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Re:wild Your Campus: Re:wild goes back to school with new student-led partnership

New partnership aims to make biodiversity and environmental health a priority on campuses nationwide

For immediate release, August 24, 2022

Student volunteers at Brandeis University during a weeding event day (Photo by Re:wild Your Campus)
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As college and university students across the United States prepare for the 2022-2023 school year, Re:wild Your Campus – a new partnership bringing together global conservation organization Re:wild and student-founded Herbicide-Free Campus – is helping them make their campuses safer and healthier for people and wildlife. 

Herbicide-Free Campus started in 2017 as a student-led program working to reduce and remove toxic herbicides that can cause disease and illness in humans and hurt native pollinators and other species from college and university campuses. Re:wild Your Campus will continue this mission while expanding student volunteer programs to include supporting pollinator populations and planting native plants. Later this year Re:wild Your Campus will also launch a green grounds certification program to recognize schools that are at the forefront of the collegiate organic land care movement.

"Re:wild is the partner we have been waiting for to support us in our next chapter of growth," said Mackenzie Feldman,project director of Re:wild Your Campus. "Eliminating herbicides is really where our work begins. There are nearly 4,000 college and university campuses in the United States--that is a significant amount of land and influence. These campuses can help promote biodiversity and climate resilience as we empower the next generation of leaders to revolutionize land care." 

Colleges and universities enroll 19 million students each year, representing a bigger population than 46 of the 50 states--only California, Florida, New York, and Texas have more residents. These institutions spend upwards of $671 billion each year, positioning them as powerful economic drivers and trailblazers in the environmental movement.

Feldman first learned about the health effects and environmental consequences of herbicides while an undergraduate student-athlete at the University of California, Berkeley. After learning that the university was using carcinogenic herbicides to keep weeds from popping up around its outdoor volleyball courts, she organized student volunteers to help manually pick weeds and met with the administration to find alternatives to herbicides to protect groundskeepers, students, and the environment. 

Since 2017, Feldman and Bridget Gustafson, senior advisor of fellowships, have helped more than 200 students take action for the environment. Their work is guided by organic land care practices that have been proven to save water and money, eliminate exposure to carcinogens, promote biodiversity, and mitigate climate change.

Re:wild Your Campus also works to educate students on the environmental justice components of the toxins issue beyond campus life, such as that the use of pesticides and herbicides has disproportionately affected BIPOC communities.

This month the program welcomed its most diverse cohort of fellows yet, nearly half of which identify as BIPOC. The program includes 21 students, 80% of whom identify as women. The students attend schools across the country, including Princeton University, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and the University of Michigan. During the next year, Re:wild Your Campus will support these students as they work to eliminate synthetic herbicides and help their campuses transition to organic land management. 

“Becoming a fellow is particularly exciting for me because this is the launch of the Re:wild Your Campus campaign at the University of Wisconsin-Madison,” said Elizabeth Wix, undergraduate student and Re:wild Your Campus fellow. “I am eager to witness how this organization will reshape our campus policies, educate students and staff about the risks of toxic herbicides, and help to create a healthy future for our community.”

Over 500 tons of pesticides are used in the United States each year. Glyphosate is one of the most common ingredients used and is classified as a “probable carcinogen” by the World Health Organization. Risks of exposure to glyphosate and other pesticides span human wellbeing and environmental health and are detrimental to critical species like pollinators that contribute to one-third of the world’s food-crop production. Research has shown more than 90% of pollen samples from beehives in agricultural landscapes are contaminated with multiple pesticides.

“As students head back to school, we are celebrating this new partnership that gives Re:wild and Re:wild Your Campus the opportunity to help more students restore and rewild their own environments on campus,” said Carrie Hutchison, Re:wild’s director of marketing and brand. “We are often asked by the public about ways we can all take action in our own lives to support the wild. This is a direct way for college students to get involved while broadening our global effort to protect and restore the wild.”

Re:wild is the fiscal sponsor for Re:wild Your Campus, which includes financial, legal, and administrative support. 

This school year’s cohort includes fellows from:

California State University Long Beach Drexel University John Jay College of Criminal Justice  Loyola University New Orleans Law School Princeton University  Rowan University University of Central Florida University of Hawaii Maui College University of Michigan University of North Carolina Chapel Hill  University of Wisconsin-Madison

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Re:wild Your Campus Re:wild Your Campus is harnessing the power of student action to create safer, more sustainable living and learning environments for all by starting locally and advocating for organic land care on college campuses. This movement empowers the next generation of environmental leaders to redesign their campuses as a solution to the climate, biodiversity, and human-wellbeing crises through eliminating herbicides and promoting pollinator health, native plants, and edible landscapes. Learn more at: rewild.org/rewild-your-campus.

Re:wild Re:wild protects and restores the wild. We have a singular and powerful focus: the wild as the most effective solution to the interconnected climate, biodiversity and human wellbeing crises. Founded by a group of renowned conservation scientists together with Leonardo DiCaprio, Re:wild is a force multiplier that brings together Indigenous peoples, local communities, influential leaders, nongovernmental organizations, governments, companies and the public to protect and rewild at the scale and speed we need. Learn more at rewild.org.

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