By Alan Lau
For the last six years Avalonia has been collaborating with Connecticut College students in the Goodwin-Niering Center for the Environment (GNCE). Approximately two dozen students learn about Avalonia, its achievements, and just how hard it is to keep a non-profit, non-political, tax-exempt organization running.
My name is Alan Lau, one of the sophomores in GNCE, and I will be taking over the Blog for a few weeks in order to update you all on the projects my peers are tackling. This collaboration between GNCE and Avalonia has truly been a great privilege for students that come from inner cities like myself. Before joining GNCE and learning about Avalonia, I couldn’t even begin to imagine how much work it took to manage a land trust. Then our good friend Beth came along and briefed us on just how complex the organization is. Officials must deal with governance, membership, fund raising, and a multitude of other aspects which all have a profound effect on the organization as a whole.
The first project is called the “Stop Sucking” campaign in which my fellow peers Anna Laprise and Avatar Simpson are pushing for the removal of plastic straws, by educating the public on the dangerous effects that plastic straws have on our planet and promoting alternatives that reduce plastic straw consumption. There are simple solutions to this problem, one of which is simply having reusable stainless steel straws, which can be cleaned and reused multiple times. Other solutions involve bamboo or paper straws which are much more biodegradable and recyclable than plastic. The problem with plastic straws lies in the plastic material which does not biodegrade but breaks down into small pieces of plastic that get consumed by animals and stay in the earth for hundreds of years. In addition to this, even if the plastic is recycled, only a very small amount of the plastic will actually be reusable until it goes back to a landfill. This problem is globally significant . The EU is pushing for a multitude of single-use plastic products like straws to be removed from 27 member states by the year 2030.
The next project is conducted by Jonathan Monderer. On April 7th, from 12-3pm, I and 30 other volunteers from Connecticut College went to Paffard Woods in Stonington, CT to help pull Japanese barberry plants that have invaded the stream line in the woodlands. At this time of year, the pulling is easier than other times due to wet soil. Some clipping was done but pulling was the best way to get rid of the roots. Once the plants were pulled, we used garden carts to bring the plants up to the parking lot to make piles for later removal. Getting rid of invasive plants is crucial to the survival of native plants around the area because they disrupt the food chain since the invasive plants do not have the natural predators they would have in their native lands.
In all, we GNCE students are enthusiastic about our projects. We are ready to reach out to our communities to educate them on the land management, land preservation, and spreading the knowledge which corresponds to Avalonia’s mission of continuing to protect the threatened and declining habitats by conserving its natural resources.
A beautiful bridge in the Paffard Woods Nature preserve, crosses the stream where the Barberry grows.
Photographs by Beth Sullivan and Alan Lau.