Before she walked in line, she finished wrapping her green towels around her head and body, putting the green soap container on the check-in table. Kaylee McDonald, the woman wrapped in green, had dressed up as the term “Greenwashing,” ready to enter the costume contest.
McDonald was participating in an eco-themed costume contest as part of the University of Florida Thompson Earth Systems Institute’s Environmental Leaders Network Hallow-green Welcome Meeting. The first social event for the Network, hosted in collaboration with the UF Bob Graham Center for Public Service and the UF Office of Sustainability, brought together students from diverse majors who are looking to use their skills to shape a greener future.
As students entered the Pugh Hall Ocora, conveniently located at the center of campus, they had the chance to learn more about environmental and civic engagement groups on campus, Lino print designs on up-cycled clothing, decorate old corks into Halloween figurines and eat for free.
Some students collaborated and used the different colored corks to create creatures like Dracula, Frankenstein, Ghosts, and even the Lorax – giving the orange cork yellow hair and a mustache to represent the tree-saving Dr. Seuss character.
People all around campus, regardless of major, were encouraged to join in at the event.
“It’s important to have events like this on campus because sometimes sustainability as a major or as a field can feel very broad, and you don’t know how to specify places to make a difference,” said McDonald, a junior sustainability studies major at the UF.
After students had time to mingle and craft, representatives from TESI, the Bob Graham Center, and the UF Office of Sustainability shared more about how students could get involved in their organizations. Then, Sadie Mills, program coordinator at TESI, led a leadership activity to help students learn more about their specific leadership styles.
“Many students think that leaders are always the loudest, boldest person in the room, and as a result don’t see themselves in that role,” said Mills.
She added that the leadership activity helps students discover the many different ways to be a leader so they can lean into the style that best works for them.
Students who weren’t yet members of the Environmental Leaders Network were encouraged to join. The Network offers a centralized platform for students to explore their interests, skills, and passions through environmental research, education and civic engagement opportunities both on campus and throughout our community.
Isabelle Gain, a TESI graduate assistant and coordinator for the Network, said that bringing art into environmentally-focused programming is a great way to represent interdisciplinary methods of environmental engagement.
At the end of the night, the costume contest was resolved with an undisputed winner. McDonald stood up from her chair, fixing her green towels to accept her victory.
Students who wish to learn more about and join the network can visit the following link: TESI Environmental Leaders Network