A girl in a blue shirt sits behind a table painting on a banner that says "Project Hispañola". Another girl in a grey shirt leads over the table to also paint.
Engineering sophomore Sarah Waldman, center, paints at the Project Hispañola table at Earthfest on the Drag Thursday afternoon. Project Hispañola collaborates with engineers and community leaders in the Dominican Republic to support and assist in the construction of homes built with recycled plastic. Tess Crowley/Daily. Buy this photo.

More than 40 student organizations gathered on the Diag Thursday afternoon to celebrate Earthfest — an annual event designed to promote sustainability and environment-related student organizations at the University of Michigan. Earthfest 2023 was co-sponsored by Planet Blue, the School for Environment and Sustainability, MDining and U-M Student Life.

From crafting tables and farm stands to information booths about sustainability classes, students spread across the Diag. Students listened to conversations promoting sustainability and recruitment pitches, grabbed from baskets of apples and collected stamps at various stands for free produce. 

At the event, the U-M Campus Farm displayed fresh peppers and tomatoes on a table and taught students about the farm. In an interview with The Michigan Daily, LSA senior Nick Hyslop, vice president of the Campus Farm, said Earthfest is an opportunity to teach students about the farm’s resources. As an example, Hyslop highlighted how the U-M Campus Farm supplies locally grown crops for MDining and the Maize & Blue Cupboard — a resource for the U-M community on Central Campus that fights food insecurity — all year long.

“We’re really trying to boost engagement with the farm,” Hyslop said. “So, having people go out to the farm, help grow their own food and know where their food comes from (is important). (They also learn) about the Ann Arbor food system and sustainability.”

According to Ashlee Bise, graphic design and events coordinator for the U-M Office of Campus Sustainability, Earthfest was previously called Energyfest when the event was created. As the event evolved, Bise said they found “Earthfest” fit the event’s goals better.

“I believe that this is our 28th year of doing it, so it started way back in the ’90s,” Bise said. “Actually, it started as Energyfest. It was primarily focused on reducing energy, that kind of thing and as sustainability goals have evolved over the years, the event has evolved as well to include things like compost, waste, production, sustainable food, all of that.”

Engineering senior Hannah Kueffner, Planet Blue student leader, worked the U-M Sustainable Food Program table, where attendees could make stamp crafts. In an interview with The Daily, Kueffner said the stamps were a fun way to connect students with sustainability.

“I’m just working on a table where we just have a fun craft,” Kueffner said. “We’re doing prints made out of stamps that the UMSFP made and prepared for today — just a little light-hearted mindless thing to bring some awareness to our earth, to put the word out for people that maybe are new here or haven’t been super involved in sustainability on campus.”

Local bike cooperative Common Cycle set up a booth to repair bicycles for free and educate students about riding safely. Riding a bicycling is often seen as a sustainable mode of transportation and accessible to students who need a quick way to get to class. In an interview with The Daily, Bob Werner, board member of Common Cycle, said he wanted to promote the cooperative to students who often ride bikes to get to class and around Ann Arbor.  

“We’re here today to help people fix bikes and encourage people to ride safely,” Warner Werner said. “(It is important to) make sure that (your) bike runs safely, (and) make sure they have lights so that (students) don’t get hurt.

Bise said this year’s Earthfest turnout was larger than past years and that attendance has been increasing since the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I would say this year’s turnout is probably the best one we’ve had in a while,” Bise said. “We took a pretty big hit during COVID. This is probably back to the normal levels that we saw before COVID. It seems like people are more than willing to be going to outdoor events again, which is great.”

And reflecting on that larger turnout, Keuffner noted the impact and importance of Earthfest to the campus community, especially to people looking to engage with sustainability efforts.

“(Earthfest is) just to bring some awareness to our Earth and just to put the word out for people that maybe are new here or haven’t been super involved in sustainability,” said Keuffner. “I think there’s a huge community around sustainability, and there are a ton of ways here to get involved.”   

Daily Staff Reporter Sneha Dhandapani can be reached at sdhanda@umich.edu.