Two college students spend the summer traveling across North Carolina interviewing people in the state’s sustainability community. The trip serves as a respite from studying large-scale systemic problems and allows them to restore their sense of optimism by listening to people who have found ways to implement sustainable solutions in their businesses, communities, and schools. Interviewees range from the director of a pay-what-you-can café in a small rural town to the CEO of a transit system in one of the state’s fastest-growing cities. Whether or not the interviewees know each other (and some of them do), they are linked by their desire to improve the quality of life within their communities, minimize their environmental footprints, and inspire others to do the same.
Michelle Whiting is an Honorary Multimedia Mentor with the Protect our Planet (POP) Movement. She collaborates on various film and writing projects focused on empowering youth to take action to address the climate crisis. She is also working with a nonprofit called Climate Refugees to create a documentary about refugees in the Lake Chad basin who have been disproportionately impacted by climate change. In 2021, Michelle conducted a greenhouse gas inventory for the University of North Carolina Wilmington, which details three years of the university’s emissions trends and carbon offsets. In May 2020, she graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in International Studies from the University of North Carolina Wilmington, and she is currently pursuing her Master of Arts in Sustainability at Wake Forest University.
Alexa Ott is a graduate student in the Department of Psychological Sciences at the University of Connecticut (UCONN), where she researches emotion, environmental affordances, and social interaction. Prior to her graduate studies, Alexa earned a Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies and a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. The intersection of these fields provided a unique lens through which she views sustainability topics, particularly the way we think about, connect with, and communicate sustainable solutions. The film, “Setting out for Sustainability,” was one of a variety of projects Alexa became involved in while at UNC Wilmington. She also took dance classes and performed in the local community. Recently, her passion for sustainability has led her to moderate an interdisciplinary online pop-up class, “Climate Crisis: Take Action,” as well as collaborate on research with UCONN’s NatureRx Initiative. Going forward, Alexa is excited to continue integrating the academic and creative spheres of her life.