The City of Ann Arbor held its 20th annual Green Fair on Friday to promote its carbon neutrality goals, including the A2Zero initiative to reach carbon neutrality by the year 2030. The fair showcased booths from environmentally-friendly local businesses, non-profit organizations and A2Zero city collaborators.
Dr. Missy Stults, manager of the City’s Office of Sustainability and Innovations, said she hopes the fair spreads awareness of various nonprofits and businesses working to make the city sustainable and equitable.
“For our team, we really want to make sure people are aware of A2Zero and know how to engage,” Stults said. “Whether that’s becoming a volunteer in the program, learning how they can access solar and renewable energy (or) … electrifying their transportation system. Just making sure that people realize there’s lots of ways to engage, and they leave knowing how to become part of a movement.”
The A2Zero city collaborators promoted a number of sustainable initiatives at the fair, including the 10,000 Trees Initiative, an ongoing Returnable Container Pilot Program and the Climate Ambassador Program.
Community Engagement Specialist Galen Hardy encouraged community members interested in sustainability to engage with the A2Zero Ambassador Program, a nine-week leadership program aimed to train residents on the science behind A2Zero carbon neutrality goals, so they can offer informed support for sustainable projects and educate fellow residents.
“They have the ability to go out, engage their own networks, (and) engage their own neighborhoods,” Hardy said. “What we’re doing is pollinating the neighborhoods with information (and) science about climate action and mitigation strategy.”
Rackham student Sandra Dubaisi, who is studying biomedical engineering, said she did not know about the Ambassador Program before attending the fair.
“(The Ambassador Program) offers all these classes about environmental justice … and, honestly, just hearing how involved people are and how much they care and the benefits we reap from that, I think that’s really nice,” Dubaisi said.
Dentistry student Di Xie said she felt as if students at the University of Michigan are often absorbed in a bubble. After the fair, Xie said she appreciated experiencing the passion the Ann Arbor community has for making the city a better place.
“We were talking to someone who’s been working in environmental justice for over 20 years,” Xie said. “And even though it’s really a struggle, the inertia of politics is its own separate thing, it’s really incredible after they’ve been here for so long to see how the incremental change has slowly built and built on top of all of these efforts to create something like this.”
Ann Arbor Mayor Christopher Taylor said that the cooperation between the City and the University is critical for achieving carbon neutrality goals.
“The University has one-third of the carbon output here in the county,” Taylor said. “And so, the University achieving its goals is absolutely critical to the City achieving its goals. So we’re standing with the University, working with the University, trying to urge each other towards doing better because that’s our obligation.”
In March, the U-M President’s Commission on Carbon Neutrality released its final 104-page report detailing recommendations for the three U-M campuses to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2040. The report — which was an accumulation of over two years of deliberation — includes proposals to use carbon offsets for balancing greenhouse gas outputs, strategies to convert fossil fuel energy to renewable energy and efforts to increase environmental justice and accountability, among other recommendations. University President Mark Schlissel and the Board of Regents approved the plan in May.
Emma Hess, a U-M alum and owner of BYOC Co., had a booth for her sustainable refill shop during the fair. Hess said that she could not imagine starting a business without having sustainability as a consistent value.
“I always wanted to have the earth in the back of my mind, always to be conscious, because waste is a problem,” Hess said. “While we all create waste, and I still create waste to this day, I think we can all (take) a couple steps every day to make a difference.”
Hess said she hopes the fair will give the Ann Arbor community a sense of optimism for sustainable action opportunities.
“I hope it gives them hope that we are moving in that direction of trying our best, but also seeing all the opportunities that we have locally to get involved and make those decisions and actually put them into action every day,” Hess said. “That’s a huge, huge opportunity in reality.”
Julie Roth, senior energy analyst at the Office of Sustainability and Innovations, said she hopes the community becomes more enthusiastic in their efforts to achieve A2Zero carbon neutrality goals after the fair.
“Enthusiasm and the understanding that getting to carbon neutrality by 2030 is hard, but we know how to do it,” Roth said. “It’s just having the political will to be able to do what we know we have to do. To get in on this is a big part of the solution.”
Daily Staff Reporter Vanessa Kiefer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.