North Texas Daily

Environmental group, ‘PETAL,’ sows seeds of change

Environmental group, ‘PETAL,’ sows seeds of change

Environmental group, ‘PETAL,’ sows seeds of change
April 07
13:00 2023

To start the night’s lesson, PETAL Project Co-Founder and papermaking workshop host Alex Khraish asked the group of attendees what paper means to them.

Those attending the March 30 event hosted at the Greater Denton Arts Council raised their hands eagerly, with answers ranging from legal documents to craft paper. Khraish believes that asking questions like this can show workshop attendees the value of paper and what it can create beyond what is considered a paper product.

As a monarch city, Denton dedicates the city to eco-conscious efforts. Makayla Brown

“I founded [The PETAL Project] with a group of friends,” said Rachel Weaver, PETAL Project Director and university alum. “We’re all volunteer, and we’re kind of just trying to get this initiative going in the community […] where they can share knowledge and build up our sort of environmental community together.” 

The PETAL Project was founded in fall 2022, and hosted its first workshop in November, with members of PETAL leading the instruction. The workshop focused on urban ecology — the study of living organisms concerning their relationship to one another in a more developed environment.

“I was working towards my environmental educators’ certification, and I wanted to have this organization that could help bring all [of] these folks together,” Weaver said. “I just started to kind of realize […] that artists are really at the forefront of trying to share the message of environmental issues and climate change.”

Climate change is the long-term shifts in global temperature or weather patterns, according to an article by the United Nations. They also acknowledge that while natural warming and cooling patterns may cause these shifts since the 1800s, human activities have participated majorly in rapid changes on a global scale. 

“[PETAL] stands for Participatory Environmentalism Through Art and Learning, so that is kind of our idea,” Weaver said.

Seeds and shredded paper are used in the plant papermaking workshop for the Petal Project at the GDAC on March 30, 2023. Makayla Brown

Weaver thinks of those at The PETAL Project and those participating in PETAL activities as pollinators. They believe PETAL is a space where people can develop ideas and be creative about being environmentally conscious. 

“I’m attempting a zero waste lifestyle,” said Jordan Mundhenk, Texas Women’s University general studies junior. “I’m not able to do it perfectly by any means, but it’s just being able to consciously think about what I’m consuming.” 

Living a zero-waste lifestyle prioritizes reducing the number of materials thrown away instead of participating in the vast amount of waste humans produce daily. Americans make 5.91 pounds, on average, of trash daily, with only 1.51 pounds of that waste being recyclable, according to a study by the Environmental Protection Agency.

The PETAL Project has several members with artistic abilities, with Khraish having a paper-making and art history background. Khraish added that handmade paper has always been integral to her artistic practice and creative process. 

Every Thursday, the Greater Denton Arts Council hosts events and workshops that those in the community can attend for free. Papermaking is done by blending a mix of scrap paper, boiling water, and in the case of the workshop, flower seeds into a pulp. After the pulp is cooled, a mold and deckle are placed into the mixture and then dried on a couch to create a sheet of paper. 

“I just feel like [workshops like this are] something you don’t really get the opportunity to do unless you like pay big money for a class,” said Melody Schmidt, Denton resident and El Camino Community College student. “I just feel really inspired, [like] this is something I wanna try for myself at my house because it’s really fun.”

In 2016, Denton became a “Bee City Affliate,” which means that Bee City USA recognized the active effort that Denton was committing to cultivate community-wide pollinator conservation. According to Bee City USA, Denton is one of only 340 cities or campus affiliates declared a “Bee City” in the United States. In addition to that title, Denton also holds a Butterfly and Tree City label.

“I guess in my own time, I’ve noticed, ‘Oh, they leave a lot of areas open, and they have a lot of flowers planted out like in the square’ and some other places,” Mundhenk said. “I think it’s a great effort, and every city should be making those kinds of efforts as well.”

The PETAL Project will host a benefit show in partnership with Magic Capsule Music on April 22 for Earth Day Fest. The proceeds of the show will go toward creating a local community garden in Denton.

“Environmentalism and sustainability has to be a community project, and trying to be aware of the impact we can make together,” Weaver said. “It’s coming from a place of ‘What can we offer that’s helpful [with our resources]?’ It takes community to build up that sense of sentiment and that we care.”

Featured Image A plant papermaking workshop for the PETAL Project takes place at the GDAC on March 30, 2023. Makayla Brown

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Gianna Ortner-Findlay

Gianna Ortner-Findlay

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