BeGreenBruin promotes sustainability through gardening, volunteer projects

BeGreenBruin sows the seeds of sustainability.

Founded in 2020, the club offers students the opportunity to learn about food culture and environmentalism and use that knowledge to implement little habits in their own lives. On a larger scale, social media director and fourth-year international development student Zanasia Graham said the club promotes sustainable practices through hands-on gardening and working at local farmer’s markets.

“Being a part of a project like this is sustainable because you’re not wasting money, labor, carbon – all those kinds of things,” Graham said. “This is one of the things that having a community garden is also linked to sustainability, and you also connect with your community. “

To develop this mindset on campus, Graham co-founded BeGreenBruin with Emily Xing, third-year molecular, cellular, and developmental biology student, and Kathy Wu, third-year math / applied science student. Xing, the current director of activities, said she and Graham met during an environmental science class, which inspired the duo to start the club.

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For Xing, the class opened his eyes to the connection between soil health, the environment and the overall health of the people. The class also introduced her to the notion of “you are what you eat,” she said, and inspired her to spread the message that fertilizers, chemicals and herbicides will change foods. Graham said she is interested in how food systems – farmers’ markets as well as the agricultural workforce – work and she appreciates that BeGreenBruin allows members to reconnect with food systems.

“When we go to the market and pick up an apple, you don’t really think about all the steps that have been taken to have that apple there,” Graham said. “Whereas if you go to a community garden, you get rid of all those unnecessary emissions. “

To turn that feeling into action, BeGreenBruin is making changes through community farm volunteer projects and plans to start its own portable gardens on campus. To make the club more accessible to students, Xing said they are working to collaborate with UCLA’s Zero Waste team to create community gardens. The goal of the initiative is for students to be able to take and use the produce from these gardens, Graham said.

In addition to promoting healthier habits, fourth-year biology student Jose Haro-Aldana said he joined the club to teach the importance of sustainability, environmentalism and gardening. As this year’s outreach director, he said he wanted communities to benefit from these practices.

“We hope that our club can teach members not only how to produce a garden, but also realize the importance of these gardens,” said Haro-Aldana. “Exactly how much carbon you are reducing with these gardens and what exactly does that mean to the rest of the community – like the benefits these gardens can provide.”

As a concrete goal, Haro-Aldana said the club also hope to turn the vacant lots into self-preserved gardens. These plots of land can become sustainable, which is especially important for those who live in areas such as food swamps or food deserts because they don’t have much access to fresh produce, Xing said. Instead of walking for miles to the nearest grocery store, Haro-Aldana said they could efficiently get their food from their front door or near their home.

Since BeGreenBruin was established during the pandemic, it is a fairly new club and is still working to establish itself and organize events. Haro-Aldana said the organization is working to plan weekly volunteer opportunities at different sites until they find a place to start their own garden. The club also recently hosted a volunteer day, where participants traveled to the Los Angeles Green Ground Teaching Garden to learn about the club, other members and the gardens, he said. .

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For this term, Graham said the focus is on volunteering, but in the coming quarters she hopes to host an event with guest speakers and workshops where students can learn about practices they can incorporate into their studies. dorms, like having a compost bin, not buying packaged foods, and making their own toothpaste.

In practice, Haro-Aldana said he hopes BeGreenBruin and the gardens can teach members and students the importance of the environment and sustainability as well as that the ecosystem should be preserved and well maintained. .

“Being environmentally friendly is only one side of the picture,” said Haro-Aldana. “Sustainability is also an important and important part, and sustainability for us is something that lasts, that takes care of itself. “

Terri S. Tomasini