Abington environmentalist

Diving deep into environmental activism

Corporate Communication major Karley Feather plans to work as an environmental activist using the skills she is learning at Penn State Abington.
Karley Feather traveled to Belize and was stunned to discover plastics contaminating the Caribbean Sea.

“I was overcome with anger and grief, and I started stuffing the trash in my dive suit,” she said. "That trip kickstarted my passion for sustainability."

Since then, Feather has earned her dive master designation, and she has temporarily transferred to World Campus so she can pursue her environmental goals while still in school.

“This semester I will be living in Australia to complete my coral restoration certification with hopes that I can start working in coral farming to help restore our oceans to the way they once were,” she said. 

Feather came to realize that her major in Corporate Communication dovetails with her advocacy.

“When I first got into environmental activism, I was worried that corporate communication wouldn’t relate at all.” she said. “Now with a background in communications, I am able to spread my voice effectively over a wide variety of platforms.” 

After returning from Belize, Feather replaced all single-use plastics in her life and created a vermicompost for food waste, which reduces the amount of methane being released into the atmosphere. She also switched to a plant-based diet strictly to reduce her carbon footprint.

“A few simple changes can make a huge difference, and then spreading the knowledge you have learned will change the world,” Feather said.

She began changing the world locally by pursuing her broader environmental objectives at Abington and in the community with the support of Shelly Grinar-Boyd, lecturer in Biology

“Shelly and I started working together on how we could create a lasting environmental difference,” Feather said.

Environmental activist

Penn State Abington junior Karley Feather leads the campus Green Team on a cleanup in the nearby town of Ambler.

Credit: Penn State

Feather and Grinar-Boyd established a Penn State Green Team at the Abington campus. Green Teams are comprised of faculty, staff, and students volunteering to take specific actions to help their organization within the University operate in a more efficient, innovative and healthy way. 

The Abington Green Team kicked off its campaign on America Recycles Day last fall with an event featuring representatives from Waste Management and a local environmental advisory council. The next goal of the Green Team is to work with the firm that manages the cafeteria at Abington to offer more compostable dishes and cutlery and plant-based dining options. 

As a result of her activism, Feather was invited to sit on the Abington Chancellor’s Environmental Sustainability Task Force. 

Off campus, Feather connected with a local environmental organization.

“We did a community cigarette butt clean up and picked up over 2,279 cigarettes with 10 volunteers in only .3 miles,” she said. “We also did a tree planting to help reduce the number of pollutants that enter our waterways as well as clean our air.”

Feather said she remembers the state of the environment when she was younger, and now it is changing so quickly.

“I see our forests burning and our ice caps melting. I have seen firsthand the devastation that global temperature risings have had on our oceans. I have seen the garbage in our oceans and on our streets. I have cleaned countless amounts of trash without even making a dent,” she said. “I focus on sustainability because it is my life and future in my hands.”