By: Shannon Reilly
Inside Kofenya, one of the local businesses leading the way in fostering a more sustainable Oxford, a club with a parallel dedication to sustainability works to fill a void in creating a greener campus. This past Sunday, Oct. 27, the leaders of LEAP and Zero Waste Oxford sat outside Kofenya with coffees steaming in reusable mugs, ready to talk all things zero waste. I joined LEAP’s co-presidents, Taylor Goldberg and Olivia Ferrazza, and Zero Waste president, Cassie Conrad, to talk about everything from plastic cups to favorite ethical shopping sites.
LEAP stands for Leaders in Environmental Awareness and Protection, and this semester, the campus organization began to hold a series of informal meetings in the popular coffee shop, each addressing a different topic related to a sustainable lifestyle. This most recent discussion was a collaboration with Zero Waste Oxford, a student organization that has grown rapidly since its first semester on campus in the fall of 2018. It has helped encourage the adoption of zero waste practices among students and the Oxford community.
We talked about exciting upcoming events, such as Zero Waste’s holiday meeting that will talk about low-waste gifts, as well as the misconception that a green lifestyle is all or nothing. I walked away feeling excited about personal changes I wanted to make in my life, starting with searching the online thrift shops they recommended. An overarching theme of our talk was the broad range of experiences green clubs at Miami offer, as well as the benefits that could come from collaboration between organizations.
The Kofenya Conversation Series is the latest approach LEAP has used to create a space for discussion on topics in sustainability. Taylor Goldberg started the club during her sophomore year at Miami in 2017 and has since grown its reach alongside another Miami student, Olivia Ferrazza. Together, Goldberg and Ferrazza serve as co-presidents of LEAP. The club has long focused its meetings on taking place in informal, personal settings with an emphasis on conversation.
These ideals began when LEAP held discussions about establishing green lifestyles during walks on Miami’s trails, cleaning the natural areas up as they went. They still offer walks in the spring, events that appeal to students that need service hours or want to get outside in the spring weather. This discussion-style meeting format sets LEAP apart from other sustainability organizations here at Miami. It allows the club to create a dialogue with other clubs and draw members that may just be beginning to learn about sustainability.
Breaking out of the classroom and discussing a wide range of subjects allows the club to give members what Ferrazza describes as “very tangible takeaways.” She likened the club atmosphere to a book club with a niche of sustainability discussed each meeting. Though there are no books, there are personal interactions that allow each student to be a leader and speak free of judgement. The club aims to attract members anywhere in their journey of sustainability, whether you’re just starting to learn or studying the subject and looking for a space with more optimism and focus on personal action.
This new conversation series hosted by LEAP is just one piece of a recent energy among green organizations on campus to collaborate in order to reach a wider audience and be efficient with their resources. With sustainability groups growing in size and number, there is both understandable concern about avoiding redundancy and a desire to reach students not already involved in sustainability. But as the interest and awareness of green initiatives grows, so does the optimism that we can make Miami a more environmentally friendly campus. This progression starts with conversation and personal actions, which then become community-wide change.
For more information about LEAP, you can visit their page on The Hub or follow their Instagram page, @leapmiamioh.
LEAP’s co-presidents, Taylor Goldberg and Olivia Ferrazza, after Sunday’s event.
Photo courtesy of Shannon Reilly