The sun shined on the Little Lehigh Creek one Saturday in November 2020 as members of the Lehigh conservation club climbed into their kayaks for some spring cleaning.
Pollution in the water left a rainbow glow. Old soda bottles and fast food wrappers lined the shore. Two groups of five paddled down the creek filling large trash bags to the brim with the surrounding litter.
This was one of the few in-person events held last year for a Lehigh University club. Partnered with the Lehigh Outing Club, the Conservation Club was able to clean up the creek while maintaining social distancing protocols. Protocols limited their reach last year, but this year, they hope to accomplish more.
One event they hosted this year was the mask cutting campaign, in which they created posters encouraging students and faculty to cut their masks before throwing them out to prevent animals in oceans from getting tangled in them. The posters can be seen hung around campus and in student housing.
“I feel as though the conservation club has brought awareness to people who may not think about how such small actions have larger impacts on animals,” vice president Ella Greenholt, ‘23, said. “Something as simple as cutting the strings on a disposable mask can help prevent harm to an animal.”
With all of the club’s operations being online last year, former president Katie Bozek, ‘22, said finding ways to make an impact was difficult.
“It’s hard to see any change we make when you are over Zoom,” Bozek said.
Bozek said she joined the club because she has a passion for sustainability, and her participation has been rewarding. During the trail clean-up, she said many walkers expressed gratitude for the club’s efforts to keep the trail clean and beautiful.
On a more global level, the club teamed up with the Coffee Club to raise money for wildfire relief after seeing the devastation that was caused by the wildfires on the West Coast. They sold cups of coffee for $1, as well as encouraged extra donations, outside of the Fairchild-Martindale Library.
Bozek said collaborating with other clubs helps them expand their reach, especially with regards to fundraising and awareness campaigns.
“Most of the time people want to (donate) because we have a board that has information about what we are raising money for,” Bozek said. “People’s emotional sides come out when they see all those posters and pictures we have at our stand.”
Bozek said the conservation club works towards making change on both a local and international level. Most of their events, like the trail clean-up or the mask cutting campaign, are tailored toward improving Lehigh’s campus or the Bethlehem community, while their fundraising primarily centers on global issues.
Bozek said the club chooses what organization or issue they want to focus on based on current events, as they find people are more inclined to donate to current, relevant causes.
Club historians Carly Hecht, ‘23, and Nathan Edmondson, ‘25, are in charge of keeping up with current events and environmental issues. Hecht and Edmondson create slides educating people on endangered species or environment-related news from the week. This information is used to inspire future club-sponsored events
Hecht said she was looking for a club to join but had trouble finding one over Zoom last year. This year, she said she stumbled upon the conservation club at the club fair and was instantly intrigued.
“I have always been super into the environment, so finding this club was awesome, and when they were holding elections the first day I thought, ‘Why not run?’” Hecht said.
The club’s first meeting, which was held in person, was centered on elections for the new semester.
Bozek is hopeful for the success of the club. She said being on Zoom made it hard for the conservation club to have the impact on the community they wanted to, but she is looking forward to seeing all the club is able to do as the world slowly opens again.
“The potential to make a huge difference on campus and off-campus is insane,” Bozek said.