This college student is using her science degree to help clean up the Baltimore harbor

Environmental activist Alexandra Grayson wants to ensure that future generations get to enjoy Baltimore’s waterways and harbor. That’s why she is using her degree in environmental science to clean up Baltimore’s Inner Harbor and to perform research that can be used by policymakers to save the environment!

Alexandra first became interested in environmental activism and research as a high school student. “I started working with a group called Baltimore Beyond Plastic that advocated for a citywide, school district-wide, and statewide Styrofoam ban that ended up being successful,” Alexandra tells In The Know. “Maryland was the first state to ban Styrofoam. That early success with a policy effort, it was encouraging and helped me have faith in what the government can do.”

That experience inspired Alexandra to study environmental science in college. “For college I ended up going to Howard University, studying environmental science with minors in economics and biology,” she explains. 

While studying environmental science, Alexandra also became curious about climate injustice. She learned that in her hometown of Baltimore, environmental issues affected different communities in different ways. “When I think about environmental injustices in Baltimore, I think about just how segregated the community is,” Alexandra explains. “The city has really affluent areas like Roland Park, and there are drastically different environmental issues that pop up between those communities and others. In Curtis Bay there’s the incinerator. People there suffer from asthma at disproportionate rates.”

Alexandra decided that the most effective way to fight climate change and climate injustice was through research. She hopes to provide policymakers with data-driven strategies for helping the environment. “The main thing that ties all of the research that I’ve done together is that it’s rooted in what can be most useful for policymakers and environmental justice communities,” she explains. “We’ve seen more often than not that policymakers listen to numbers and facts and research. As much as we can lean on fact in our decisions in policymaking, we’ll be better off.”

These days, Alexandra is fighting to transform Baltimore’s Inner Harbor by cultivating wetlands that can help increase biodiversity. “These types of projects definitely get me excited about the future of Baltimore and Baltimore’s harbor, and more projects like this need to go on, because we’ll be facing more extreme weather and climate threats as climate change progresses,” Alexandra explains. “It’s really important to start this kind of stuff now, and generations to come will probably thank us for it.”

Alexandra encourages anyone who wants to help the environment to take a research-driven approach. “I would definitely encourage people to start with their local community, organize around the issues that pertain to them,” she says. “And also I highly encourage getting involved with some kind of research and figuring out how you can best communicate what you’re experiencing to different audiences.”

In the long term, Alexandra hopes that she can help make the environmental justice movement more diverse and facilitate an equitable approach to environmental justice. “I hope that my impact can be bringing more people from Baltimore, and people from similar cities, people of color, into environmental spaces,” she tells In The Know. “Diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice—it has to be something that we truly value and don’t just think of as a nice add-on. It’s a requirement to successfully getting through the climate crisis in an equitable way.”

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