LSA freshman Noah Wolfson hadn’t heard of the University of Michigan’s annual fall EarthFest event, so he was pleasantly surprised when he saw, dotted across the Diag, stands offering sustainability information, donuts, apples and more.
“To be honest, I actually didn’t know this was happening until I walked onto the Diag,” Wolfson said. “But after walking past, I thought I’d take a nice stroll around. I think they’re really promoting sustainable energy in a really positive manner.”
The Office of Campus Sustainability, otherwise known as Planet Blue, hosted the 23rd EarthFest Thursday, a celebration aiming to engage and educate students on how to become involved in environmental sustainability.
Dozens of student, community and University organizations participated this year, including Habitat for Humanity, the Program in the Environment and the Campus Farm. To draw in students like Wolfson, booths offered items including succulents, a hot commodity according to EarthFest coordinator Ashlee Rothfuss.
“The (Matthaei) Botanical Gardens always comes and does a succulent giveaway that the students absolutely love,” Rothfuss said. “I cannot tell you how many emails I got asking if they were going to be there.”
This was Rothfuss’s first year organizing the event. She said many organizations returned to participate, such as Leslie’s Science and Nature Center, which gives animal demonstrations, and MDining, which teaches students how they can cook healthy food. The goal of EarthFest, Rothfuss said, is to educate students, especially on the University’s sustainability goals.
“It’s really just to educate the students on campus, and to help them find out how they can get involved in sustainability and what sustainable groups are available in their area,” Rothfuss said. “And it’s really to support the six sustainability goals that U-M has. It’s just this giant come-together of people distributing information so the students know what’s going on.”
One of the booths involved was the University’s Waste Reduction and Recycling Program. Program Manager Tracy Artley said she’d been coming to EarthFest for 15 years and admired how popular it’s become in that time.
“It’s grown a lot since the earlier days of the fest, where it was literally just a couple of booths and a band,” Artley said. “Now it’s so much more. So many more groups at the University and outside the University are participating now, which I think really increases our impact with the students because when it’s bigger, more people come, and more people hear your message.”
For the Waste Reduction Program, Artley said, the message is to decrease waste products and make sure recyclable and compostable items go to the right place. She also encouraged students living off campus to reach out via their website if they have questions about waste reduction.
“Our mission is to encourage the University of Michigan community to reduce waste by reducing the amount of items that are consumed, and then anything that is generated that needs to be disposed of, going to the proper location, whether that’s composting, recycling, or alternative,” Artley said.
All of the stands, Rothfuss emphasized, are primarily for the students.
“We really do it for the students,” Rothfuss said. “That’s what it’s all about, is to just inform and educate them on ways that they can be more sustainable and what their school and what their environment is doing to be more sustainable as a whole.”
When asked what his takeaway ideas from EarthFest were, Wolfson highlighted the importance of taking care of the Ann Arbor community.
“Ann Arbor’s our home too,” Wolfson said. “We have to make sure we keep it clean and keep it safe.”