EarthFest promotes green campus with posters and garbage sorting

Marissa McClain/Daily
Architecture senior Michael Herrick signs pledge to protect the environment at Earthfest on the North Campus Diag on September 23, 2010. Buy this photo

BY MICHELE NAROV
Daily Staff Reporter
Published September 23, 2010

Crossing the North Campus Diag on their way to class yesterday, students were met with blaring music, bright posters and pledges for sustainability.

Passersby who stopped to investigate learned they had come upon EarthFest — an event held by the University to advertise a new movement towards sustainability and conservation.

The two-day event — a joint effort between the Graham Institute for Sustainability, Planet Blue and a number of other organizations dedicated to environmental safety — was held on the Diag on Tuesday and at The Grove on North Campus on Thursday.

Students who stopped at the various EarthFest booths were presented with a flyer containing a pledge to help the environment that offered suggestions for demonstrating environmental consciousness. These ec0-friendly tips include using refillable water bottles, closing windows when air conditioning is on, using energy saving computer settings and purchasing “green” products.

The event was designed to publicize the University's new approach toward conservation, dubbed “integrated assessment” by its organizers. Since the official creation of the University’s Office of Sustainability by University President Mary Sue Coleman in October of last year, the new initiative has aimed to employ all available campus resources to achieve the goal of a greener campus.

Andrew Berki, manager of the University’s Office of Sustainability, said EarthFest improved upon an event called Energy Fest, which the University has held for the last ten years.

“Energy Fest was focused mainly on energy reduction and the operational programs that we have on campus,” he said. “This year we wanted to make it a broad sustainability event instead of just about energy reduction, and we wanted to include other groups as well as operational units.”

The University drew from every possible resource to achieve a broader approach for the event, Berki said.

“It complements a holistic view of campus,” he said. “Not just operations, but teamwork between operational efforts, academic efforts, research efforts and student involvement and activity.”

As a result, 32 organizations, including the Michigan Animal Rights Society, the Michigan Sustainable Foods Initiative, U-M Green It and Strategies for Ecology Education and Development, participated in the event.

Sarah Romanski, senior administrative assistant at the Graham Institute, said EarthFest also presented an important opportunity for environmental action groups to recruit members and to get people involved.

“Undergraduate applications for the Graham Institute are coming out in a couple of months,” Romanski said. “And we have a town hall meeting coming up that we are trying to advertise.”

On both Tuesday and Thursday, a massive pile of trash sat on the pavement of the venues as volunteers sorted the recyclable materials from landfill trash.

LSA sophomore Cydney Siegerman worked at the trash sort and recycling booth. She said her activity showed students that disposing of trash properly is an easy way to play a part in the greater movement toward environmental action.

“We should make sure as individuals and as a group to be environmentally safe and to make the University a more environmentally-friendly campus,” Siegerman said.

Berki said the trash-sorting booth, which sorted through one day's worth of garbage from Mason and Angell Halls, helped show students the impact of their actions. 17 trash bags out of the 42 total bags — about 40 percent — that were collected contained recyclable content, he said.

“We viewed that as a teachable moment for the campus community,” Berki said.

In the wake of EarthFest’s success, Berki said students and other members of the Ann Arbor community should look out for more environmentally-friendly messages and changes around campus as a result of the Integrated Assessment sustainability movement.

“We want to continue working with students and groups on campus to spread the word about being a green Wolverine,” Berki said. “It’s a growing program at U of M, and it's something everyone ought to be proud of.”