New Jersey students want to save the world this Earth Day

Sustainability coalition cites ways to become an eco-activist

Kelsey Moss is a member of the New Jersey Student Sustainability Coalition (NJSSC). She poses here with a heart-shaped rock she found while collecting waste from Burlington Island. She uses the waste and natural materials she finds on the island to make original art, which was featured in NJSSC’s Earth Week art show (Kelsey Moss/Special to The Sun).

At 15, Svanfridur Mura is leading an action team to put the Green Amendment on New Jersey’s ballot.

“2030 is the deadline, basically, before we can’t reverse climate change,” she said. “By that point, I will have barely started my career, meaning that basically my entire life we’ll be dealing with the effects of climate change.” 

Mura is part of the New Jersey Student Sustainability Coalition (NJSSC), a group run entirely by high-school and college students who push green initiatives. The organization hosts events, creates letter-writing campaigns, teaches activism techniques and uses other ways to preserve the Earth for future generations.

Mura calls the students “a generation born out of crisis.”

In time for Earth Day, coalition members hosted eight virtual events to expose attendees to the impact of climate change and introduce ways to combat it.

One event was a film screening that illustrated how plastic waste is damaging the planet. A coalition team focused on eco-bricks, or building materials made from recycled plastic, that can be used in schools and on other construction projects.

Another event was an art show that featured artwork and education on the Green Amendment, a proposed constitutional amendment guaranteeing the right to environmental health and safety.

Coalition member Kelsey Moss, a Burlington Township resident and Rowan College at Burlington County student, presented her own artwork during the show. As a volunteer for Burlington Island, she uses plastic waste and natural materials she collects there in her work.

Moss first got involved with the coalition after doing a presentation on plastic waste in one of her classes.

“It ruined me,” she said of the research she did on plastic waste. “But I learned about sustainability and that there are people doing things. So I’ve made it my mission.”

Moss said the coalition has given her the opportunity to learn and grow her activism.

“I’m just loving absorbing all the information,” she noted. “It really gives you hope in the world and in the future with these students and that they are doing this.”

But Mura and Moss have been frustrated by the disregard for the environment in earlier generations. 

“There’s a lot of bitterness about it and anger, especially when you are younger and this all happened before you were born,” Mura explained. 

Moss said she’s heard some older folks call eco-living a trend.

“The Earth is ours. It’s the only one that we have,” she insisted. “It is something to protect to ensure a future for our children, their children, our children’s children. It is in no way a trend.”

The coalition allows students to take the future into their own hands and partners with adult sustainability organizations. They operate teams focused on policy, plastics, artistic activism, clean energy and more. 

“We want people from everywhere with whatever they’re interested in, whatever they’re good at, helping us,” Mura said. “There’s such diverse types of grassroots activism that you can get involved with and there really is room for everybody.”

More information about the coalition, including guidance for how to join, is available at its website, njstudentsustainability.com.