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Earthfest lauds sustainability

Paul Sherman/Daily
Michelle Mirowski, program coordinator at the Leslie Science & Nature Center, discusses the eastern screech owl with students during Earthfest on the Diag Thursday. Buy this photo

By Katie Szymanski, Daily Staff Reporter
Published September 20, 2012

Not even chilly, rainy weather could put a damper on EarthFest 2012: Party for the Planet, one of the University’s largest events promoting sustainability.

The rain cleared just in time for students and organizations to gather on the Diag to celebrate Mother Earth at the University’s annual sustainability festival on Thursday afternoon, which is organized by students and the Office of Campus Sustainability. Each of the 50 booths addressed one of four main categories related to the goals set by University President Mary Sue Coleman for the University to achieve by 2025 — community awareness, climate action, waste prevention and healthy environments.

This year’s celebration featured booths from student organizations — including LSA Student Government, Central Student Government and Students for Clean Energy — as well as groups from the greater Ann Arbor area. Appearances were also made by representatives from the Leslie Science Center, Recycle Ann Arbor, Ann Arbor Transportation Authority Bus Services and Natural Area Preservation.

During the event, student could learn about sustainability groups and their projects through interactive games, raffles, Q&A sessions and giveaways of recycled pencils, pins, reusable tote bags and food.

Along with the interactive presentations, cooking demonstrations were made every half hour to show students how sustainability can be enjoyable and even delectable. Rufus — a life-size walking recycling bin — joined the fun by mingling with students and posing for an occasional photo opportunity.

Barbara Hagan, the director of Earthfest and sustainability administrator in the Office for Campus Sustainability, said participation has increased compared to years past due to its outreach to Ann Arbor organizations.

“We have more booths this year because we expanded it to include some external (Ann Arbor) groups,” she said. “I think they bring a lot to the table … we’ve got some great groups here.”

Linda Polo, the event coordinator of EarthFest said students seemed enthusiastic, adding that this year’s event drew a large crowd because it appealed to a majority of students.

“We are really focusing on the things students love, like food,” she said. “That’s why we have apples and donuts and chef demos. Everything here is centered on being local and making sure that what we buy isn’t going to waste.”

Nicole Berger, a Planet Blue ambassador coordinator, said there were many changes added to this year’s festival. Among them was a photo-booth pledge system through the Planet Blue Community Awareness station, where students were able to write down their sustainability goals and take a photo alongside their pledge.

Berger said this was the first time the group incorporated photography while pledging, making it more personal for those participating. The pledge photos will be posted on the group’s website in the upcoming weeks.

Kristyn Sonnenberg, a student services assistant in the Physics Department, pledged to become more conscientious about where her garbage is going.

“I made a pledge to start a compost bin, because it’s something I’ve wanted to do for a while because I’ve noticed most of my trash (is better off) in a compost bin than a landfill,” she said. “I think it would be a really great thing if the University did start using (more composting). It would probably be a lot to implement, but I think they could start small.”

LSA sophomore Corey Walsh, a member of LSA Student Government, said the group’s subcommittee Taking Responsibility for the Earth and Environment, attended EarthFest to increase student awareness about sustainability and to provide alternative, eco-friendly options for students.