Opinion: Loyola’s Environmental Program helps conserve local environment


Aimee Thomas looks at organisms on a tree in Audubon Park. Thomas urges students to get to know the enviornment that surrounds them. Courtesy of Kyle Encar

Aimee Thomas

“If not us, who? If not now, when?”

This is a saying that first resonated with me when I was in high school in the early 1990’s — a time directly following the oil boom and bust in Louisiana and Texas, 20 years after the first Earth Day and 30 years after Rachel Carson published her wake-up call, Silent Spring. It was a time when I just KNEW I could change the Earth with my weekly “Aimée on the Environment” pep talks to the St. Mary’s Dominican High School Science Club members by teaching them simple ways to make a difference, like “turn off the water when you brush your teeth,” “turn the light off when you leave a room” and my favorite, “if it’s yellow, let it mellow, if it’s brown, flush it down!” Well, for those of you who know me, not a lot has changed in my passionate mantra over the past 25+ years. However, my platform has grown and I continue to make it my purpose to educate others about sustainable living, while struggling to make sure I practice what I preach: Every. Single. Day.

As the new Environment Program Director at Loyola University New Orleans, I have visions of not only making connections of the science I teach in every course with environmental issues and solutions, but also in communicating this message effectively throughout the Greater New Orleans area so that we, as a community, will realize that little things we do can make a big difference. While we all might agree that there are huge changes that need to be made, it is important to remember that large change begins with personal commitment, then spreading the word and enlisting more advocates for the environment – one person at a time.

Loyola University is at the forefront of environmental education in the city, from the New Orleans City Park BioBlitz’s Citizen Science efforts the past few years to developing curricula to teach us how to live sustainably WITH water instead of pumping it out as fast as we can – via our newly funded Mirabeau Water Garden project. On campus, our students, faculty and staff are involved in LUCAP, the Loyola Natural History Club, Late Nights at Loyola, Students for Environmental Action, the Environmental Law Society and the Sustainability Committee. Through these organizations, we volunteer with non-profits in the New Orleans community.

Beginning this semester, we will roll out new conservation and sustainability initiatives via social media each month ranging from Strawless September to No Plastic November to inspire you to make a difference. Furthermore, if the environment is your passion, I encourage you to find out how you can get involved in our program to turn your passions into purpose.

So, my challenge to you, as a university community, is to join us in our venture to make a difference in the world around us. Find your path, find your passion and turn it into purpose. We only have one Earth.