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Earth Month Reflection from Danner Doud-Martin of UC Berkeley

on April 19, 2022   duration

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Danner Doud-Martin is the Associate Director for the International Business Program (IBD) at Berkeley Haas and Staff Lead for Zero Waste atUC Berkeley, as well as an Herbicide-Free Campus Advisory Board Member

I reached out to Mackenzie Feldman and Bridget Gufstason after reading in the Daily Cal about the impressive work they were doing on behalf of the newly developed Herbicide Free Cal (this was back in 2017 at the beginning of RYC inception).  As a former Lacrosse player at UC Davis and now mom of two, I was particularly struck by the image they described of being asked to step onto the beach volleyball court soon after it was sprayed with Roundup. I was sick to my stomach thinking about all the women athletes who play on fields soaked in chemicals and the possible horrific effects on their future health.  Additionally, I was the leader of theHaas Sustainability Task Force (HSTF) working on sustainability initiatives and I wanted to help their cause in any way that I could.  

Meeting with and hearing more about Mackenzie and Bridget’s work brought up a lot of reasons to get involved. First, I was struck by how these two young students were out there making friends with the campus grounds crew and convincing them to think about their work from a different perspective.  I was equally impressed that they convinced their athletic team and their coaches to skip the chemicals and do the weeding themselves.  But it was this event and hearingfrom the event panelists, including Dewayne “Lee'' Johnson, that really solidified my commitment.  Mr. Johnson, a groundskeeper for the Benicia Unified School District, developed cancer after exposure to Monsanto’s glyphosate-based herbicide.  He was the first to challenge Monsanto in court and his story is devastating and incredibly powerful. Herbicide Free Cal’s work goes beyond keeping athletic fields free of toxins; it is an environmental, social and racial justice issue.  

 Stepping up and doing the work:

Organic methods of weed control take a long time and the UC Berkeley groundskeepers were working hard before theUniversity of California issued a temporary glyphosate suspension.  With the help of the RYC students and in partnership with the UC Berkeley grounds crew, the HSTF started weeding parties where staff and student volunteers would tackle the weeds around the Haas campus.  It was invigorating to be outside, away from my computer, working with colleagues and students, knowing we were making an impact.  It’s not just that we are helping to maintain campus beautification, but we are committing to valuing the health and safety of all of our community and planet.

 Commitment to Sustainability: 

“We are doubling down on our investment in sustainability and preparing the next generation of sustainability leaders,” said Berkeley Haas Dean Ann Harrison.  

Being a part of the RYC movement is powerful for a business school, and especially for Haas who is striving to be a leader in sustainability in the classroom and beyond.  We are getting our hands dirty to make sure we are “walking the talk”.  In fact, there are a lot of amazing initiatives we are working on that intersect with the work that Re:wild Your Campus is doing across the nation.  We plan to launch Hives@Haas in spring 2022 in partnership withBest Bees Co.  This will be the first bee hives on the UC Berkeley campus and as part of our efforts to be chemical free, Haas and UC Berkeley students and staff will restore an area that is currently overgrown with weeds and trash to plant a pollinator garden.  A team of four Berkeley Students, including the 2022 co-leader of Herbicide Free Cal, Nyah Tisdell, are researching, designing and will be leading the planting effort of the pollinator garden in April.  We plan to unveil the pollinator garden in time for Earth Day.  This will be one of many pollinator gardens that have been restored on the Berkeley campus by Herbicide-Free Campus and the Bee Campus Berkeley chapter.  

 Beyond Campus:

As part of our Haas Sustainability Task Force (HSTF) strategic goals,we are taking responsibility and making efforts to understand the impact we make on the communities around us, specifically the effects of our waste streams.  UC Berkeley, and therefore the Haas School of Business, hauls our landfill and composting to the Richmond Material Recovery Facility (MRF) where it is separated and processed in Richmond or hauled to Pittsburg, CA. We are working with our stakeholders to educate and find ways to engage with the communities that are dealing with our waste streams.  

Waste processing facilities are more likely to be in underserved communities, who take on the burden of our waste and as a result experience health issues and higher levels of water and air pollution. As part of a campaign to raise awareness and to encourage behavior changes, Haas committed to planting 400 trees this academic year, focusing efforts on improving tree canopy in marginalized communities.  To date, Haas has planted 150 trees at the Richmond MRF, we hope this will help to offset some of the impacts the UC Berkeley waste stream has on the local community in Richmond.  Planting trees is good for the climate and improves local air quality. Trees absorb pollutant gasses (nitrogen oxides, ammonia, sulfur dioxide and ozone) and filter particulates out of the air by trapping them on their leaves and bark…And trees support biodiversity.  The Haas community tree planting project has local environmental and health benefits as well as a positive impact on the climate and the community.  

 Back to Re:wild Your Campus:

Mackenzie, Bridget and the team of their now national organization have influenced significant change at college campuses across the country and they are making a direct impact on the health and wellness of the community and the environment. Thank you for inspiring me and I am so proud to be an advisory board member for Re:wild Your Campus. I am fortunate to have a platform at Haas to push the organic land management agenda for the health and safety of our groundskeepers and stakeholders. But there are many opportunities to find ways to impact your own community and spaces, whether in your own yards, or at your neighborhood schools, at local farms and gardens and beyond. Regardless, I hope you join the RYC movement and support the amazing students making changes for their campus environments.

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