How you can save the world a little

Hunt Library exhibit features student projects about small changes with big environmental impact

Hunt Library exhibit features student projects about small changes with big environmental impact

You can’t refreeze the polar ice caps this afternoon, but you can use one fewer paper towel.

An exhibit of student projects about the environmental impact of such small changes in everyday habits launches Wednesday, Nov. 13 on the Hunt Library Commons Wall.

Students in “Introduction to Environmental Science” classes have produced a slideshow of their projects focused on small lifestyle changes that individuals can easily make. The projects connect things that most students do every day like using a paper towel to dry one’s hands after washing, drinking from a plastic straw, or deciding between a salad or a burger for lunch, with large-scale environmental issues such as the massive amounts of paper waste in landfills, plastic pollution in oceans, and water consumption by livestock.

Forestry and Environmental Resources professors Steph Jefferies and Zakiya Leggett led their students in the projects. Students considered small changes in their own lifestyles and how they would quantify their environmental impact. For a week, they measured their normal eating habits, water use, transportation habits, and energy consumption. Then they measured their lifestyle changes over a second week. After calculating their individual impacts, students scaled the impact up to an entire year for the entire NC State community. 

The idea was that, if a lot of people make the same small change, it can matter on a large scale. But that can’t happen unless the message gets out, so students were further tasked with creating a 30-second public service announcement out of their project. The announcements were originally showcased at “Earth Day, Every Day,” a Libraries event in April during Earth Month. Students presented their ideas to a live audience of other students and encouraged them to change their habits to benefit the environment.

“So many people believe that in order to make a positive environmental impact, they need to make big changes in their daily lives. While big changes are great, small changes can also have a huge positive impact, especially if a lot of people commit to making small changes together,” says Gabrielle Hirschkorn, a Human Biology major who participated in the project. “Displaying these infographs at the library will inspire the NC State community to make easy, everyday changes to better our planet, which is exactly what Earth Day Every Day is all about.”

“Making student work public instantly raises the bar on student engagement,” Jeffries wrote in a “Pack Hacks for Faculty” post in September. “I loved the projects and the personal impact they had, but I also wanted students to have the chance to share their work...so I reached out to the folks at the Hunt Library to find a way to display projects simultaneously.”

This new exhibit showcases the best and most creative messages, trying to inspire viewers to change their lifestyles to reduce their impact as fellow citizens of the planet. 

The exhibit is free and open to the public.