St. Olaf College | News

A well-designed plan to raise awareness about climate change

Glaciers are melting. Emissions are rising. And global temperature is set to soar well beyond a two-degree increase above pre-industrial levels.

For most people, climate change is little more than overwhelming data and alarming headlines. For a group of recent St. Olaf College graduates, it’s about cutting through the noise and showing people what the data really mean. It’s about creating awareness around one of the most pressing threats climate change poses: Arctic and Antarctic melt.

The Glacier Rescue Project (GRP) is an organization and apparel brand that is centered around spreading awareness for mass glacial melt, which I feel is a very under-acknowledged issue,” says founder Gus Reynolds ’19. “With the help of a few of my good friends, we are selling T-shirts, posters, and stickers that all have glacier-related designs that I created and are meant to educate people about glacial melt and climate change.”

Gus Reynolds ’19 displays a Glacier Rescue Project flag during a polar expedition training trip across Lake Winnipeg this February with a group that was led by arctic explorer Eric Larsen ’93.

Reynolds founded the GRP after his trip to Patagonia, a mountainous and glacial region at the southernmost tip of South America. He worked with fellow Oles Elissa Temme ’19, Jeremy Bird ’19, Wesley Brown ’19, Will Cipos ’19, and Marcel Hones ’21 to create the project and spread awareness of some of the things threatening the area, especially glacial melt.

Glacier Rescue Project organizers include (back row, from left) Elissa Temme ’19, Jeremy Bird ’19, Marcel Hones ’21, (front row, from left) Wesley Brown ’19, Gus Reynolds ’19, and Will Cipos ’19.

Reynolds was inspired to create the GRP after seeing breath-taking glaciers in Patagonia. It was an experience that made him realize just how pressing climate change is. But given how far removed the average person feels from the effects of melting glaciers, inspiring action is no easy task.

“Talking about mass glacial melt is like trying to sell a car to someone without letting them actually see what you’re talking about,” Reynolds says.

“I know that the most dramatic climate change is happening in glacial regions of the planet, like Antarctica. What is crazy, though, is that these are the places where almost nobody lives and very few people have ever visited.”

Gus Reynolds ’19The most dramatic climate change is happening in glacial regions of the planet, like Antarctica. What is crazy, though, is that these are the places where almost nobody lives and very few people have ever visited.

When Reynolds returned to campus, he started to take action. He began work on an independent study under Ben Kopec, a visiting assistant professor of environmental studies, in which he made a series of climate change infographic posters. The posters told an important story about the environment. Six in total, each illustrated a climate projection superimposed on photos of glaciers.

“I decided that I could probably make some money if I sold the posters, and I wanted to give money back to environmental organizations. And with a bunch of doodling and whatnot, the Glacier Rescue Project idea was created. Special shout out to my mom for thinking of the name,” Reynolds says.

Since then, the GRP has expanded its apparel business. In April, it sold over 40 re-designed flannel shirts as part of their “Re-Freeze” program, an initiative in which the group purchases used clothing and refurbishes it for resale with new designs and the GRP logo. They have also decided to extend their business into graphic design consulting, where they will do everything ranging from logo designs to creating infographics for companies.

A GRP worker sews a patch with the group’s logo to an up-cycled flannel shirt.

With all this just months after the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) released its 12-year timeline, a report which defines the point-of-no-return for earth’s climate, it’s more important than ever to make big changes. But this can be hard, because there is so much left to do.

“A big part of the GRP is to put a ton of emphasis on visuals like photography and art … the crazy thing about glaciers and the polar regions is that they represent climate change through a lens that most people haven’t seen,” says Reynolds, an environmental studies and political science major at St. Olaf who was also a member of the men’s swimming and diving team. “As a group we have been working on figuring out product designs, grants to seek, and ways to grow.”

Still in its first few months, the Glacier Rescue Project has raised enough funds to make a donation to Protect Our Winters (POW), an organization that addresses climate change through the lens of the skiing industry. The group is also reaching out to more organizations and working to build partnerships as it grows. And the founders plan to continue work on the project in Minneapolis.

Looking forward, Reynolds believes, the biggest concern is generating more revenue and creating a sustainable business model. They’re exploring new products and designs, and they’re networking with local businesses who may want to get involved with their Re-Freeze program. This, they believe, will help them make a bigger impact in Twin Cities and, eventually, in the world.

Students sort used clothing as part of the Glacier Rescue Project’s “Re-Freeze” program, which refurbishes the clothing with new designs and the GRP logo.

To help spread the word, they have recruited the help of people like Ole alum Eric Larsen ’93 — an arctic explorer with several trips to the north and south pole under his belt — who have taken Glacial Rescue Project flags all the way to the South Pole.

“We just sent a Glacier Rescue Project flag to a polar explorer who lives in England, and he said he would take a picture with our flag on an upcoming polar expedition to a glacier in Norway,” Reynolds says. They have even written articles for an environmental group out of Chile called Glaciares Chilenos.

Eric Larsen ’93 — an arctic explorer with several trips to the north and south pole under his belt — has taken Glacial Rescue Project flags all the way to the South Pole.

All of that is done with sustainability and environmentalism at the forefront of everything they do. “The waste and carbon footprint of the textile and fashion industry is ridiculously high, and we acknowledge the importance of not adding to that load. We strongly believe that the most important thing is to maintain a sustainable mindset and minimize our carbon footprint as much as possible,” Reynolds says.

The GRP participated this spring in the Ole Cup, an annual student entrepreneurial competition hosted by the St. Olaf Piper Center for Vocation and Career that provides current students with resources to help turn their business ideas into reality. Staff members advise students on their business plans and offer feedback on their pitches, and the Piper Center connects teams to a loyal network of Ole entrepreneurs and investors. That experience and support has propelled Reynolds to pursue the potential of GRP post graduation.

Products from the Glacier Rescue Project can be found displayed on their Instagram page. Stay up to date on their products and learn more about their mission on their website.