UNC Asheville’s oldest environmental group looks for new members

Photo+by+Kevin+McCall.%0A+%0ABenjamin+Freeman%2C+Eliana+Franklin+and+Belle+Kozubowski+at+a+tabling+event+for+ASHE+to+recruit+new+members.%0A

Photo by Kevin McCall. Benjamin Freeman, Eliana Franklin and Belle Kozubowski at a tabling event for ASHE to recruit new members.

Kevin McCall

Arts & Feature writer

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ASHE, Active Students For a Healthy Environment at UNC Asheville seeks to recruit new members in the face of the pandemic. 

Co-president Eliana Franklin joined ASHE during the first semester of her freshman year at UNCA due to her interest in the environment and drive to help the planet.

“I’ve always enjoyed being out in nature and I’m a writer and I write about the environment. I feel connected to nature and that’s important to me,” she said.

Being the oldest environmental group on campus, ASHE tackles several issues around environmental justice such as climate change and food sustainability while also collaborating with other sustainability groups on campus. 

“Basically we just let students come to us and talk about initiatives they want to take on campus,” Franklin said. “To think about ways they can be more sustainable but also to think about systemic change and how we can promote policy changes on campus and the greater community.”

Belle Kozubowski, another co-president of ASHE, said the group holds an event every semester where members go to W.T. Weaver to pick up trash along the street. 

“I feel like it’s so important for so many reasons,” she said. “ Climate change is so real and has such a huge impact on us as individuals and as a country and as a world.”

For ASHE Treasurer Caitlin Tricomi, the student organization is an important part of the school due to its advocacy for sustainability on campus, despite the obstacles the members of ASHE may face.

“I think students have a really big role in advocating for the environment and improving conditions on campus like with dining and Divest,” she said.  

While UNCA took the initiative by collaborating with the group in increasing vegan options in dining areas for students, Franklin said there can still be more areas of improvement in the future.

“I have heard that because of COVID, they’ve kind of had to decrease their vegan options a little so I think there’s ways they can think about being more sustainable for their food options,” she said. 

Due to the pandemic, membership for ASHE decreased leaving most of its active membership down to the leadership committee.

“We don’t have a lot of other members so we would really love for new people to come and join. We definitely need more people to keep this club running and keep it going,” Franklin said. 

Before the pandemic, ASHE’s membership kept itself at a consistent level with enough members to be able to separate into teams and work on different initiatives simultaneously.  

“It’s definitely gotten smaller, but I am confident that we can keep the organization going and find more people,” Franklin said.

At the first meeting Franklin attended for ASHE, she saw large groups of people in the student organization. 

“We had a very consistent membership before COVID. My sophomore year we probably had around 6 to 10 people at meetings,” she said.

To combat the low membership ASHE sets up tabling events in order to recruit underclassmen who are interested in advocating for environmental justice as its senior committee nears graduation.

“That’s why we’re trying to do more tabling and recruitment because most of us are seniors too,” Tricomi said. “We’ve been around for so long, we don’t want to see the organization go under.”

In order to recruit new members for the next semester, ASHE focuses on direct outreach as a tool to interact with students on campus instead of mainly relying on social media. 

“We really need to have direct conversations with people and talk to ASHE and get them to come to our meetings,” Franklin said.  

Regardless of whether a student joins the group, Tricomi said the biggest message students can take away from ASHE is to be a more conscious consumer, to care about the environment and to push for things they believe in.

“If people have any environmental concerns or ideas, we are always willing to take them,” she said. 

For Kozubowski, a key aspect of ASHE is student engagement and her best advice for new students joining the organization is to think globally, but act locally. 

“We really try to be involved in the local community, especially on campus, but also be thinking about larger concepts and how our impact can affect the world,” she said. 

Although the organization currently lacks enough members, the community at ASHE welcomes anybody to join and offers itself as an opportunity for students to become involved in environmentalism and to make a difference to the world.

“Sometimes it feels really hopeless that we are not able to help the environment. The environment is getting destroyed and there’s not much we can do, but there is a lot we can do,” Franklin said. “I feel like ASHE has been a really great community for me.”

For students who are interested in joining ASHE, Franklin said the student organization will meet biweekly next semester and host several events on campus which students can participate in. 

“They can get involved in greenfest events, they can get involved in our planning for those events and people can come to our roadside cleanup,” she said. “You can make a difference if you get involved in something and want to do something.”