There is a degree of distress among some of today’s college students who consider climate change a top issue facing the world, especially amid the lack of meaningful national or international efforts to address the crisis.
So how do they stay motivated to keep fighting in the face of such frustration? For Cora Wingate, a junior at Warren Wilson College, the answer is to focus on making a difference locally.
“While I am passionate about issues on a larger scale, I am currently in a position where I can make the most impact by dedicating my efforts to sustainability on my campus,” she says. “I believe that higher education, and college campuses in particular, have such a unique opportunity to be leading the way.”
Below, Xpress speaks with Wingate about her campus initiatives and how her generation is tackling the climate crisis.
The interview has been condensed and lightly edited.
What sustainability efforts on your campus are you most proud of?
Since enrolling at Warren Wilson, I have been on the student-led Community Oriented Regeneration Efforts work crew all three years. My crew stocks and maintains a free store made up entirely of donations from the community. We also process 100% of the food waste on campus and turn it into compost. Last semester alone, we diverted over 31,000 pounds of food waste from the landfill, which we are now turning into soil for our campus. If we can get soil from our food waste and clothing from student donations, we are saving the time and resources it takes to import these resources.
How is your approach to sustainability different from that of earlier generations?
People nowadays can communicate so seamlessly through technology and social media. After I got my first Instagram account, I was able to connect with young people thinking about sustainability in a similar way to me no matter where in the world they lived. I feel grateful to have peers who challenge me as well as each other to consider class, race, white privilege and access when speaking about sustainability.
What’s one thing you would like to see Xpress readers do to promote sustainability in WNC in the coming year?
I would recommend seeing what sustainable changes you can make without putting so much pressure on yourself to do the right thing all the time. While individuals have so much potential to make a difference, we need to pressure the large companies who contribute exponentially more to the problem. I would say that a simple switch is to begin using less plastic and start using more reusable and durable products.