Students Leading the Way on Sustainability at the Teach-In

BY LILY EARLEY | December 19, 2023

I have a great passion for sustainability, especially from the perspective of workers’ rights and climate justice—hence why I work for ISN as the Catholic Ethical Purchasing Alliance (CEPA) intern.  Attending the 2023 Ignatian Family Teach-In for Justice as the CEPA intern was an unforgettable experience. As a Catholic who grew up in the Latin Mass, there was never a sense of community when attending church because it was supposed to be a time of reflection and prayer. Going to a Jesuit university and having attended both mass at school and the liturgy at the Teach-In, I have seen how different mass is and how it really is focused on the community. 

At the Teach-In, seeing so many people in one place having such a love for God and a willingness to work with those in their community to do good for others was absolutely inspiring.  Eric Henry, who spoke on a panel about fast fashion,  is an innovator and is always looking for more sustainable ways to produce clothing in the U.S.. Rebecca Ballard, the second panelist, was very passionate about government policy, and working with clothing factories in India. She gave me a new perspective on what I could be doing in my own advocacy work, as well as what my journey ahead could look like. 

I also presented on a panel with Eric Henry and Sarah Richard from the University of Dayton, who is a member of the CEPA steering committee at Dayton and is working with other faculty and staff to educate students about ethical purchasing. We talked about what it looks like to be a student advocate, a faculty advocate, and a business owner, giving attendees a brief look into what advocacy looks like and how they can take that information home with them. 

During this discussion, I spoke about my role as a student advocate as a CEPA intern, as well as what I do through John Carroll University as a campus ministry sustainability intern. My jobs as an intern for JCU and CEPA overlap, since both revolve around bringing awareness to campus about the importance of ethical consumption practices and how your dollar has more weight than you would think.

My main goal this semester as the CEPA intern was to tackle the problem surrounding t-shirts that are distributed on campus, either through the bookstore or student organizations. My biggest challenge, still, is to get in contact with the people “in the room where it happens,”—the directors of student engagement. This is not an easy task and I touched on this in the panel discussion at IFTJ. In order to have your voice heard, you need to talk to people who have the same values and passions as you do, or else your proposal is going to be swept under the rug—requiring me to work harder to convince them of the benefits.

The impact that IFTJ left on the students, no matter what sessions they went to, gives me hope for a brighter future. Not only do these young people have passion for doing what is right, but they also expose themselves to stories and experiences that they would not be able to anywhere else. I was surprised by the knowledge that some students shared during the CEPA sessions. One student had visited Bangladesh and asked a question regarding garment workers there. I was impressed by his knowledge. The more I am able to educate others on these issues I am so passionate about, especially the horrible conditions for garment workers in Bangladesh, the more I feel that I am moving in the right direction with my advocacy work. 

A girl from Gonzaga approached me after the CEPA session about ways to be more sustainable as a college student. I felt honored that others my age were coming to me to ask about the ways I have been slowly becoming more sustainable in my everyday life. 

What I took away from IFTJ for myself is that I need to have more confidence—I have done the research and have had many experiences at this point, so I just need to have a little more faith,  take the advice I give to others, and apply it to myself.

2 replies
  1. Dr.Cajetan Coelho
    Dr.Cajetan Coelho says:

    Students at the CEPA are showing the way. May they and their legion of admirers and well-wishers continue to excel in the art of sustainable living.


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