Many environment-focused organizations from the University of Michigan and the broader Ann Arbor area set up on the Diag for the annual EarthFest Wednesday. 

EarthFest began under the name “Energy Fest” in 1996 and has since evolved, taking on its current name in 2010 with the establishment of the Planet Blue Initiative, an initiative from the University that aims to promote sustainibility. 

The University recently identified four campus sustainability goals around climate action, waste prevention, healthy environments and community awareness. These goals are both guiding principles for the University, as well as concrete objectives to be fully implemented by 2025.

For example, the Health Environments goal mandates that the University must protect Huron River water quality by working to minimize runoff.

Ken Keeler, senior sustainability representative with the Office of Campus Sustainability, said EarthFest was incredibly important in raising campus awareness.

“From our point of view we want to make students, especially new students, aware of the whole Planet Blue idea and what U of M is doing towards reaching its sustainability goal,” Keeler said.

Taylor Landeryou, a School of Natural Resources and Environment graduate student, was at EarthFest working at a table for her organization, UMBees. UMBees brings awareness to campus about the role of honey bees and other pollinators in the food systems. An estimated one-third of all food is dependent on pollinators, according to the British Beekeepers Association. The group keeps six hives at the Campus Farm on North Campus and also hosts an urban beekeeping symposium in October.

Landeryou said she loves coming to EarthFest to bring the community more information about bees and other pollinators.

“We actually kind of use it as our Festifall,” Landeryou said. “We appreciate that opportunity and we also love being around all our neighborly Earth-driven groups.”

Members of the Food Recovery Network, which works with the University dining halls and other student organizations that serve food to reduce leftover waste, attended the event for the third year in a row. LSA senior Ryan Ouderkirk, in his second year as one of the Network’s representatives, said the group aims to find a more sustainable way to reduce leftovers.

“Essentially we are taking the leftovers and helping deliver them to the hungry,” Ouderkirk said.

During the event, students formed long lines to get their own succulent plants from the Matthei Botanical Gardens table and learn about volunteer opportunities at both the Gardens and Nichols Arboretum.

Jared Alexson, a Natural Resources and Environment graduate student, said EarthFest is a great way for the Botanical Gardens to connect with the student body.

“It’s a great way to promote the presence of the garden and the arboretum for U of M students,” Alexson said. “It’s this underlying theme of connecting people with plants and connecting people with nature.”

Students passed through the Diag throughout the day, checking out the different tables and being treated to apples and Washtenaw Dairy donuts in true fall in Ann Arbor spirit. Engineering senior Srivi Sridhar said she had never heard of EarthFest before Wednesday, but was pleased with the event.

“I really like EarthFest,” Sridhar said. “I didn’t expect it to be here, but there is so much. I’ve learned a lot.”

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