Sarah Risher: Working for a Greener Davis

Between the separated recycling bins, the Hydration Stations, and of course, all the bikes, UC Davis has a reputation for being a very environmentally friendly campus. It’s too fitting that this year, Picnic Day - the most important day at UCD - coincides with Earth Day! But UCD’s eco-friendly policies wouldn’t be possible without the work of hardworking student activists campaigning and working to implement change. I reached out to Sarah Risher, Environmental Policy and Planning Commission Chair for ASUCD, about her work for a greener Davis - and world.  

Photo credits: Zach Jamison-Cash

 Year: 3rd year

Major: Environmental Policy, Analysis, and Planning; Minor in Professional Writing

Hometown: Sacramento

What are you involved in outside class? 

I’m chair of the Environmental Policy and Planning Commission for ASUCD. I’m also an organizer for Fossil Free UCD, which is the Davis chapter of a UC-wide campaign that pressures UC regents to divest our $3 billion holding in the fossil fuel industry.

What you do as environmental policy chair?

I conduct weekly commission meetings, where we plan different outreach and educational events about environmental issues and sustainability. We also oversee legislation relating to the environment or environmental justice. Last quarter, I wrote Senate Resolution 8, which calls on the UC system to divest from fossil fuels. I also sit on the Senate table each week. 

How did you get involved with environmental issues?

I guess it started with my parents - it's kind of a funny story. Our neighbors really didn't like the trees on the side of our house because the leaves kept falling in their yard and the roots made their walkway uneven. They kept arguing with my dad to cut them down, and finally he gave in. I was 5 or 6 at the time, and in response to our beloved trees being cut down, my family and I, along with the neighborhood kids, painted a giant banner that read “WE LOVE TREES” and hung it up on the side of our house facing the neighbors. So that was a really defining childhood moment! Then in high school, my AP Environmental Science teacher really turned me onto environmental issues and got me involved in the Greenhouse and Gardens club, and that was how I knew I wanted to go to Davis. The current state of our planet and administration are also my motivations for further involvement. 

What initiatives do you have coming up for spring quarter?           

We're having our first event of the quarter next week from 4/18 – 4/21 leading up to Earth Day. It's called Choices for Climate Justice and each day, we’ll be out on the MU Patio from 11:30am-2:00om sharing information about different environmental issues. The first day is themed around Climate Science, so how climate change actually works. The second is about Bees and Biodiversity and why we want to save the bees and their role in our ecosystem. The third is called Mindful Consumption. This day centers on the environmental impacts of both animal agriculture and fast fashion and encourages our fellow Aggies to think critically about the products we consume, including where and how they were made. The last day is all about Plastic Pollution and Eco-Partying. Our goal is to introduce the concept of eco-partying on campus. Especially with Picnic Day the next day and it being Earth Day—we don’t want people dumping red plastic cups on Earth Day (or any day really). Instead, we should all use reusable or biodegradable cups. We're doing giveaways and having trivia on each of the days, with prizes like water bottles from Klean Kanteen, gift cards for the Co-Op and Sun and Soil Juice Company, reusable bags and lunch pails, and organic seeds of native California plants that are good for bees.

How can UCD students get involved and informed? 

One easy way would be to take a related course for GE credit, like ESP 10 or AMS 101. Following activists on Facebook or Twitter is another really easy way to get informed. On campus, we have so many environmental clubs that folks can attend to learn more. EPPC meetings are open to the public, as are Fossil Free UC meetings. I think FFUCD especially is a great movement to get involved in if students want to do something to actively resist our current administration. 

How has your experience at UC Davis been? 

I’m enjoying my UC Davis experience - Davis is a wonderful little college town. I love how everything is in close biking distance and how lively the farmers market is each week. I’ve also made such lovely friends. I feel lucky and happy to be here!

Postgrad plans? 

I'm not sure right now, but I'd like to move out of California and do work in a community or state that's not as progressive on climate change, in order to spread this information to more people where it's really needed. 

What are five favorite things?

Favorite animal: Humpback whale 

Favorite fruit: Strawberry 

Favorite scent: Lavender 

Favorite activist: Jane Goodall 

Favorite stress relief: Watching golden retriever puppy videos 

Thank you so much for talking with me, Sarah!