By Oona Molyneaux, USM Eco-Rep
The goal of this weeks Sustainability & ME piece is to give a little background of what brought me, Oona, to become an Eco-Rep. I come from a little town so far up the Maine coast you are practically in Canada. Some know this area as Downeast. I grew up with a younger brother, and two loving parents. My parents raised us on a homestead. We had two large gardens, goats, ducks, and chickens which fostered a strong connection to where our food comes from.
We also were homeschooled, using our backyard as a classroom. This instilled in us a strong connection to our natural environment from a very young age. From this first chapter of my life, I discovered a semester school that focused on the ideals that I had been raised on.
It was the Maine Coast Semester at Chewonki, in Wiscasset, Maine. The fall of my junior year in high school, I attended this semester school along with forty other students from around the country. For four months we lived together on a peninsula in Mid-Coast Maine. We all worked on the schools’ farm, which provided food for our community, to fundamentally understand the way that our food system works. This helped me discover the importance of experiential learning and also allowed me to see the true purpose in the way I was raised.
Another focus of this school was place based learning. Each week took outdoor science classes in order to establish a connection to our surrounding environment and learn from it. Most significantly, this experience gave me a strong sense of what a sustainable community can look like. A community where everyone contributes and everyone benefits. Where each individual has something valuable to bring to the table and everyone learns from each other.
I walked away from my semester there with a true appreciation for my home state of Maine and the way I was raised. It left me with a desire to fix the parts of our systems that are broken, and also left me wanting to lead a more sustainable lifestyle.
As I was preparing to attend the University of Southern Maine, I discovered the Eco-Reps program. This program has really fostered a sustainable community of sorts by valuing what we each bring to the table.
Being a part of the Eco-Reps program at USM helped me find a sense of belonging and allows me to initiate the projects that I am most passionate about in the context of sustainability.
My specialty is Sustainable Food, and through this group I have been able to implement a Food Pantry through our Free Store which is available to the whole USM community. I have also been able to help organize many on-campus events to raise awareness about sustainability.
What is most inspiring about this group is knowing what has been accomplished over the years by students like me at USM. This has given hope for future projects that we as a community can take on.