YES! Club Works for Styrofoam-Free Dining Honors College student María Parra is always looking for a way to improve the world around her. As president of Kendall Campus’ YES! Club, her most recent mission is removing Styrofoam from MDC’s food containers. “Once we got the idea, we created a petition for students to sign to get rid of Styrofoam,” said Parra, who is the spokesperson in a short but powerful informational video viewable at tinyurl.com/ParraStopsStyro. The Kendall Campus YES! Club, which is a student organization supported by MDC’s Earth Ethics Institute (EEI), turned to Endowed Teaching Chair Dr. Anouchka Rachelson to help them fine tune their petition. María Parra, center, and Dr. Anouchka Rachelson, right, inspired Dr. Stephen Johnson to support efforts to remove Styrofoam from MDC. “She’s a great mentor,” Parra said of Rachelson, the club’s faculty adviser who regularly adds an environmental twist to her English classes and encourages students to embrace the activism fostered by EEI’s innovative Global Sustainability and Earth Literacy Studies (GSELS) Learning Network. Parra and YES! Reached out to the Student Government Association to discuss the change with Canteen, MDC’s food-service contractor. “Canteen has been receptive to switching to containers that are environment- friendly,” Parra said. As the video shows, Styrofoam and the ingredients in polystyrene are a human carcinogen, according to the International Agency for Research on Cancer and also the Environmental Protection Agency. Styrofoam manufacturing pollutes the air, and the final product is the fifth-largest creator of hazardous waste. If heated in a microwave, Styrofoam containers leak toxic chemicals into the food they contain. It can take 500 or more years for Styrofoam to decompose. And polystyrene foam, which is often dumped into the environment as litter, easily breaks into tiny pieces that choke animals, clogging their digestive systems. The MDC Styrofoam challenge is nothing new for Parra, a 20-year-old native of Bogotá, Colombia, who is focusing her studies on French literature and has become such a strong advocate for the planet that she wants to become an environmental lawyer. Set to graduate with an MDC associate degree this spring, she has applied to top colleges, including Amherst, Emory and Swarthmore. But no matter where she goes, she vows to continue working to improve the environment. “Our purpose at YES! Club is to create change and advocate for environment awareness,” Parra said. “And I plan to keep on doing that long after I graduate from MDC.”
Published by Miami Dade College. View All Articles.