Students get REAL about environmental issues on and off campus

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With well over 200 clubs and organizations strewn across campus to suit nearly all interests, hobbies, and career paths, it can be difficult for students to keep track of what each club does, how they are different from each other, and the reasons they should choose one club over another. 

For those interested in environmental science and activism there is more than one club and organization to suit those needs, though they all have specific qualities that set them apart from each other. 

One of these clubs, Rowan Environmental Action League (REAL), sets itself apart from the others most notably in its three pillars of education, nature, and action. 

One of the ways they educate themselves and the community while getting involved with nature is through the community garden located on campus just outside of Willow Hall.

Aarushi Gupta is an MBA student and voluntary member of REAL. 

“It is a teaching garden… We produce produce, but we produce vegetables that get donated to the shop. But for the most part, since we don’t have enough space to really grow a lot of food, it’s an opportunity for students to learn how their food grows and to engage in skills that they could bring with them into the future,” said Gupta. 

Every Wednesday afternoon the group goes out to the garden to perform routine maintenance of the garden. The garden allows students to learn the skills they would need to manage a garden when they own property of their own or have their own plot in a community garden, as well as supplying fresh produce to any student who needs it. 

“It is open for any student to grab whatever they want and take it as long as you’re harvesting respectfully… If you see something’s ripe and ready, take it, it’s for you. It’s for the students. We grow it for the students,” said Gupta. 

Additional education efforts come in the form of talks and lectures that aim to teach students how to shop, eat, and purchase clothing sustainably. 

“It’s just a mindset that we’re hoping to instill in students so that when they go out into their careers and when they go out into their lives, that they can carry those sustainable practices with them,” said Gupta. 

REAL has also been supporting the Rowan Divest and Divest NJ movements, which aim to stop investing in fossil fuels for the New Jersey state pension and for Rowan’s endowment. 

The group also attended the March to End Fossil Fuels, a protest in New York City on Sept. 17, joined by the Rowan Progressives. The night before, REAL had held a sign and banner-making meeting for the protest. 

“We protested President Biden’s lack of action to address the climate crisis and to cancel all past, current, and future fossil fuel projects,” said Gupta.

Nine students from the club attended the protest, with the club partnering with Food and Water Watch of South Jersey to take a bus into the city. 

The club also does a number of other activities to get students involved with and connected to nature, as well as giving them knowledge about how to care for the environment. The group hosts guest speakers who educate on native plants and how to forage for their own food using New Jersey’s native and edible flora. Barefoot hikes, regular hikes, and kayaking. The group is also planning a beach clean-up on Oct. 21.

Jackie Ganter is a biology and geographic information systems major.

“The importance of the club is to make students aware of the ways in which they can take action for the environment and for sustainability, both on campus and off campus and make them feel empowered,” said Ganter.

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