we were doing in Feet to the Fire wasn’t all that effective,” Roos-Brown said. “The students…were doing a lot of great, creative things, and that seemed to be what people were more interested in…. So that’s when we decided we were going to start transitioning Feet to the Fire to be a lot more about supporting student projects and really engaging students in their own place. What we learned from this is that when you think you’ve got your project just right, it probably needs to change. There’s something you need to tweak, something you need to do. If it is going to survive, it has to evolve.”
When asked what makes a project a success, Kremer—a member of the sustainability group WILD Wes and the Local Foods Co-op—said that the ability to compromise is a necessity when you are working on forming a new group on campus.
“Communication and an openness to go in a different direction than first intended [are important],” Kremer said. “You can’t make enemies with the University. While they might not be as lenient or think the same way that you do about your project, you will be able to gain ground with them when you make compromises and work with them.”
Manrique, who runs the Wesleyan Students for Sustainable Fashion group, said that another important aspect of creating a successful project is perseverance.
“I would say that you definitely need determination,” Manrique said. “You need…to get support from the University, from students, and then on top of that, you need funding. You apply for grants and you’ll be turned down numerous times, but you have to persevere and keep your goal in mind. If it’s something that you really want to expand, that you’re really passionate about, then there’s no reason why you shouldn’t really see it through.”
In closing, the panelists were asked what advice they would give to students looking to get involved with one of the many environmentalist and sustainability groups on campus.
“Just join,” Kremer said. “We have so many student groups on campus trying to get their projects off the ground or trying to sustain themselves, and they’re really looking for anyone…who’s willing and wanting to get involved…. Even if you know nothing about the environment and what the group really does, just go to a meeting. They’ll welcome you.”