By Amanda Joerndt
Raising environmental awareness and sustainability on and off campus has grown into a top priority over the last eight years for many students and community members in Youngstown.
The Youngstown Environmental Sustainability Society at Youngstown State University raises awareness on current environmental issues and helps provide sustainability for the community.
YESS became active on campus in 2000, but was not as involved with raising awareness and providing sustainable options for students and community members.
Felicia Armstrong, associate professor of environmental science, has led the organization through awareness and fundraising events for the organization since 2005.
Armstrong said YESS educates students on the long-term effects of environmental choices.
“Part of it is getting the awareness of the environmental issues that we are facing out there because they’re not going to go away,” she said. “Learning to live more sustainably and how the choices you make can affect a much broader system then just locally.”
YESS organizes several events throughout the year to give community members a chance to receive fresh produce and become educated on environmental issues occurring.
Allison Erf, a third-year environmental studies major, is the president of YESS for the 2018-2019 year.
Erf said providing students and community members with alternative and safer options is part of their mission.
“A lot of the stuff we do is on campus and stuff we do through the greenhouse is mostly for the community,” Erf said. “We grow produce that we donate to the Rescue Mission and right now we’re working to revitalize a rain garden on campus to make it more functional.”
Each semester the YESS members walk around the university for a campus cleanup.
She said this allows students to walk around campus and help keep YSU a clean and respectful area.
“Every semester we try and do campus clean up where we go around and pick up any litter and recyclables on campus and usually we focus on the parking events,” Erf said.
Stephen Premec, a second-year environmental studies major, is the secretary of YESS.
One event YESS hosts on campus is their Earth Day promotion for students to learn more about the sustainable options in the community.
He said that Earth Day is a huge event for on-campus awareness and education.
“We also provide Earth Day, which is just a networking event where we have businesses and residents that promote sustainability throughout Youngstown come to YSU and just talk about products they have that are environmentally friendly,” Premec said.
Farmers’ markets have grown rapidly in our area and have become the norm when shopping for produce within the last decade.
Instead of consumers spending money in supermarkets where the money goes to bigger produce places, the money goes to local farmers and also brings the community together.
Premec said supporting local farmers’ markets is beneficial for our community as well as the environment.
“I really think that farmers’ markets and events like that really brings the community together to be more environmentally friendly and more healthy,” Premec said. “Instead of using big produce places that use pesticides that also hurt the environment, it stays local so it brings the community together more.”
Being a member of YESS can help students make smarter and safer decisions in the future.
He said that studying environmental science can have benefits beyond a student’s college years.
“The overall goal of environmental majors is to teach people for the next generation to respect our planet and make it better instead of continuing what we’ve been doing,” Premec said.