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College Interns Spreading Eco News By Bike


POTSDAM - Although many college students work as summer interns, it's a rare few whose internships require them to bike from town to town across New England, spreading news about climate change and living on $5 a day.
Maureen B. McCoy, a rising junior at St. Lawrence University, and Sara E. Orvis, a rising senior at SUNY Potsdam, are participating in just such an internship through New England Climate Summer.
An offshoot of the Open Space Institute's Better Future Project, the internship runs from early June to mid August and allows six teams of college students and recent graduates to promote climate change via bicycle.
"It seemed like a really good opportunity," Ms. McCoy said about the internship. "It was pretty much one of the only ones that I looked at that wasn't filing papers in an office all summer or going door to door. It was something different."
In each town they visit, the interns spend approximately a week meeting with community leaders to learn about local initiatives that reduce fossil fuel usage. They also spend time talking to community members about simple daily changes - anything from walking instead of driving to buying more local foods - that will cut down on fossil fuels.
Ms. Orvis, who is biking on a different team from Ms. McCoy, said that her group devotes about as much time to learning about environmentally friendly organizations, practices and facilities as they do to spreading awareness about climate change at farmers markets and other informal community gatherings.
"We kind of split it up. We spend a good amount of time working with community leaders and observing what's going on with new practices, and we spend the other half of our time just going out and doing farmers markets," said Ms. Orvis, a Clayton native. "We've had a really great response; people are really excited. I think we've kind of inspired people to realize that they don't need to take a huge step like we are, but there are little things they can be doing,"
Both Ms. McCoy and Ms. Orvis are their respective teams' movement narrative coordinators, which means they will also spend their summer compiling information about the climate change initiatives they encounter during the internship.
The collected information will be released as the 2011 State of the Movement Report, set to be published on New England Climate Summer's website in the early fall.
The interns are also practicing what they preach, avoiding cars and other fossil fuel-reliant means of transportation in favor of biking up to 50 miles a day. Their daily living allowance comes to $5, requiring them to buy local produce or work in soup kitchens in exchange for free meals and a place to sleep.
"We definitely have to be creative, but we've been eating really well," Ms. Orvis said. "It makes you rethink how you live and how everything around you works. It's an amazing experience."
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