Once a month, a group of several dozen UA students gathers on trails around Northwest Arkansas, trash bags and gloves in tow. Their mission is to make the region's outdoors a more pristine place for citizens to enjoy, one cleanup at a time. It might be a dirty job, but someone has to do it.
The UA Sierra Student Coalition, founded as a registered student organization in 1991, has 80 active members and is a branch of the nationwide environmental nonprofit Sierra Club. The goal of the national organization, which has chapters in all 50 states, is to promote environmentalist policies.
UA club president Dominique Savage, a senior, said the goal of the club is to bring together like-minded individuals who care about sustainability and the environment. Club members take weekly social hikes and complete monthly cleanups of outdoor spaces around NWA, including the Lake Atalanta trails and the Razorback Greenway. Each hike lasts anywhere from 2-6 hours, depending on where the group chooses to go, Savage said.
Vice president Emily Tubbs, a junior, helps Savage organize hikes and cleanups for the club. Tubbs’ favorite thing about Sierra is getting to connect with people who share her sustainability values, she said.
Although she thinks the citizens of Fayetteville are becoming increasingly progressive about sustainability efforts, littering is an issue that is still apparent around the city, Tubbs said. She wants to create more awareness about casual littering.
“We have found some areas in Fayetteville where people dump tires and that makes a huge negative impact on our wildlife,” Tubbs said. “So cleaning those up and reporting people who dump trash at these sites would make a big difference.”
Members work with Fayetteville Parks and Recreation and Keep Arkansas Beautiful, a state government office focused on creating sustainable communities, to find out which NWA areas need to be cleaned.
Charlie McCormick, a freshman, has been a member of the group since the beginning of the school year and thinks members of the Fayetteville community need to be more proactive with their choices, she said.
“It just takes us as individuals to be more conscious of our habits and stay active in making change,” McCormick said. “Picking up trash you see on the street, recycling, and volunteering some time to make our community more beautiful is a great start.”
Savage wants Fayetteville citizens to understand the negative effects littering has on the community, including chemical pollution and harming wildlife, she said. Her main responsibility is to recruit speakers to educate the group on sustainability causes at club meetings at least once a month. During the meetings, she encourages members to draw attention to city areas that need maintenance.
”That's the initiative behind it, it's just kind of getting feedback from what needs to be taken care of,” Savage said.
The club’s members have contributed 204 volunteer service hours so far this school year and want to broaden other students’ knowledge about environmental topics, Savage said.
The group has worked on cleanups with other RSOs on campus, including Students Advocating For the Environment. The club has also completed a cleanup with engineering honor society Tau Beta Pi and plans to complete another with Phi Mu on Nov. 14.
Each member of the club is vital, and they push one another to grow the organization’s local reach, Tubbs said.
”To me, the Sierra Student Coalition means coming together and doing our part to help the environment,” Tubbs said. “No matter how small we think our impact may be, we know that we make a difference.”