Leaders of the sustainability club talk about the difficulties of promoting sustainability.
Imagine the world covered in plastic. Our beautiful rivers, oceans and meadows are filled with plastic that never degrades. This image convicted senior nursing major Abigail Zoccola to live a more sustainable life. What came out of that decision was a club that she started in spring 2019 called the sustainability club.
The sustainability club now has about 12-15 consistent members and meets Wednesday nights at 8:30 p.m. They also have a five-member leadership team and big dreams about where they want to take the club, such as having a Creation Care series in chapel, having a new bike-share program on campus and working with Bon Appetit to use more sustainable packaging with on-campus food.
The club’s passion stems out of their belief in taking care of what God has created. Zoccola expressed that connecting with nature always makes her feel closer to God.
“It just seems like a really clear conviction. It was something that I was missing in my faith. It now feels more mature in making that connection [with sustainability] and striving to love my neighbors,” said Zoccola.
David Chang, senior allied health major and treasurer of the sustainability club, expressed that he loved the ocean and his initial passion stemmed from protecting the beauty that we see in it.
“The ocean is constantly trashed and I love surfing, so ever since high school I wanted to be involved in getting rid of plastic,” said Chang.
So, he joined the sustainability club. The idea of taking care of one’s neighbor is also important to Chang, who emphasizes the importance of leaving the world better for the next generation.
“We are stewards of the Earth. God left the Earth in order for us to take care of it. He wants us to leave the Earth better than when we were born into it. We wouldn’t want to purposely ruin it,” said Chang.
Brooke Bailey, senior interdisciplinary major and president of the sustainability club, says that the reason other Christians might be hesitant to make sustainability a part of their lives is the issue of dominion. People often have different interpretations of what that means in the Bible.
“Dominion means caring for the land and coming along the land, and cultivating these two things between love for God and love for His people,” said Bailey.
Bailey also said that, for her, climate change is really a social justice issue, as it affects those who are worse off because they often live near freeways or a polluted river. The environment can also affect health.
“I think a sustainable life is feeling better because it is what God calls us to be. You are impacting those around you,” said Bailey.
For Zoccola, it’s about a patient’s physical well-being, as the environment can have a negative impact on one’s health.
“There are a lot of nurse groups that are climate activists. We are advocating for our patients’ health in public policy, and I’m hoping that I will be able to speak to policy and advocate for people’s health,” said Zoccola.
Chang voiced similar concerns about health and sustainability as someone who wishes to work in hospitals.
“After being in this club, sustainability in the hospital is important as there is a lot of plastic use. They are actually one of the leading causes of plastic use,” said Chang.
Bailey and Zoccola have also become involved in Young Evangelicals for Climate Change (YECA). Bailey is an advocate. She said that, “It’s a network of young evangelicals who want to come together and recognize that God calls for us to be stewards of the land.”
This goal extends to working with various churches to get them to help the Earth. Bailey learns about how to fight for sustainability well and how to get the church involved.
“We [YECA] believe that God calls us to be stewards of the land and extend that to the church. It would be great to see churches be a part of a sustainable movement. Right now they are kind of in the background,” said Bailey.
Zoccola is a YECA fellow, and she works with YECA on her project, the sustainability club. She has various dreams for it as the Vice President and a founder.
However, these dreams hit a snag when COVID-19 hit. Everything was online. It made expanding a new club hard, yet they were still able to gain consistent members.
Bailey expressed that the sustainability club has looked slightly different because of the online format. Mostly, they reach out to their sustainability network and have people present on different ways to be sustainable.
The sustainability club will also continue to adapt because APU will have in-person classes next semester. These sustainability club members are looking to enact real change through their places of expertise and wish to take care of Mother Earth. So, let’s look forward to a better future. Happy Earth Day!