On Saturday, April 23, the Drew Environmental Action League, also known as DEAL, held their annual Earth Week celebration and gardening event at Drew, after a two-year hiatus. Students were able to gather in person to replace a section of campus lawn with diverse native ferns and wildflowers, helping to restore the forest ecosystem with plants that once thrived there.
In 1998, graduate student Nicole Roskos circulated a petition calling for the reforestation of Drew’s campus. Large numbers of students, faculty and staff signed the petition which initiated a small pilot project that included one section in the middle of campus to be dedicated to reforestation.
Sarah Webb, a retired Environmental Studies and Sustainability and Biology professor from Drew, has been a lead manager in the restoration of the Drew Forest. While she is no longer a professor here at Drew, Webb said that she enjoys coming back to campus and helping students in the Environment Studies department in any way that she can.
“The students raise money and plant this section really densely with ferns and wildflowers, and it looks great; it sold everyone on the idea,” Webb said.
By planting hundreds of new plants, the group has expanded native vegetation on campus and has enhanced biodiversity. One of the main goals of DEAL is to decrease lawn mowing and the use of ornamental plants, establishing the same beauty with native plants that normally thrive with minimal attention.
“We have planted probably about 50-60 different kinds of wildflowers here and dozens of ferns,” Webb said. “If people care about the environment and climate change, we need to have these natural ecosystems restored. It’s not enough to have some grass or a tree; we need a forest.”
DEAL has a variety of volunteer opportunities, including work sessions to pull up invasive plants and environmental education meetings. These opportunities are not exclusive to students either. It is common to see students and faculty work together through DEAL.
“I find it so refreshing that students and faculty value our environment so much,” said DEAL member Alexis Lake (’24). “Aside from this event, there are at least 1-2 meetings per week where we discuss environmental problems at Drew and their respective solutions.”
DEAL encourages any students that are interested in environmental action to join their club. For more information on DEAL and future club events, reach out to email@example.com.