Meadville Tribune

November 24, 2008

VIDEO: Underwear project at Allegheny College

Underwear project at Allegheny College from The Meadville Tribune on Vimeo.

Hang onto your tighty-whities! Or better yet, put them on a drying rack and save the planet. That’s the message that one group of Allegheny College environmental science students is broadcasting on their mission to raise awareness about carbon emissions.

“At first, we thought about hanging 350 bed sheets on clotheslines to express the ‘350 Project,’” said Lauren Quintrell. “But we soon figured out that we wouldn’t be able to collect 350 sheets.”

So Quintrell, along with Julianne (Jules) D’Amico, Marieke Perchik, Fiona Hensley and Liz Benvin, put their heads together to think of another way to represent the number 350 parts per million, which is the level of carbon dioxide that the earth’s atmosphere can support before it can no longer function properly and irreparable damage occurs.

That’s when Quintrell modified the plan to a smaller –– and in some cases, a much, much smaller –– scale.

“We thought ‘why not underwear?’ ” Quintrell said, as she pinned a pair next to some socks on a rope strewn between two trees in front of the Campus Center.

So the group of students began to solicit for underwear and whatever unmentionables they could find to make their statement.

“Making it to 350 was a bit more challenging than we thought it would be,” she said. “We found out that people aren’t keen on letting you borrow their underwear.”

So the group of young women began to search the unclaimed piles of clothes at various laundry facilities and lost-and-

founds around campus. When they still didn’t have enough, they continued to explore options. There were a couple of ideas that they ruled out, such as hitting up members of the administration, faculty and staff.

“We didn’t ask them because that would reach a whole new level of awkward,” she said.

So, meeting their goal meant they would have to dig deep. Deep into their own drawers, that is (no pun intended.)

One of the main points behind the rows of mismatched socks, underwear and even the occasional bra, is that even a simple act such as line-drying clothing can make a significant contribution towards helping the environment.

“Dryers take enormous amounts of energy and release a tremendous amount of carbon emissions,” D’Amico said. “Hanging clothes on a clothesline is a very simple way people can change their lifestyles for the better.”

In addition to hanging up the undergarments, the students wrote facts about climate change on waxed paper.

“Right now we are definitely above the 350 parts per million of carbon dioxide that the Earth’s atmosphere can safely handle,” Quintrell said. “It changes every day, but currently we are around 400. The good news is that it’s not irreversible; we can cut that figure down by asking citizens and every day people to change their actions.”

Quintrell acknowledged that some nay-sayers attribute climate change to Earth’s natural heating and cooling cycles.

“The planet goes through cycles, but our actions are speeding that up exponentially. Evolution and adaptation are slow and the Earth can’t naturally account for the temperature rise,” she said.

The display across the lawn has succeeded in its goal, with more than a few people questioning why there are so many peoples’ duds hanging out for public viewing.

“Some kids were just really shocked at first, but then they got it,” she said. “It’s impossible to ask people to cut 2,000 miles of driving off of their annual mileage, but it’s not much to ask them to use a drying rack in their room!”

The 350 Project will remain on the Allegheny College campus through Tuesday.

Penni Schaefer can be reached at 724-6370 or by e-mail at