Photo by Richard Howard
The first week of college is typically a hectic one, overflowing with new friends, new places, and new ideas—some of which can alter the course of your college career, if not your entire life. For Sarah McBride ’18, a chance encounter that first week has made all the difference.
“When I came to Wellesley, I was premed,” she says. “The first of September my first year, I ended up meeting somebody who was going to the People’s Climate March.” Intrigued, McBride traveled to New York for the march, and it was then that she started to rethink her focus. “After that march, I really realized that environmental studies or environmental justice was the path I wanted to go down,” McBride says. “As I was walking down the street, I just really felt like it was something I wanted to do, and something I needed to do.”
She didn’t drop her premed plans right away, but she began to explore environmental studies and to take an active role in sustainability efforts on campus. As a first-year, she was the eco-representative for her dorm, providing a voice for sustainability on her House Council and acting as a liaison with the Office of Sustainability. McBride took on the role again in her sophomore year and then was offered a job with the Office of Sustainability. There, she worked on sustainable office certifications for faculty, a program to help increase sustainable practices by educating participants on simple changes and by providing environmentally friendly materials, like LED light bulbs. “Overwhelmingly, members of the Wellesley community are very excited about sustainability and learning about it,” McBride says.
She’s now continuing that work as the eco-rep coordinator and a student representative to the Advisory Committee on Environmental Sustainability. As coordinator of all the eco-reps on campus, McBride is working to grow and strengthen the program.
“Eco-reps are one of the main ways we connect with the student body,” she says. These students not only serve on House Councils, but they are also responsible for managing compost bins in their dorms and providing education on sustainability practices, through programs like sustainable living certifications. Similar to the work McBride did with faculty, eco-reps meet with students to discuss what their current practices are and what more they could do. By following practices like turning off faucets while they brush their teeth and using drying racks for clothes, for example, students earn points toward prizes that range from reusable mugs to a Peter Pan bus punch pass. Last academic year, the eco-reps completed 47 certifications, and McBride hopes for even more this year. “Most people on campus are receptive, but maybe don’t see sustainability as the focus of their daily life,” she says.
McBride hopes to change that through her work on campus—and off. Her academic focus has shifted to include more interdisciplinary courses that explore environmental issues, and she is now a biology major and is planning to minor in environmental studies. Last summer, she worked at the Environmental Defense Fund as a legislative intern for the political affairs office, and she attended the budget appropriations hearings for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in both the House and the Senate. “That was an incredibly informative experience,” McBride says. “It was inspiring to watch the congressmen and women and senators who were speaking up and speaking out for environmental justice.”
That is something she plans to be doing for a long time, whether it means post-graduate studies in environmental management or trying to work for the EPA, the Environmental Defense Fund, or a similar organization. “It feels good to take care of the Earth, and it feels good to know that you’re doing something that can impact future generations and other people for the better.”