Pollinator parking lot party showcases blooming sustainability success

Kristina Lodahl ’20, Megan Snyder ’19

BioClub co-presidents Kristina Lodahl ’20 (left) and Megan Snyder ’19 (right) with the "bee condos" in the pollinator commons. Lodahl and Snyder were among the student organizers of the pollinator opening party.

The Pollinator Garden Project

September 17, 2019 was the culmination of years-long efforts for the St. Kate’s BioClub and their faculty advisor, Chris Palahniuk. Their work championing campus sustainability efforts in pollination and food production all came to fruition with a party in the Dew Drop parking lot, timed to celebrate the opening of the pollinator garden developed over the summer.

The party featured tabling from a multitude of organizations located on-campus and off. Students and community members buzzed around the parking lot as they collected information on sustainability and tasted honey produced by BioClub’s campus hives. Event organizers BioClub and Food Justice Coalition shared information on their campus-wide sustainability activities, as did campus sustainability coordinators Moe O’Keefe ’22 and Rachel Schauer ’21. The St. Kate’s library delivered a pop-up library on bees and other pollinators and organized an up-cycling book craft activity.

Off-campus groups were also present, including the Pollinator Friendly Alliance, Growing Lots Urban Farm, and the Minnesota Naturalists’ Association. Beez Kneez, a perennial BioClub collaborator, processed the honey produced by BioClub for the event. The J. Mobile, official food truck from St. Paul restaurant J. Selby’s, offered the eatery’s signature plant-based, sustainability-focused fare — and within the first hour was sold out of the 100 prepared meals.

Both student organizers and advisor Palahniuk drew connections between the rise in campus awareness of sustainability’s significance and the strong turnout at the event.

“Having students excited about what we’re passionate about, and sharing the love for the bees and the pollinator commons — it’s awesome seeing that excitement and their engagement with groups and clubs on campus,” said Kristina Lodahl ’20, BioClub co-president.

“I don’t have to do much pushing,” Palahniuk said in an article by The Wheel on the event. “[This] generation is coming here with far more knowledge, expecting some things from this university. … This means that change will come quicker than it ever has before.”

The pollinator garden project stems from collaboration with roots extending all over campus, as varying organizations and departments coalesce their efforts into something greater. The initiatives are truly interwoven, says Palahniuk, pointing out the tie between the BioClub-supported pollinators and the community garden, which in turn stocks the St. Kate’s Food Shelf.

“The idea that a bee flies to the garden, helps a tomato grow, then that tomato is picked and goes to the Food Shelf to feed a St. Kate’s student is a real connection,” he said. “It’s amazing.”

Preceding the pollinator party that afternoon was Shake It Up With the CSJs, which celebrated existing sustainability efforts on campus and discussed more collaborations across campus. A The Reflective Woman class also joined CSJs for Shake It Up to harvest produce from the Celeste’s Dream community garden.

“This project is a great example of how many disciplines can come together and make something bigger than themselves,” said Monica Rudquist, art and art history faculty. Students in the Art and Art History Department created the “bee condos” and artwork for the pollinator commons, and Rudquist will focus a class this semester on making more, including some for the Celeste’s Dream gardens. “One thing leads to the next, which leads to the next.”

Organizers will continue cultivating the pollinator garden during the coming months, planting more gardens and installing more bee condos. The commons will be one of the projects featured during Citizen Katie on Saturday, October 12, growing awareness of the pollinator efforts even more as community volunteers help extend the garden path.

“It’s one thing to hear about pollinator insecurity in the classroom and know that it’s an issue, but it’s another to see your own university making an actual attempt at creating a small-scale solution,” said Sydney Kennedy ’22, pollinator garden technician and one of the central event organizers alongside BioClub and the Food Justice Coalition. “To know that your own community cares about such an issue is really important.”

For more information on the pollinator project and other sustainability initiatives, email BioClub at bioclub@stkate.edu or Chris Palahniuk at cgpalahniuk@stkate.edu. If you have suggestions for improving sustainability on campus, email the sustainability coordinators at sustainability@stkate.edu.

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Related content:

The Wheel: Bio Club's "Pollinator Commons" sees its grand opening

Student grows community garden to help those experiencing food insecurity

Talking trash with St. Kate's sustainability coordinators

Community garden grows on campus

St. Kate’s student groups abuzz with the business of beekeeping

All photos by Michelle Mullowney ’17.