Lili Bauer

Senior Lili Bauer talks sustainability and her journey at Lees-McRae

Throughout her time at Lees-McRae, senior Lili Bauer has done her best to leave a positive impact on not only the college, but the Appalachian environment as well. The Outdoor Recreation Management major is passionate about environmentalism and sustainability, but her efforts in these areas goes far beyond reusable water bottles and metal straws.

“I’m definitely passionate about environmentalism, but a lot of people think that caring about sustainability and environmentalism is only about recycling and things like that,” Bauer said. “I care a whole lot about the human aspect of environmentalism and sustainability.”

Throughout her time at Lees-McRae Bauer has led several initiatives to benefit the environment and promote sustainable outdoor activities and has even been awarded for some of her efforts.

Bauer has spent over a year sharing her expertise in sustainable and accessible outdoor programs with local nonprofit Mountain Alliance, which seeks to provide outdoor activities and enrichment for teenagers in Avery and Watauga counties. Bauer is their program coordinator.

“I mostly work at the high school and help run the after-school program, which includes tutoring and mentorship, as well as a place to facilitate fun games,” Bauer said. “I also lead outdoor trips with the students. We do service trips, outdoor adventure-based trips, and leadership-based trips.”

While Bauer is not yet certain how she wants to use her degree and experience after graduation, she plans to continue working with Mountain Alliance through the summer.  Her responsibilities will include leading a two-week expedition called Rolling Academy. This will be the second time Bauer has led the trip.

“We did it last summer and took, I believe, nine high school students on a two-week expedition where we canoed 100 miles on the New River,” Bauer said. “We ended up just doing a full wilderness-based trip because of COVID. We didn’t really want to take them into a city, but we were still able to do some service components by doing a cleanup in the New River.

Bauer also spent time during the trip guiding the students through a leadership intensive that allowed them to hone their professional skills.

Working with Mountain Alliance is just one way Bauer uses her outdoor recreation management experience to promote sustainable practices. She also acted as an ambassador for Colorado-based climate change nonprofit Protect Our Winters during her sophomore and junior years.

“First, we were able to partner with them and do some stuff with the Paris Accords,” Bauer said. “I ran a booth at our Teton Gravity Research Film premiere my sophomore year, and we had a whole campaign about Protect Our Winters trying to stay in the Paris Accords.”

Bauer’s partnership with the nonprofit on campus continued into her junior year where she was able to spearhead a voting campaign among her peers. Bauer set up multiple booths around campus where she encouraged her fellow students to pledge to vote through a texting campaign and provided resources to help them register.

“We also gave insight into who was going to be environmentally conscious in that election,” Bauer said. “Through this we were able to win the Protect Our Winters initiative for colleges.”

The campaign aimed to spark support for political candidates who are concerned about the same environmental and sustainability issues as Bauer, and at the conclusion of the campaign Lees-McRae had more pledges than any other educational institution in the country.

In 2021 Bauer received the Appalachian Adventure Achievement Award for her work with Protect Our Winters. The award is granted to young people who have a positive impact on the outdoor industry in the Appalachian region.

Even though Bauer can see graduation on the horizon, she is not done with her work and still has much to look forward to. All the knowledge and experience she has gained will serve to help her in conducting her senior research project.

“I’m hoping that I’m going to be able to get my senior research project published. That’s what I’m most excited for,” Bauer said. “It’s going to be on how sustainable the outdoor industry is in rural Appalachia, and I’ll be homing in on Avery County and Watauga County specifically. I’ll be looking at the outdoor industries like skiing and snowboarding, which are really not accessible to people who grow up out here, while other things, like the Appalachian Trail, can be sustainable for people who grow up in rural Appalachia.”

Bauer grew up here herself and is personally invested in the sustainability and accessibility of the place she calls home. She hopes that her work and impact on Lees-McRae encourages other students to think critically about the environment and the importance of sustainability.

Learn more about sustainability at Lees-McRae >>

By Maya JarrellFebruary 10, 2022
Campus Life