Henrietta Reily

Year of Graduation: 

​“Leading by example in your life helps others see a model for how to live sustainably."

You would expect to find the co-head of the PEA Environmental Action Committee and former YMCA camper and counselor, spending time on the lands she works hard to protect. But you’re just as likely to find Henrietta Reily ’17 at the WPEA radio studio, playing indie, classic rock and techno on the FM show, “Hang Loose,” which she cohosts with Hannah Piette ’17.

“I’ve found opportunities in places I didn’t expect to,” Henrietta says, adding that she loves the Academy Library because, “You can stumble upon so much.” Her favorite? The grandiose statements and flowery language in the 19th-century magazines she discovered while doing research for her History 333 paper. “So much of it was not fact checked at all,” she muses, and that’s something she knows a little bit about.

As news editor for The Exonian, Exeter’s student-run newspaper, she fell in love with reporting. An opportunity two summers ago to work for an environmental reporter at an NPR affiliate allowed her to combine her passions by writing about her state’s coal mining industry.

While Henrietta’s affinity for the natural world has been life-long, she says she “hadn’t known how to channel it” and was often overcome by the scope of environmental damage. She found direction two years ago through the nonprofit summer program Where There Be Dragons. Henrietta worked on a tree-planting project near Guatemala City, where she and her 11 peers learned about composting practices. It was an opportunity to find mentors, she says, “[who are] aware of the situation and its gravity, yet also able to change [it].”

“Being transferred into a different environment, seeing people work so hard to sustain it was inspiring, made me hopeful,” Henrietta says. She’s already planning a trip to Ecuador for winter term. And back at Exeter, she has become a vegetarian, stopped buying new clothing and found ways to inspire others without making them defensive about their choices.

As an environmental proctor, or E proctor, for McConnell Hall, she sifts through the recycling and trash, redeeming what’s lost in the single-stream process. “A lack of education can be a problem,” she says, “I’m trying to fix that on my own too.” She’s already thinking about a career that will leverage her skills and interests in sustainability, education and writing. Zero waste bloggers have become part of her regular reading.

In the Environmental Action Committee, Henrietta keeps up with global issues and works with her peers to plan small projects on campus. The group tracks paper usage with school printers and helped launch the new Trash 2 Treasure dorm cleanout last spring, an initiative that encourages and aids students in the donating of unwanted items rather than discarding them into the waste stream.

“Leading by example in your life helps others see a model for how to live sustainably,” she says.

—Leah Williams