Students and community members gather to celebrate Earthfest, an event providing a platform for sustainability initiatives and environmental justice, Thursday on the Diag. Sydney Hastings-Wilkins/Daily. Buy this photo.

The windy and chilly weather on Thursday morning signaled that fall arrived right on time as students and community members gathered on the Diag to celebrate Earthfest, an annual event promoting sustainability initiatives and environmental justice organizations to the University of Michigan community. 

LSA freshman Wan Alif Zafri Bin Wan Azmi came for the free apples but stayed to learn more about the different clubs and organizations. He said he liked the integration of sustainability into other aspects of campus life.

“I just want to learn more about initiatives on campus because I want to possibly integrate it into my studies,” he said.

Katrina Folsom, marketing and communications specialist for the Office of Campus Sustainability, highlighted the different projects and initiatives sponsoring Earthfest, including Planet Blue, the University’s overarching sustainability efforts and the School for Environment and Sustainability. Folsom said one of the goals of Earthfest is to reach different members of the U-M community, particularly given the widespread interest on campus.

“The goal is to connect students, faculty and staff to ways that they can get involved in sustainability here,” Folsom said. “We have student groups, we have community groups, we have campus units to help people find a way that they can tap into their interest in sustainability.”

U-M Facilities and Operations, one of the booths at the event, brought new electric lawn mowers and offered information about the new electric buses that the organization will be introducing by the end of the academic year. 

“The grounds department brought their new electric equipment,” Folsom said. “We got a whole suite of new electric battery-powered lawn equipment. They are quieter and have no emissions.”

Folsom also discussed ways students can directly make an impact by identifying ways to be more sustainable. 

“(Planet Blue) places a real emphasis on how we’re all going to be part of the effort toward carbon neutrality, both institutional and individual,” Folsom said.

Planet Blue offered apples and apple cider while their student ambassadors shared information on environmental behavior and handed out free stickers and reusable water bottles. 

Michigan Dining provided snacks made from vegetables grown on the Campus Farm at Matthaei Botanical Garden. Additionally, the U-M Farm Stand held its weekly pop-up market in front of the University of Michigan Museum of Art.

Rackham student Isabella Beshouri, co-president of the U-M Sustainable Food Program, explained food sovereignty and what role the Campus Farm plays in accessibility. 

“We’re bringing (access to locally grown fruit and vegetables) to students who might not otherwise be able to access it and giving them power within their food system by doing so,” Beshouri said. 

The Campus Farm Stand — a weekly pop-up of locally grown produce — was also present at Earthfest and offered students a 30% discount. All proceeds to the farm stand go to funding student-led sustainable food initiatives. Beshouri also mentioned that Campus Farm is hosting HarvestFest, a sustainable food celebration on Sept. 25. 

Art & Design senior Emily Tamulewicz, Student Life sustainability intern, demonstrated how to make paper out of recycled materials. As she constructed lilac-colored paper for the crowd, Tamulewicz said being sustainable also involves being creative.

“It’s exciting (hosting) events that inform people about what they can do to decrease waste, whether it’s fun crafts or a lot of composting,” Tamulewicz said. “We work a lot with the University as a whole as well to promote these ideas.”

LSA sophomore Elizabeth Guenther also took part in the fun, sipping apple cider and collecting free stickers. She said she appreciated the relaxed and educational atmosphere of Earthfest.

“A lot of the clubs pressure you (to join),” Guenther said. “But I feel like everyone here is more about educating people and letting people know about opportunities to help in the community and putting awareness out.”

LSA freshman Archana Chandran said she is always surprised when something new happens at the Diag and was not aware of Earthfest taking place on Thursday. But Chandran said she was happy to check out the different clubs and learn about the programs the University offers.

“I really liked hearing from the students, especially seeing what a big impact that we can make,” Chandran said.

Daily Staff Reporter Teagan Stebbins can be reached at teagans@umich.edu.