Article by Jen Giovanniello ‘20

LEAP (Lafayette Environmental Awareness and Protection)

…is a holistic environmental club with semester-long initiatives that shift depending on its members’ interests. Quite simply, as President Emma Stierhoff ’20 put it, it is an organization dedicated to “promoting environmental action on campus and raising awareness on sustainability.” In spring 2018, that promotion has taken the form of recycled art displays— most memorably, a pyramid of 224 plastic cups from campus dining halls, representing only one seventh of the amount of plastic used by students in a day, and an origami bird display in Skillman Library bringing awareness to bird deaths from collisions onto windows. They have also held a workshop recycling T-shirts into tote bags during Earth Week, co-sponsored National Public Health Week by providing tips on environmental health, all the while bringing a smoothie bike to virtually every tabling opportunity possible.


Top left: LEAP members display their smoothie bike; Top right: LEAP members create signage during a meeting; Bottom: LEAP members have dinner together

LaFFCo (Lafayette Food and Farm Co-operative)

…is the student branch of LaFarm, Lafayette’s organic farm, which provides food for the campus dining halls and educational opportunities for students. LaFFCo hosts farm volunteering events, potluck meals, and lectures on sustainable agriculture and food justice while also helping to manage the LaSeed Library, located on Skillman Library’s circulation desk. Faculty co-advisor Professor Benjamin Cohen describes it as “a campus organization to connect students interested in food studies to farming, to provide an organizational structure that combines farming and food.” This past semester, in addition to weekly volunteering events planting crops on LaFarm, LaFFCo has acquired funding for establishing a bee colony on LaFarm and has sponsored a number of Earth Week events, among them a screening and panel discussion of “Networking Hunger”, a film by Lafayette graduate Megan Schmidt ’17 on food insecurity in Easton and the community activists working to reduce it.


Top: LaFFCo members harvest at LaFarm; Bottom from left: LaFFCo hosts a Thanksgiving potluck, members plant seeds, member prepares to plant seedlings 

Take Back the Tap

…is an initiative of Food and Water Watch which “promotes the use of your own water bottle,” on campus, co-President Bella Capachietti ’20 says. In addition to researching ideal locations for placing water bottle refilling stations on campus, the organization also planned a promotional concert, Untapped, in the spring, which raffled off Take Back the Tap T-shirts and water bottles.


From left: Take Back the Tap members create a disposable water bottle pyramid to display for Earth Week; Spring 2018 ‘Untapped’ Concert

Food Recovery

…established in the fall of 2017, collects leftover food from the campus dining halls to donate to local food pantries like Safe Harbor and Third Street Alliance, located in downtown Easton. Their goal is twofold: to reduce food surpluses that would otherwise emit methane in landfills, and to address food insecurity in Easton. They also lead Weigh the Waste research in the dining halls, collecting data on how much food students leave on their plates in an effort to raise awareness on food waste.


Above: Food Recovery team members and volunteers ‘weigh the waste’ in dining halls

SEES (Society of Environmental Engineers and Scientists)

…focuses on environmental research while also hosting volunteering events. This year, in addition to running a science demonstration at Phillipsburg Middle School, the organization has been working with an environmental studies class and the Grounds team to relocate Lafayette’s pollinator garden (formerly located in front of Acopian Engineering Center and removed due to construction) and testing water from the Bushkill Creek for Coliform bacteria.


Above: SEES members and volunteers help to plant the bio-retention rain garden and pollinator plants

Challenges and Rewards

Across the initiatives among these groups, the work involved requires significant dedication, especially for smaller clubs. The largest struggles noted by environmental club leaders, especially among LEAP members, include the challenges of getting other people to attend their events and inspiring a stronger mentality of environmentalism throughout the campus community. Usually improving attendance can be successfully addressed by co-sponsorships with other clubs and with communication through Sustainability Committee meetings, which can enable environmental clubs to update each other and work together in better synergy. Yet, the goals of environmental clubs go beyond mere attendance towards changing the habits and mentality of the campus community towards stronger environmental stewardship. The food, water, and products that we consume (and whether we waste anything, and how) are all inextricable connections that we have to our environment, and our choices greatly impact its well-being. By advancing initiatives that bring awareness to these connections, our environmental clubs challenge students to think more about how they can improve their habits or become activists themselves.

Cohen notes that LaFFCo’s largest challenges are “of personnel and consistency,” that developing an organization is much more difficult than attending its events. Members of Take Back the Tap, a club of a similar size, also discussed how it is difficult to spread their message as a small club, since they felt as though more members would better increase their presence on campus. That way, with more manpower and energy, current initiatives could be strengthened with more dedicated participation. With more students inevitably interested in and involved in a broader range of topics and organizations, more creative ideas and co-sponsorships could gain momentum that may have never been previously considered, spreading environmental initiatives to other groups on campus in new ways.

Yet, in spite of leaders’ consensus on the difficulties of running their clubs, the rewards of involvement in all of these clubs are very much felt by the environmental community. Take Back the Tap’s Untapped concert saw approximately one hundred attendees, and the Earth Week events co-sponsored by multiple environmental organizations were all well-attended, both by enthusiastic club members and non-members. The work of LaFFCo students at LaFarm demonstrates what Cohen believes is a highly visible example of the success of an environmental initiative, noting that “you can see the progress of the farm every year” with larger and larger harvests each season. Kyle Low ’20 particularly loves how LEAP is “a thinktank for a lot of different environmental initiatives for a lot of different people” from widely varying academic disciplines but who all share strong environmental interests. Environmental clubs also agreed that students can easily get involved and launch their own ideas: Untapped started as an idea in the fall semester from a student musician, and the concept of LEAP’s semester-long sub-initiatives is directly based on its members’ interests, and anyone, regardless of whether or not they are a board member, can run an initiative. With past environmental initiatives flourishing, it’s a very rewarding time to get involved, with students advancing goals that they are passionate about and building friendships with other people who share their love for the environment.