Westmont goes green: Karis Cho spearheads movement towards sustainable living
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Karis Cho, a Sophomore English Major, is a big fan of Wheat Thins and the environment. Last fall, Cho helped to start the Student Environmental Awareness League, which “aims to reconcile all forms of God’s creation through greater devotion to sustainability and the betterment of Westmont’s relationship to the earth.”
On Friday afternoon, a shady patch on the Westmont DC lawn sets a picturesque scene for discussing the possibility of making Westmont a bit more green. Who better to speak on these issues than Karis Cho, co-founder and communications manager of the on-campus Student Environmental Awareness League (SEAL)?
Hair tied back in a neat French braid, Cho relaxes into the plush, green grass as she explains how she first became involved in issues concerning the environment.
“I can’t say that I’ve been one of those people who has always been super aware of how my actions affect the environment, but during my senior year of high school, I took AP government, and being more aware of current events in general made me more sensitive to our efficacy role.”
As she entered into her first year at Westmont, Cho was struck by the lack of environmental education, “especially on this campus,” Cho states, emphasizing her belief that Westmont is exactly the sort of institution that should be mindful of its impact on the environment.
“It is really biblical to be environmental and to think of ourselves as stewards and caretakers, and we definitely need more environmental education at Westmont, especially in our formal education.”
Cho acknowledges the change that has already been set into action with the recent addition of an Environmental Studies minor, while holding to the claim that there is a need for greater and further integration of Environmental Studies and environmental awareness into the Westmont curriculum.
“I know institutional change--to incorporate more minors and majors--happens slowly, but I definitely think we need more of that, especially if we are claiming to be a school who is trying to responsibly live in today’s world and be global leaders.”
In response to the lack of environmental awareness and education at Westmont, Cho, along with a group of friends, started a club that seeks to educate members of the community on environmental issues while taking a hands-on approach in making Westmont a more environmentally-friendly institution.
“Full disclosure... it is called the Student Environmental Awareness League because we were joking about making it a fun acronym, so the name is based around the acronym SEAL.”
Cho, along with her fellow club leaders, has received immense amounts of support from a wide array of people on campus, which further displays the overall desire that exists among Westmont faculty, staff, and students to foster a more environmentally responsible community.
“What’s been really great to see has been how supportive people are of it. We’ve worked with the Garden Club, we’ve worked with Kenny from Sodexo, we’ve worked with the Student Culinary Council--so many different people.”
SEAL’s biggest endeavor, Cho explains, has been “trying to see if we could do solar power on campus. We ended up talking to a lot of people about it, seeing if it could happen.”
Although the short answer to the question of solar power at Westmont was “no,” Cho explains that the process itself was both surprising and hopeful.
“Westmont is an institution, so it’s not a private decision, and it’s understandable that they said no, but it was cool to go down that avenue and see, ‘will people talk to us about this? How much does our voice count when it comes to issues like this?’”
In her day-to-day life, Cho admits that living sustainably does not always come naturally or easily, but the community she has found in SEAL has been incredibly helpful, encouraging, and something she wants to continue sharing with others.
“Living sustainably can be so hard. No one can be perfect at it, but it really is the little things that can create big change. Literally just learning about it and having a desire to learn about it is huge. I also think it is so much easier to do it with other people, and that is one of the reasons I am grateful for SEAL. Sometimes it’s about keeping each other accountable, but sometimes it’s about being excited together--watching documentaries and going out and volunteering for beach cleanups--things like that.”