The Wesleyan Argus | The Sustainability Office organizes events to celebrate Earth Month
The Sustainability Office has organized various events for the university community to celebrate Earth Month and highlight opportunities to recognize the planet and promote environmental sustainability. Conducted in April, the month-long program centers around Earth Day, which occurs on Friday, April 22nd. The full calendar of sustainability-related events hosted by the Sustainability Office and other groups in the community can be found here on the website of the sustainability office.
The list of events includes a gift card raffle for a ride on a Middletown Area Transit bus with the WesPass program, a series of speakers on environmental justice and compost bin decoration. Acting Head of the Sustainability Office, Hayley Berliner, explained that the planned events aim to remind the university community how they can have a positive impact on the environment.
“We want to remind people of various actions they can take in their individual lives, as well as systemic changes that the university can make and actions that can take place at a statewide or statewide level and make a really big, important difference for who can make up the future,” said Berliner.
Various members of the Sustainability Office were involved in the planning of Earth Month.
“We have a few different groups of interns within the sustainability office working on a variety of things and so we were just talking about how to bring and reach out to a wider audience the projects they’ve been working on all year “We can use Earth Day, Earth Week, and Earth Month as a sort of starting point for some of their work,” Berliner said.
Debbra Goh ’24, Sustainability Office Eco-Facilitator and Green Fund member, helped organize the clothes swap, which is scheduled for Friday, April 22 at 12 noon in the backyard of the College of the Environment. Goh believes it’s important for campus community members to shift their focus on the environment.
“I think we’re entering a time in the world where environmental issues are so intersectional and affect everyone,” Goh said. “And if they don’t affect you now, one day they will, and it’s not just about saving the planet and nature because we should love the earth. It’s also about how protecting the environment and nature is one of the best ways to protect the world’s most vulnerable communities and one of the best ways to protect our neighbors and our families and the others we love.”
In addition to raising environmental awareness through Earth Month, the Sustainability Office began partnering with the resource center for the organization last semester the first conversation of the series Environmental Justice. Continuing this semester during Earth Month, the series will feature three speakers who will discuss diverse topics related to environmental justice: Vandana Shiva, Mikaela Loach, and Greg Genco. The Green Fund, which funds campus sustainability projects, helped fund the speaker events, the first of which was a question-and-answer session with Shiva, an environmental activist and food sovereignty advocate, on Tuesday, April 5 via Zoom.
“We paid in to get [Shiva]who is this super cool, anti-GMO, Indian scholar [and] Activist over Zoom,” Goh said. “The entire mission of the Green Fund is to contribute funds to projects that support the environmental movement in all its forms, whether they are intersectional environmentalists or something else.”
The second speaker event took place on Monday, April 11th with Loach, a climate justice activist and co-host of The YIKES Podcast.
“She’s more of a climate justice influencer on Instagram and she’s young, she’s our age,” said Shirmai Chung ’22, an intern at the Sustainability and Spirituality Resource Center. “So we’re hoping she can offer more advice on how people here on campus can start as an activist or get organized in the community.”
The final speaker in the series will be Genco, founder of Generation Conscious, which makes sustainable laundry detergent sheets. The University currently partners with Generation Conscious to provide eco-friendly laundry strips to school students. Genco will lead an ecosystemic design workshop on Monday, April 18 at 4:30 p.m. in the Resource Center.
“He’s going to give a talk on ecosystem design, so basically it’s about how product designs should be more eco-friendly and sustainable, and how we can make that happen,” Chung said. “So it’s perfect for people who are more business or IDEA driven [Integrated Design, Engineering, and Applied Sciences] minors.”
Berliner thinks the series is important to show why justice needs to be considered in the environmental movement.
“Justice is such an important part of the environmental movement,” said Berliner. “We need to continue to integrate it and embed it in all of our work. I think it’s really important to draw people’s attention to it as much as possible.”
Conversations on campus that address environmental justice have grown alongside those that focus on racial injustice.
“I think when you talk about sustainability, especially here in the US … you can’t separate racism from sustainability because if you look at pollution in the US, it’s mostly happening in black and brown communities,” Chung said. “I think when I go onto campus I feel like that conversation has been really missing, but I’m very grateful that this conversation has grown over the past year or so. And the Sustainability Office has placed more emphasis on equity, inclusion and justice, environmental justice and also [been] more inclusive in their hiring process, like consciously hiring people of color as their eco-facilitators and as their office assistants.”
Goh believes that while Earth Month is just a single month, ongoing campus events planned by the Sustainability Office and other groups can help students learn how to change their actions.
“I realize that a month of programming or this single Earth day is not going to be enough to change the world, but it’s a very good way to get students to think more about it and the fact in their daily lives for real.” The time to make positive changes in terms of individual behavioral patterns or in terms of how you view larger systemic issues — the time to do so is now,” Goh said.
Jiyu Shin can be reached at [email protected].