For the Love of Nature

Three years ago, Sacred Heart University’s Environmental Club began working on the Pollinator Garden at SHU’s West Campus.

“A pollinator garden is a refuge for the declining native species of insects, plants, birds and animals in our area,” said Environmental Club sustainability chair Ilona Farkas.

The plan for the garden was officially established when SHU students put together a sustainability plan.

“Within the plan, there were ideas for solar panels, composting, the garden, etc. Once we got some interest in the plan from the club, we began going to West Campus to work on building the garden,” said Environmental Club president Jill Amari, who is also a copyeditor and co-editor of Audrey’s Corner for The Spectrum.

The establishment of the garden also came with many challenges.

“We’ve gone through a lot. We’ve had many plants die, many seeds just not germinate and many rejected requests for funding,” said Farkas.

A project like this also involves plenty of trial and error. There have been logistical issues that the club has had to work around.

“We originally wanted to create a path with wood chips, but we learned that the plants grow wild over the summer and completely covered the wood chips we had already put down,” said Amari. “So, now we are trying to find wooden planks to put down along the path, but these are more expensive and harder to transport.”

There has also been ongoing construction of the new hockey rink on West Campus, which has affected the garden.

“We have some really special populations who were forced to move into the garden area after all the trees were taken down to construct the rink, and those populations are now competing for resources with others already situated there,” said Farkas. “It’s a bit of an ecological mess, but the fact that there’s land to act as a refuge counts for a lot.”

SHU’s Laudato Si’ committee has also become involved with the garden.

Prof. Chelsea King, assistant Catholic Studies professor and Environmental Club faculty advisor, chairs the Laudato Si’ committee at Sacred Heart. She said the committee is “a group of staff, faculty and students who are responsible for driving various initiatives inspired by Pope Francis’s encyclical.”

“Laudato Si is an encyclical by Pope Francis published in May 2015. It focuses on care for the natural environment and all people, as well as broader questions of the relationship between God, humans and the Earth,” according to the Laudato Si’ website.

“Another big change is that the garden has become an initiative for the Laudato Si’ committee, which began last year in response to Pope Francis’s encyclical,” said Amari.

Overall, the garden has been an engaging and rewarding project for the Environmental Club.

“The most rewarding part of working on the garden has been seeing all our hard work so far pay off,” said Amari. “The most tangible way I see this is in the bees that have been coming to the garden lately. We recently planted some new flowers, and the bees love them.”

“The most rewarding part of the garden for me has been seeing the environmental benefits firsthand and seeing professors and students who are passionate about conservation apply their love and knowledge practically,” said Farkas.

Photo: @environmentalclub.shu on Instagram (Jill Amari)

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