Maura Goldstein C'11
Serving as the student population’s (local) foodie, Maura enters her senior year at Penn as one of the most recognizable campus leaders in sustainability. She was among the first students to work for the Penn Green Campus Partnership, and has gone on to raise awareness of the importance of local food initiatives through several student groups.
Maura spent the 2009-2010 academic year away from Penn, traveling and volunteering on farms in Latin America and building hiking trails in the western U.S. She is currently a senior leader of the PennGreen freshman pre-orientation program, project leader of the Penn Garden, and director of the FarmEcology student group.
On College Green: What was the most memorable experience of your time spent away from Penn last year?
Maura Goldstein: I was happy to have the opportunity to do a bit of experiential learning and to see some of the different ways that people live. I learned a lot from people from different backgrounds while farming and doing trail work. Now I appreciate these activities for their potential to bring people together and create change.
OCG: You’ve helped organize the PennGreen pre-orientation program since its start three years ago. How has the program evolved over the past few years in terms of the itinerary and the participants?
MG: Each year we have the opportunity to improve our itinerary, which is really exciting. Based on feedback from participants and leaders, we are making PennGreen into a well-rounded and engaging program for students with a wide range of interests. Also, as Penn's sustainability initiatives evolve, we are able to incorporate new activities, such as a visit to the center that composts Penn's food waste. There are new projects starting up all over the city as well, thanks to local non-profits and the City's efforts. Our leaders and participants are such a diverse group that the education runs in both directions. It's exciting to expand our collective knowledge base each year.
OCG: What do you hope freshmen take away from the PennGreen program?
MG: Most of all, a love of and appreciation for Philadelphia. The program should make students feel connected to the campus community as well as to other Philadelphians. This connection is important in enabling students to explore on- and off-campus opportunities while at Penn. I think that, along with teaching freshmen that they have a stake in the environmental health of Philadelphia, PennGreen shows freshmen that they have a role to play in this regard. I want them to be energized and motivated by the program and to become active in whatever is exciting to them.
OCG: As one of the first students to work with the Green Campus Partnership in 2008, do you notice more people across campus getting involved with sustainability initiatives since the launch of the Climate Action Plan last September?
MG: I have definitely noticed more people becoming involved in the increasing number of sustainability initiatives on campus. It helps that there are more opportunities for people with various related interests; it seems that every organization has some sort of sustainability component now. The resulting increase in awareness has been really incredible. I spent a lot of time explaining the idea of sustainable food sources my freshman year, but now the term is much more broadly known and understood. It is great that so many people now know the basics of key environmental issues; it makes large scale action much more feasible.
OCG: Have you had the opportunity to work on any projects or events with Bon Appétit Management Company since they became Penn Dining’s campus food provider?
MG: Yes, I have worked with Bon Appétit at Penn Dining on numerous occasions. They played a crucial role in making Food Week a reality this past February by providing food, staff and venues for the various activities. Also, we rely on Bon Appétit for most of our meals during PennGreen. Their team has done a great job of introducing the PennGreen freshmen to their mission of sourcing sustainably and their reasoning for doing so.
OCG: When should we expect the first harvest of the Penn Garden? Have you had a lot of people volunteer their green thumbs on workdays?
MG: We have already harvested quite a bit of the garden's produce - radishes, fennel, peppers, herbs, and greens. I have been breathlessly awaiting our big tomato harvest, which now appears to be imminent. We have had amazing volunteer turnout. At our groundbreaking workday, we had upwards of 50 volunteers come by to dig up sod and build raised beds. This summer, our Tuesday weekly workdays have been a great time to meet even more interested Penn students as well as those visiting from other schools. As word has spread, community members have expressed interest in helping out as well. Everyone seems to enjoy spending the evening outside after class or work and the bonus of free vegetables doesn't seem to hurt either.
OCG: University City now boasts a handful of farmer’s markets… Have you had the chance to visit all of them yet?
MG: I have. It's nice to know that I can locate a farmers' market within a few blocks of my house most days of the week and that those not actively seeking out markets can easily pick up fresh fruits and vegetables. I spend a lot of time at the Clark Park farmers' market and look forward to seeing the market at the Radian develop as students return to campus and word spreads.
OCG: Do you have a favorite Philly restaurant that focuses on using local, sustainable food sources?
MG: Honey's Sit 'n Eat serves an awesome brunch that generally features local ingredients. Fortunately, most Philly restaurants are now sourcing from local producers in some capacity.
OCG: What big FarmEcology projects should we keep an eye out for in the upcoming year?
MG: After Food Week 2010, there was a lot of enthusiasm about making it a yearly event so you can expect to see another week of tasty and informational food-related programming. We also hope to establish the garden as a social space for workshops, casual gatherings and organized meals. We will likely be hosting events at the garden throughout the year and will be looking to collaborate with other campus and community organizations.
OCG: What kind of impact do you hope programs such as PennGreen, FarmEcology, and Green Fund projects like the Penn Garden will have on the overall sustainability of the campus after you graduate?
MG: I would like to see the perpetuation and growth of these programs result in greater campus awareness of issues of environmental sustainability. Hopefully, this will result in a larger campus sustainability movement that works from the ground up, with students, faculty and staff pushing for better environmental standards for the school. I want the focus areas of these programs to become major considerations in Penn's expansion and development and in current projects such as Penn Park.
I also hope that these programs help to make Penn a destination for students interested in urban environmental issues, particularly urban agriculture and sustainable food systems. It would be great to see the many movements that are under way in Philadelphia and other cities echoed with the same intensity here at Penn.
Each issue of Red & Blue On College Green, we recognize a member of the Penn community for his or her environmental sustainability efforts on campus. If you know someone at Penn who is "leading the green," let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.