Recently, Zachary Fox ’21 assumed the role of sustainability coordinator at Hiram College, a new role designed to improve the College’s sustainability efforts and develop additional programs to enhance the community’s awareness of their environmental impact. Fox graduated from Hiram in May 2021 with a degree in environmental studies.
As a student, he led sustainability initiatives as the chair of the Sustainable Development Committee of Student Senate and a member of the Environmental Action Crew. He was also an eco-management and land stewardship intern at the James H. Barrow Field Station.
Fox answered a few questions about his new role and his dedication to sustainability efforts at Hiram College:
How have you been spending your first few weeks at Hiram as a staff member?
Currently, my main focuses are gathering sustainability data and engaging students. I have begun working on the Sustainability Tracking Assessment and Rating System (STARS) and setting up other research parameters. In the meantime, I have also been meeting with various students, faculty and staff, and developed sustainability research and planning internships for students to join.
I will be working closely with the Sustainable Development Committee to achieve some of these goals. More specifically, they will be aiding me in data collection and organization, project support for the compost program and other initiatives, and proposals for more sustainability projects.
Where did your interest in sustainability and ecology come from?
I come from an outdoors-loving family, so I have always been engaged with and interested in the natural world, especially plants. As any ecologist will tell you, becoming more engaged with the natural world will lead to a bombardment of existential problems that threaten the systems you are most interested in. I became interested in sustainability because I was excited about not only preventing the problems from happening, but also using it as an opportunity to improve the overall well-being of those engaged with the system. Sustainability as a framework can be used to create beautiful, vibrant, equitable communities that are very exciting to work towards.
What is the most interesting thing about yourself?
I am very interested in sustainable food production, and I get a significant portion of my weekly groceries by growing them myself or foraging for them. When you study plants, you begin to realize how many of them are edible, especially the invasive species that we aim to remove anyway. I was tired of paying so much money for groceries that were unsustainable and lacked nutrition and flavor, so I started growing my own in a medium-sized garden and harvesting plants from the Field Station or properties of friends.
I don’t go out and live off of mushrooms and berries like a lot of people imagine foraging to be, but if I need fresh veggies, I’ll go out and pick some Hesperis or garlic mustard. If I need seasoning, I’ll harvest black mustard seed or spicebush berries. Slowly incorporating these foods into my normal diet, I’d say I can reach about 25% of my food from gardening and foraging at the peak growing season, with another 25% coming from local small farms.
How did Hiram prepare you to pursue your passion?
The Field Station and Hiram in general is a great place to experiment with whatever you are interested in. At the Field Station, I was able to learn about wood working and other related skills. I had access to land and tools for a garden, and a lot of area to forage and explore. The interdisciplinarity of Hiram’s courses allowed me to study many of my interests without adding any extra time to earning my degree.
Fox has been working with Hiram students at the Field Station’s new hoop house, which includes a garden where students can grow their own food. Fox has been educating students on maintaining a produce garden and creating a community for sharing any food grown throughout the season. On campus, he has been working with a team of students to conduct research on the tree inventory, identifying each tree, taking measurements, and also analyzing the bryophyte growing on their stems.