When members of the Conservation Club helped clean up trash along a half-mile stretch of the Baw Beese Trail last semester, they collected six bags of trash, four tires, and a windowpane in half an hour, senior Andrea Wallace, Conservation Club president, said.
Their Baw Beese cleanup events are part of the club’s intentional effort to strengthen their presence on campus and in the local Hillsdale community, Wallace said.
“We’re trying to make it bigger and more than just a group that gets together and discusses events, but actually gets the general population of our college to know more about conservation and conserve the environment around our campus,” sophomore Andrew Rademacher, the club’s historian, said.
During the fall semester, the club also held a seminar about zero-waste living, showed a documentary about the dangers of plastic in marine environments, and a professor presentation on renewable energy. The club’s events encompass volunteer work, education on environmental issues, and a social component, Wallace said.
“I really like the community and how we all drive each other to do better things for the environment,” Wallace said. “It somehow happened that the theme for last semester was plastic, and so many of our lectures and cleaning events ended up being themed around plastic and the environment, and it’s been really great to have that community and accountability. It’s also encouraging because the numbers were slowly dwindling over the years, but we’ve been fostering a new group, and I’m excited to see what they’ll do next year.”
The original conservation club began in 2002 and focused on conservation-related genetic analysis and lab work, according to Professor of Biology Dan York, the club’s advisor. The club stopped meeting for a few years, and was reformed under Associate Professor of Biology Jeffrey VanZant with a focus on environmental issues.
Membership gradually declined, but now there are approximately 20 active club members this year, Wallace said.
“The club has been smaller in recent years, so we decided this year would be a good year to help it grow a little bit, do a few more activities around campus, and things like that,” junior Jimmy McGrath, the club’s treasurer, said. “We all just had that shared interest, and that’s how we all started to get a little bit more involved.”
This semester, the club plans to place receptacles for used fishing lines at Baw Beese Lake for recycling, an effort that began last semester. The club is also working with the city to coordinate a tree-planting day in the spring and additional cleanup days for the Baw Beese Trail.
McGrath said the club’s efforts fit in with the college’s larger mission to preserve good and beautiful things, whether that involves timeless ideas or the local environment.
“We’re just a bunch of college kids trying to do something that’s good for the environment and the city, and we figure that we have a lot of opportunities to grow because we’re small,” said McGrath. “We want to have more opportunities for people to work with the Conservation Club. Even if it’s just planting trees on a Saturday morning, it’s something fun to do, something different, and a way to give back.”