health studies, LAUDATO SI, Sustainability

Anxiety about the climate crisis is widespread, especially among younger generations. Being proactive about addressing it can alleviate some of that stress while helping the planet.

To that end, students involved in Siena’s Saints Act Together campaign planted a linden tree behind Rosetti Hall on April 12. The group, part of the College’s Health Promotion Lab staffed by certified peer educators, uses collective action to promote wellness, in this case by helping reduce climate change anxiety.

Tree planting not only reduces the carbon footprint, but grows the “handprint of goodness” through planet-friendly actions, according to Dan White, Ph.D. assistant professor and program coordinator for interdisciplinary health studies.

“A small but important drop in a big bucket,” said White.

The linden tree was selected for a reason: in addition to absorbing carbon dioxide and emitting oxygen like all trees, when the linden is mature its flowers, bracts and leaves can be made into an aromatic tea that has been shown to have medicinal purposes such alleviating stress, lowering blood pressure, and reducing pain and inflammation. Guests at the planting got to sample steaming cups of linden tea, and enjoy a raffle of environmentally friendly goodies such as solar phone chargers, “green” laundry detergent, and wool dryer balls. 

Nagifa Tabassum ’24 is involved with Saints Act Together and said that the bleak news about the climate crisis can lead many to feel hopeless about their ability to make a difference. 

“Our initiative aims to alleviate this by letting students know that we acknowledge their concerns and are committed to supporting them in addressing climate anxiety through collective action,” said Tabassum. “Our team diligently researched and organized the event, and poured our hearts into this initiative, hoping to show the Siena community how much we care about the planet and each other.” 

The tree planting was the third Saints Act Together campaign, the first being the Saints Snooze sleep hygiene campaign that featured the video Sleepless in Siena. A second campaign on loneliness will be fully launched in the fall and features the video Saints Say Hello. Informational fliers and other resources on the topics are available.

Ashley Spaeth ’24 encouraged the Siena community to check out @healthysaints on Instagram for resource recommendations of books, articles, movies and more about a variety of wellness topics, including climate anxiety.

"The ongoing climate crisis brings with it overarching anxiety and fear of its implications. The tree planting brought students and faculty who feel similarly together, to address climate anxiety and combat the stressful feelings,” said Catherine Tavoletti ’25. “The impact of just one tree may not make a world of difference, but the collective action is something I am truly proud to have been a part of."

Trinity Hogben ’24 explained that the Health Promotion Lab team implements strategies and shares opportunities for Saints to learn about what they can do to manage health issues.

“A lot of things in this world feel overwhelming on the individual level, leaving a lot of us to feel hopeless about affecting things like climate change,” she said. “Having the community come together to learn about the linden tree, its herbal properties, and how it can grow our handprint is just a small way to help the community feel a little less alone and more hopeful in their individual efforts.” 

The tree and other planting materials were funded by a grant from Siena’s Academic Center for Sustainability.