From IWU Magazine, Winter 2010-11
For Kari and Emmy Grace, green is a matching color
By Kasey Evans ’12
Kari (left) and Emmy Grace got interested in sustainability projects as first-year
students. (Photo by Marc Featherly)
Two Illinois Wesleyan seniors have dominated the environmental scene on campus since
their sophomore years. Kari Grace, sociology and Hispanic studies double major with
a minor in environmental studies, and Emmy Grace, environmental studies major, are
more than just leaders in the sustainability movement — they are twin sisters with
what could easily be called twin passions.
It wasn’t until coming to IWU that Emmy and Kari really became involved in environmental
causes. “Growing up, we were never wilderness people. We’re definitely not a hiking
family,” Kari says. “We’ve always recycled, and starting in high school we would hear
about environmental problems and wish that we could do something, but we didn’t really
know how to get involved,” Emmy adds.
That all changed for the two during their first year at IWU when they joined the environmental
group in their residence hall’s leadership involvement team. They were then encouraged
to join the student-run Sierra Student Coalition (SSC), for which Emmy now serves
as co-president. The five-year-old organization has conducted numerous sustainability
projects, including planting and maintaining a prairie plot on the southwest side
of the Center for Natural Science Learning and Research.
“As members of SSC, we go around to all of the campus buildings on Friday evenings
to turn off the lights and electronics so that they aren’t using energy unnecessarily,”
Kari says. The SSC also collects one-sided pieces of recycled paper from The Ames
Library and parts of cereal boxes to create recycled notebooks which are available
for purchase in the University Bookstore.
As members of the student-run Sierra Student Coalition, Kari and Emmy turn off the
lights and electronics of campus buildings on Friday nights to prevent unnecessary
energy use. (Photo by Marc Featherly)
Kari serves as a co-chair on the GREENetwork, and Emmy contributes to its efforts
by chairing the group’s carbon-footprint subcommittee. She states that it is important
to “know your emissions and make an effort to reduce.” While admitting that it is
a lofty goal, she would like to see Wesleyan’s emissions net zero by 2020. In joining
another effort of the GREENetwork, the twins are working with fellow students to improve
campus recycling. “We’re doing an audit to see where more recycling bins are needed,”
Emmy says. “We’re also trying to work on consistency with recycling signs by adding
pictures and details of what can be recycled.”
In addition, Kari and Emmy are among nine student sustainability educators charged
by the Office of Residential Life to help introduce environmentally sustainable practices
to students living in University residence halls.
Emmy and Kari have taken their pursuit of environmental knowledge beyond campus. The
two have traveled to a national SSC summer training conference to improve their organization
and participated in Alternative Spring Break to help rebuild the Cumberland Trail
in Tennessee. During a May Term trip to Wales as sophomores, they stayed at a slate-mine-turned-environmentally-friendly
living center called the Centre for Alternative Technology. “Everything they do there
is self-sustaining,” says Emmy. “They compost all waste, grow their own food and use
solar, hydro and wind power for their energy.”
In their junior year, they traveled to Ecuador, an ecologically diverse country now
trying to deal with major environmental problems such as erosion and deforestation.
Though Ecuador is the first nation to approve a constitution recognizing certain inalienable
rights of nature, enforcement of those rights has proven difficult. “Attitudes in
Ecuador are definitely more environmental than they are here, but implementation is
not as strong due to a lack of resources and infrastructure,” Kari notes.
Though neither sister is firm on her post-college plans, both anticipate that their
futures will include an environmental focus. In the meantime, they continue striving
to make an impact on the campus in ways large and small — even though their efforts
may often go undetected. When she served as recycling house manager for her sorority,
Kappa Delta, Emmy replaced some environmentally toxic cleaning supplies with a homemade
mixture of vinegar, water and lemon oil. “It worked just as well in cleaning the house
— and no one seemed to notice the difference,” she says with a laugh.
To return to the main “Green in Action” story, click here.
To go to the IWU GREENetwork website, click here.