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EARTH DAY 2018: Spring Fever Means Students & AFT, NYSUT & UUP Educators Are Helping The Land & Water

Published Sunday, April 22, 2018
by Liza Frenette/NYSUT Communications
EARTH DAY 2018: Spring Fever Means Students & AFT, NYSUT & UUP Educators Are Helping The Land & Water

NYSUT Editor’s Note: Pictured above, a sampling of student posters from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation's Conserve and Protect Our Water contest.  See all of the poster contest winners at


(FREDONIA, NEW YORK) - Listen to the pipes of the peepers singing like a choir beyond the houses, by the trees and you’ll know its Spring.  The peepers come out of the mud, where they’ve been buried all winter and give a shout out to the world.  The males court the females and it’s all tree frog allure.  Their voice is their cologne, their buffed shoes.  They remind us: Wake up!  The earth needs care and attention!

A State University at New York (SUNY) Fredonia Chemistry Professor who’s been studying plastic in the Great Lakes has some simple and strong ideas on how to change the world - ideas that will make an impact long after Earth Day on Sunday (April 22nd).

Stop using single-use plastic.

Don’t use plastic bags to carry purchases from any store.

Don’t buy products heavily packaged in plastic.

Don’t buy bottled water - use a mug or thermos.

Stop using plastic straws - they are incredibly harmful to animals.

And use real utensils at picnics or ask people to each bring their own.

“We are the problem when it comes to plastic pollution…. we are also the solution,” said Sherri “Sam” Mason, a Professor of Chemistry and Environmental Science at SUNY Fredonia, speaking at a TED talk on why plastic is so toxic and how people can use less.

Mason is a member of United University Professions (UUP), the SUNY Higher Education Union, an affiliate of the New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) Union.  Her research work on the Great Lakes Plastic Pollution Survey has been reported widely in hundreds of media, including The New York Times, The Chicago Tribune and on National Public Radio.

"When we go looking for life on other planets, what do we look for?  Water... because to our knowledge there is no life without water.  Clean water is fundamental to life sustaining itself.  As our society has developed, especially since the adage of 'better living through chemistry,’ we have continued to utilize this life-sustaining fluid as a garbage bin.  We cannot continue to do so," Mason told NYSUT.

SUNY Fredonia, like many of the State’s colleges and universities, works hard to earn a place on Earth Day.  Projects around the State include school gardens, recycling events, guest speakers and field trips to environmental centers, classroom lessons, composting, and much more. An abundance of environmental and Earth Day-themed lessons can be found on Share My Lesson, a site sponsored by American Federation of Teachers (AFT), which features free lesson plans from around the country.

At Fredonia, Mason’s activism and the work of many other committed Faculty Members has taught students about the need for increased personal responsibility and environmental awareness.

This week, SUNY Fredonia students and faculty took part in No Impact Week, where they will did a “carbon cleanse” to reduce their environmental impact.

Tracy Marafiote, a Communications Professor and Member of United University Professions (UUP), started using the No Impact idea on campus six years ago - initially for her Environmental Communication Students and then for the entire campus.

This year, 85 people have pledged to take on the challenge.

Each day focused on a different aspect: Day One is consumption: How much we buy, but don’t really need.  The challenge is not to buy; The second day theme is trash and consumption: Consider the waste you generate; and Third: What are the choices you are making when you travel?  Could you carpool, ride the bus, walk or ride a bike?

“I live a mile away and typically ride my bike,” Marafiote said - noting she’ll even do so in winter if the roads are dry.

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