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Alumna Promotes Sustainability through Blog

03/08/17

For the past two years, Kayla Degnan ’15 has explored ways to confront wastefulness as she considered the idea of minimalism.

When her friends, family, and local community members began to notice her efforts earlier this year, they became increasingly interested, and challenged her with questions. So, she started a blog.

“I went through a period of extreme downsizing where week after week I’d carry another huge bag full of donations to the Goodwill,” Degnan explained. “By the middle of 2016, I felt that I had only my most valued items in my possession, and the constant need for downsizing dwindled.”

With a desire to continue to improve, Degnan focused on ways she was wasteful. By the end of last December, she was throwing away as little trash as possible. By January, she was beginning to collect her trash in a jar, which attracted some attention.

“I’d hear a lot of phrases like, ‘I could never do what you’re doing,’” said Degan, who majored in English/Communications with a concentration in journalism. “That’s why I created the ‘Simply Sustainable Site.’ I wanted to share my journey in the hope that people could relate to me, and be inspired to begin their own zero-waste journey.”

Degnan wants others to realize that the amount of plastic Americans produce and consume is a vast threat to the environment. “If we could become more aware of that, and try to eliminate our plastic consumption alone, we could make an impact on the environment,” she said.

Her ideas include some simple “swaps” that she lists on a blog post:

  • Bring a backpack- reusable bags are much more eco-friendly than plastic bags.
  • Carry a reusable water bottle – it can take up to 1,000 years for a plastic water bottle to biodegrade in a landfill.
  • Bring your own jars to buy food in bulk- this eliminates packaging.
  • Bring your own container to restaurants for takeout and leftovers.
  • Bring a cloth napkin and your own utensils to restaurants to eliminate waste.

“So far I've had a lot of positive feedback from friends and community members. I’ve taken an idea that most people see as out of reach, and I’ve begun to open their eyes to the possibility of it being attainable,” said Degnan, who decided to live in North Adams after she graduated, and works at the Williamstown Youth Center.

While at MCLA, Degnan, worked with children at local elementary schools. Her work with the Beacon newspaper, further helped familiarize her with the community. She discovered her love for yoga as a member of Good Vibes yoga club, and gained management skills through the Student Activities Council. As a peer advisor, she learned to lead, manage and cooperate.

“North Adams is so open and supportive of students; you can immerse yourself in the community and really feel like you belong,” she said. “Looking back, I’ve gained many great mentors, and wouldn't be working with kids and teaching them yoga if it wasn’t for my MCLA experience.”

Degnan encourages others to follow her on her journey in sustainability at https://simplysustainablesite.wordpress.com.