AU Environmental Advocates Keep Riding Along


AU participants in the Climate Ride. From left: Becca Shapiro, Emily Curley, and Aliya Mejias.

Daniel Mahoney

The face of environmental activism is ever changing, and from Sept. 21 to Sept. 25 three members of the American University community participated in the Climate Ride NYC-DC event. Seniors Aliya Mejias and Becca Shapiro, and Emily Curley, an Office of Sustainability staff member, rode their bikes more than 300 miles from New York to DC to spread awareness about climate change.

Each had her own motivations for riding. Mejias had known about the ride for a while and thought “the timing was perfect and the impact would be great.” For Shapiro, “it was initially about the physical challenge,” but gradually became more about advocating for environmental protection. Curley wanted to “step out of her comfort zone,” and lobby her congressional representative for more sustainable environmental measures.

“About 200 people participated in the bike ride, including a couple on a tandem bike and a man riding a unicycle,” Curley said. She added that everyone there wanted to do their part to fight climate change, and the riders built a great sense of community over their five days together.

“There was one day where it was really hilly, and we all just started singing ‘The Hills are Alive’ from The Sound of Music,” Shapiro said.

Sense of community aside, the Climate Ride was still an individual experience. Shapiro and Mejias explained that it was “really meditative and allowed people reflect on the [sustainability] movement.” They said that riders were able to appreciate the beautiful scenery when riding past the quiet farmlands of Pennsylvania and felt empowered at the finish, located on the Capitol Mall.

“We even had a police escort down Constitution Avenue,” Curley said.

“We rode into town and went around this one statue a couple times, and you could hear all these cars honking and people getting into it,” Mejias added.

The AU Climate Riders were not new to environmental action on AU’s campus. Mejias is involved with the student environmental organization Ecosense and its campaign against plastic bottle waste, Take Back the Tap.

All three women believe that AU stands out among other universities for its environmental sustainability. “Students are aware of climate change and are all really supportive of the divestment campaign, more so than other campuses in the area,” Curley said.

The university is a member of the “American College and University President’s Climate Commitment”:, which, according to its website, creates networks of schools to “promote the research and educational efforts of higher education to equip society to re-stabilize the earth’s climate.”

The AU administration has big plans for the future, including working with students and staff to be carbon neutral with zero waste by 2020. Curley believes this will be possible via “the perfect trio: students, administration, and staff” coming together with a common goal—making the planet a greener, healthier place.