By Cooper Drummond
Purchase College held a Day of Action for the Environment event. There were two parts: a clean-up around campus as well as the opportunity to learn about the effects of proper medication disposal.
“We're doing a Campus Clean Up because we want to create a clean and green Earth and campus,'' said Robbie Morell of the Counseling and Behavioral Health Services.
Students, faculty, and staff were all invited to the clean-up, which included removing litter from designated spots. These included apartment areas like the Commons and Alumni Village, as well as the athletic fields.
“We [gave] out recycling bags and gloves and [sent] people to different parts of the campus,” said Morel, who organized the event. She was able to bring in a few athletic teams, the outdoors club, and the Office of Sustainability to help. “I want to say about 70 people came by.”
“We went into the Olde, did a little bit over there, picking up a lot of trash and getting it clean,” said Patrick Reyes, a freshman economics major and member of the Purchase baseball team.
“We went on a big loop,” said Sara Herskowitz, a staff member of the Counseling Center who joined a group of students. “I cleaned up and down Lincoln Avenue, over to facilities, and then back in the West parking lots. Then, back to the mall (main plaza).”
Herskowitz is a Health Promotion Coordinator with the Counseling Center. She says that her job uses a public health approach to aim to improve all aspects of a student's health, with a big focus on harm reduction. She collaborates with many other departments on campus to offer student-centered services/programs and offers health-related information/education to students. It is a brand new position that she took in July.
Day of Action for the Environment had another goal: to educate other people about how to properly dispose of medications to help the environment. According to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC), flushed medications have been found in New York lakes, rivers, and streams. Studies have proven that drugs continuously flushed in waters, even in low doses, can cause physical and behavioral changes in aquatic life. Medication-resistant bacteria can also develop.
“We want to be able to take unused and misused medications out of the groundwater,” said Morell.
Morell runs a 4-credit internship at the Counseling Center called the Prevention and Well-Being Track. According to the internship website, a part of the internship is to “increase knowledge on the top challenges to college student health and well-being, and strategies to manage these at college.” In the case of Day of Action for the Environment, the interns helped provide resources to people that wanted to learn how to better dispose of their medications.
“We have a little thing called a Deterra bag that you can put old medication in and it helps dissolve them,” said Kelly Gleeson, a sophomore intern for Prevention and Well-Being Track. “It’s a lot better than just throwing them out into landfills, where they're not going to be broken down for probably hundreds and thousands of years. So, it's a more sustainable and safer alternative.”
Purchase’s Day of Action for the Environment took place the same week as National Prescription Drug Take Back Day, which is intended to bring national attention to the issue of disposing of old medications safely.
“We also have fentanyl strips for anyone who uses substances or people who use substances themselves… that's been a really big hit too; a lot of people have come by to grab them. We actually ran out at one point and had to refill them,” said Gleeson.
The Day of Action for the Environment is part of the Days of Action and Dialogue (DOAD). According to the Purchase College website, it is a “campus-wide community engagement and building initiative that is meant to encourage collective engagement, facilitate dialogue, and foster community synergy in response to social justice and civility issues facing us at the global, national, local, and community levels.” It began in 2017 and happens during a two-week period in the fall semester.
Other DOAD events this year have included a Day of Health, an event to talk about the issue of LGBTQ+ homelessness awareness, and a Well-Being and a first-generation student, faculty, and staff mixer. They also held a screening of the 2022 documentary "Kaepernick and America," and a Q+A with producer Gary Cohen.