Sabrina A. ’22
This is Still Our House: Asian American Environmental Identity
“The land knows you, even when you are lost,” Robin Wall Kimmerer says in her book Braiding Sweetgrass. This is the idea that has informed my Signature project as I have grappled with land and its significance through the lens of my own identities. As an Asian American, I inhabit a space of in-between-ness and invisibility; to feel lost has been implicit in my experience. As an environmentalist, I am critical of the destructive relationship American society has with the land and seek to transform it. This year, I have connected my Asian American identity and environmentalism to ask, what does it mean to belong to a place, and how can we create a more inclusive definition of belonging that does justice to both land and people? My project has culminated in a short podcast titled From Nowhere: Food and Farming in Korean America, in which I have interviewed fellow Korean Americans, including family members, a local restaurant owner, and farmers, in order to answer this question. Because of my project, I have been able to learn more about Asian American history, connect with others who share aspects of my identity and values, and observe different ways that people can make space for themselves. The link to my podcast, along with an additional resource sheet, is below.
Maple L. ’23
Creating A Calming Flower Garden At Emma Willard
The first day of freshman year when I was moving into the dorms I noticed the lack of flowers on campus. The gardens are small for the overwhelmingly large school, and I was somewhat disappointed by this. My mother is a professional gardener and plants have been a vital part of my life. They are incorporated into my relationships, activities, and home. Throughout my years at Emma Willard I have grown frustrated with not having a space where students can pick flowers or work in the dirt. My goal with this Signature project was to create just that: a flower garden for the students. My idea of installing a flower garden directly into the ground turned out to be too challenging for this year, but maybe in the future another student will be able to accomplish that lofty goal. However with the help of Mr. Calos and Ms. Buinicky I am creating a container garden in the library courtyard. The containers will be small terracotta pots where I will be growing native flowers and flowers that can attract interesting wildlife such as butterflies and hummingbirds. I hope to find a way to involve my classmates in this flower garden before the end of the year. My ideas are possibly making gardening weekend activities next year, library activities in the courtyard to enjoy the flowers, or a CEO that allows students to get involved with the garden.
I plan to continue improving and growing my flower garden next year.
Maiya R. ’22
Solar Options At Emma Willard
You're saying that renewable energy is clean and cheap? Spoiler: it is.
Through my time at Emma, I have not felt like there is as much of a focus on sustainability as there could and should be. I took the knowledge of solar and wind energy I had and thought of ways to make it into a Signature project where I can advocate for clean energy here at Emma. I started researching community solar opportunities near us and found Nelnet energy that would be able to work with us. Unfortunately, EWS is only two years into a five-year contract with National Grid which is an agreement to provide a constant price for electricity and this made it harder to communicate with companies about access to community solar. I analyzed the information from EWS’s electric bill and translated it into what it would look like based on a 10% discount that community solar provides. We save about ten thousand dollars. I also touch on another option of having roof-mounted solar, which is more money and less convenient for us, so my results showed that community solar is the best option for a large facility such as our campus.
Originally, I had planned to make a presentation to the board of trustees with a detailed outline of how and why we need to switch to clean energy as soon as possible. These meetings, however, are rare and have a stacked schedule, and I was not able to make it onto the schedule. I think having conversations with people around campus is valuable, though. Getting these things into the community is incredibly important and urgent. I hope to talk to Ms. Maher, Ms. Rao, and Mr. McGivern about making the switch to community solar a priority in the future. It looks good for the face of EWS, too!
I hope that my project is a window into what a more sustainable Emma Willard campus could look like and will eventually be.
Jasmin W. ’23
Bomb Train Issue And Idealized Solution
The “bomb trains” (train cars that transport and store petroleum) in Albany have been a longterm issue, largely for the nearby neighbourhoods. In recent years changes have been made but there are still more to be done. For my project, I have designed a containment system for the potentially dangerous bomb trains parked near the port of Albany. The containment system is mostly made of a shell parking lot which prevents the parked trains from deterioration, leakage of the toxic fumes, blocks debris during explosions, and prevents leakage of the oil which contaminates the water. During my research I have encountered surprising findings. For example, from demographic studies of the nearby community, I realized that they are mostly members of the BIPOC (black, indegenous, people of color) communities. During my site visit I realized how the bomb train sites are nesscary for their daily travel routes. Overall, my goal for my project is to design an infrastructure that is practical to impose, safe for the community and at a minimal cost in order to protect the community from harm.
Abby Z. ’22
Vitamin Tree: Outdoor Experiences that Heal
Providing access to outdoor experiences to people in an attempt to encourage reconnection with nature to help heal both people and the Earth.
For my project, I aimed to help connect students to the outdoor spaces on our campus. The three main aspects of my project I worked on included research into access to green spaces as well as the benefit of time spent outdoors, creating a detailed map of the trails in the Back 40 (the wild space on Emma’s campus), and offering new ways to get outside both traditional and non-traditional. I led various activities ranging from guided hikes to nature crafts to unicycle instruction. An important aspect of my project during this year in particular, has been thinking of ways to ensure my project is self-sustaining so future generations of students and community members can continue to feel comfortable and compelled to get outside. I have worked to achieve this goal by compiling all of the research I have done and all that I have learned, working to install a physical version of the map I created outside the entrance to the Back 40, in addition to making a digital copy available online, and creating detailed instructions on how anyone can learn how to unicycle.