Eco Bash Spotlights Environmentalism, Student Presentations, and Outdoor Enjoyment

By BB&N May 4, 2023

Beckett Dubovik ’25 pours his homemade oat milk into small paper cups that are passed among the students and teachers sitting around a Harkness table. “This is my favorite. It tastes really good with cereal, and it’s also the one I enjoy making the most,” he says. “Tell me what you guys think of it.” He has already expertly informed and advised the participants in his Eco Bash workshop, “Plant-Based Milk Alternatives: Ingredients, Impact, Taste!”, and now, four pours deep into the tasting portion of the presentation, palates have become refined. 

“It’s very oaty. I can definitely taste the oats,” Finn Wiegand ’25 says. 

“I like it better than the store-bought one,” Douglas Zhang ’25 says.

“I give this 6.5 on the milk scale,” Finn says. “Even with the graininess at the end, it’s still pretty similar to regular milk.” 

Laith Diouri ’25 weighs in. “I think this is the best one we’ve had.”

“I agree,” says Kenneth Tsay ’25.

“Oh—really?” Beckett grins. 

Offering one of 27 interactive workshops led by students, staff, and faculty, Beckett found the Eco Bash to be the “perfect outlet,” he says, so he answered the open call for volunteers. “I wanted to share a passion of mine while also teaching others about how they can help the environment through small choices.” 

Prompting awareness, getting involved, and taking leadership are at the heart of the annual Eco Bash, organized by the Upper School Eco Reps and their faculty advisors. The school day is given over to keynote speeches, workshops, and informational displays about sustainability, the climate crisis, and green initiatives. Fourth-Grade Homeroom teacher Christina Dello Russo’s class also contributed some of the displays and attended interactive sessions. 

“Our goal for the Eco Bash is for students to learn about the environment—both its beauty and purpose, as well as the dangers it faces—to engage in conversations and activities, and to be inspired to take action in support of the environment,” says Upper School English Department Chair Ariel Duddy, co-advisor of the Eco Reps and co-organizer of the Bash. 

Geneva Burkitt ’24 has been an Eco Rep since she was a freshman and is now a rising senior co-leader. “I’m very passionate about saving our environment, and I’d love to see BB&N become a more climate-conscious community,” she says, “so it’s meaningful to see my community rally around the cause and devote a day to learning about environmentalism.” 

This year, as well as taking part in one interactive workshop like Beckett’s, all students attended one of these informational sessions designed and prepared by the Eco Reps: Ocean Pollution and the Effect on Marine Life, Debunking Climate Myths, Green Eating, Ecosystem Restoration, Greenwashing and Green Beauty, or Sustainable Clothing and Fast Fashion. 

In addition, the whole community gathered to hear keynote speeches by alumnae Anya Pforzheimer ’14, the recycling sustainability coordinator for the City of Watertown, and Eve Zuckoff ’14, a climate and environment reporter for WGBH and WCAI. 

With the visual aid of a compelling slide presentation, Beckett cogently explains the environmental benefits of producing plant-based milks in contrast to the detrimental effects of dairy farming—including the huge quantities of land and water required to produce cow’s milk, as well as the cows’ deleterious emissions into the atmosphere (66–132 gallons of methane gas per day) and into the earth and water (65 pounds of manure per day). 

“Is that 65 pounds per day per cow?” asks Finn. 

Beckett confirms that the data are astonishing but true. Finn and others are impressed. 

After noting the nutritional advantages of plant-based milks—no saturated fats or cholesterol, fewer calories than dairy milk—Beckett offers key considerations when choosing an alternative milk. In efforts to make them taste similar to dairy milk, some oat, soy, almond, and cashew milks, for instance, contain such additives as gums, phosphates, oils, and the thickener carrageenan, all of which Beckett avoids. 

“There’s really no need for these, and there’s a lot of things you should really be careful of.” He mentions some ingredients’ links to gastrointestinal problems and even cancer.  “As a rule of thumb,” he advises, “look for four ingredients or fewer.” 

Best of all, Beckett suggests, you can control the ingredients in your plant-based milk by making it yourself. “After I did lots of research into the subject, I discovered that it was very easy to make plant-based milks at home. I only needed a straining bag, nuts or oats, and a blender. It’s really fun to do—and it’s much cheaper.” 

Since oat milk is his favorite, Beckett provides a step-by-step recipe along with some helpful hints. He advocates using amylase, a natural enzyme found in honey and bananas, for example; it separates the sugars from the starches, reduces sliminess, and adds a bit of natural sweetness. One of his favorite parts of the process is using a strain bag. 

“You essentially just pour the mixture into this bag and then squeeze it. This is very helpful. Sometimes you only need to squeeze it once, but I like to do it two times because it helps give it a smoother consistency,” Beckett says. “But I will say that cleaning it out is very messy. Just be aware of that.” 

Viena Desai ’26 asks, “How long does it take to make?”

“One serving takes four cups water and one cup oats,” Beckett responds, “and to make that will take about 25 minutes. It’s very, very quick.”

Lexi Mack ’26 leans in. “When baking things or making pancakes that have milk in them, would you use oat milk, or do you still use regular milk?” 

 “I think pancakes can also be good with oat milk—it’s just the most versatile. I wouldn’t add soy milk to any of those things because it can create this weird aftertaste. Same with cashew milk and almond.” 

While Beckett was careful not to bring any nut-based milks to his presentation in abidance with the school’s nut-free policy, the seven samples provide plentiful and in some cases revelatory comparisons for the participants. 

“You know, I’m going to be honest,” Finn says. “When I came to the milk meeting, I was a little bit of a skeptic about plant-based milks, but I think this has opened my eyes to a whole new world because I drink a lot of milk, especially at lunch. Yes, you could say that I’m a little bit of a milk connoisseur.”

Laith also sees a broadening of his milk horizons. “I’ve tried almond milk because I don’t typically drink milk just ’cause I don’t like the way it tastes. This workshop was very informative—I’m probably going to go get some oat milk since I would like to drink some kind of milk.”

“The chocolate one is really good,” Kate Furey ’24 says. 

“I like that one, too,” Beckett says. “It’s a good guilty pleasure.”

Deliberating on the samples, Diego Avadie ’26 says, “I like dairy milk more, but it’s interesting to see the benefits of oak milk and other milks.” 

Beckett doles out the remaining samples to end his workshop. “Making these milks at home has a positive effect on your budget, the environment, and yourself. It’s also just really fun and exciting to do!”

Other interactive workshops from the day included Pollinators, Mystic River Eagle Conservation Activism, Building a Microgreen Farm, Ecofeminism, Advanced Tree Climbing, and Biodegradable Bird Feeders. A few groups went off campus to bike in the area, to birdwatch at Fresh Pond or Mount Auburn Cemetery, and to check out Walden Pond and its Net-Zero Visitor Center. Taking advantage of the Upper School’s location, sessions on Nature Writing, Reading, and Sketching Landscapes invited students to spend some contemplative time along the Charles River. 

For Eco Rep Geneva, the day lived up to her hopes. “Walking down Renaissance Hall and looking into the courtyard,” she says, “I saw two Upper School students helping the fourth-graders learn a nature dance. That moment was really striking to me because it demonstrated that the Eco Bash was effective at bringing our community closer together, making people smile, and building a communal interest in the environment.” 

Click here for a gallery of the day.