UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The University Fashion Society may seem like a fun way to appreciate a passion for fashion, but for Penn State College Agricultural Sciences student Gabrielle Leach, it’s also a way to promote sustainability and raise awareness. on the impact of the rapid. fashion to consumers.
As the club’s treasurer, Leach is helping drive the organization’s efforts to incorporate sustainability into its activities and events. The club has featured guest speakers from thrifty companies, held DIY and recycling events to give new life to old clothing, and partnered with environmentally focused campus organizations such as EcoReps to promote sustainability education.
Leach, an undergraduate majoring in environmental resource management in the Institute of Sustainable Agricultural, Food and Environmental Sciences with minors in sustainability leadership and energy business and finance, said her education is closely tied to her passion for sustainability . That intense focus developed at a young age due to its proximity to the ocean and local forests in Millstone Township, New Jersey.
She said this passion has led her to where she is now: advocating for greater sustainability in the fashion industry and striving for a career in environmental policy or a related field.
“I’m trying to bring a more sustainable lens to the club because fast fashion is one of the biggest contributors to climate change right now,” Leach said.
She noted that fast fashion can contribute to the pollution of waterways, as well as producing carbon emissions, which exacerbate existing climate challenges.
During her time at Penn State, Leach said she found many opportunities for help on her journey, with the College of Agricultural Sciences being especially beneficial.
“Our counselors are great and our teachers really care about us,” Leach said. “I never felt like a number in the classroom. My teachers always interact with us and they are all passionate about what they teach, which I think is wonderful.”
Leach said he also appreciates the breadth and flexibility of the ERM major. These qualities were fundamental at the beginning of his educational experience because they allowed him to explore options related to sustainability.
Last summer, Leach traveled to Tanzania as part of a class to learn about the interactions between human health and the environment. She surprised and attracted the country’s emphasis on sustainability and ecology, which can contribute to health.
To finance his trip, Leach participated in the Sustainability Scholars Program through Penn State Global. This allowed her to not only alleviate the financial pressures associated with studying abroad, but also incorporate sustainability issues into her trip.
She is co-chair of the Student Sustainability Advisory Council, which seeks to advise Penn State’s sustainability planning in conjunction with the Sustainability Institute, Finance and Business, and Student Affairs.
Although he was on the board prior to his participation in the Sustainability Fellows Program, his continued participation on the council also fulfills one of the requirements of the Sustainability Fellows Program. That program seeks to have participants continue their involvement with sustainability on campus.
Tammy Shannon, academic advising coordinator and instructor of the environmental resource management course, praised Leach’s commitment to sustainability. She suggests that the ERM major helps students like Leach gain a foundation in environmental science while pursuing interests in areas such as sustainability and environmental policy.
“Gabrielle has a passion for protecting and advocating for a sustainable world and environment,” said Shannon, who is Leach’s advisor. “Our conversations focused on sustainability and the environment focused on solving real-world problems, opportunities for student engagement, and law enforcement and policy.”
Through her work with the Student Sustainability Advisory Council, her courses and other opportunities, Leach hopes to foster a love of sustainability among other students. She argues that sustainability is a great catalyst for bringing people together to improve the planet and improve humanity.
“Sustainability is for everyone,” Leach said. “It doesn’t matter who you are or what you study. Everyone can apply aspects of sustainability to themselves and use it to connect with people of different interests and passions.”