Environmental concerns might not be at the forefront of most students’ minds, but Gregory Caplan, co-chair of Earth Week, thinks they should be. For Caplan, the environment is “the biggest issue our generation is going to have to face.”
Earth Week is an organization promoting awareness and activism of environmental issues on campus. To promote environmental awareness, Earth Week has focused each day on a different topic, ranging from climate change and green technology to more politically charged issues like environmental equality.
Earth Week evolved out of the Michigan Student Assembly’s Environmental Issues Commission, which promotes sustainability at the University. Caplan, co-chair of commission, said in previous years the commission organized Earth Week.
Earth Week led to the founding of the Earth Week group, which remains closely involved and funded by MSA.
This year brought together a wide range of campus groups, including the Enviro Dems, the BLUElab or Better Living Using Engineering group, Hillel’s environmentally active group Hayerukim, and ENACT or Environmental Action, with each displaying information like reusing bio-waste to create energy.
The Enviro Dems, a committee sponsored by the University chapter of College Democrats, put together information on recent legislation and statements from presidential candidates for each day of Earth Week.
Sara Duffy, founder and chair of Enviro Dems, wants to make sure that students are aware of the environmental positions of politicians, and that our political choices need to be made carefully, because our votes have an impact on the environment.
“I think that when it come to things that you can do on a personal level to increase energy efficiency and to decrease our impact on our environment, it’s really a win-win situation,” she said.
Other groups participating included ENACT, instrumental for the creating the art displays, like the beer pong table placed on the Diag. Lindsey MacDonald, president of ENACT, created the displays “to get people who aren’t going to stop and have a conversation on the Diag, but to read something and get something away from it.”
The opening day of Earth Week featured the beer pong table from ENACT to inform students of the environmental impact involved with the popular drinking game. The display consisted of non-recyclable plastic solo cups, which are energy intensive to make, and environmentally costly. Instead, MacDonald suggested using reusable or disposable cups without the same environmental impact.
The next day focused on food and water, featuring organic food samples from Whole Foods, and displays on organic food from Silvio’s Organic Pizza. This day of Earth Week was designed to promote sustainable farming and fishing practices and to draw attention to the issue of shrinking water reserves.
To promote recycling, ENACT displayed garbage to represent the amount garbage an average American creates in one year. The display was created so that students could pause, and “think about how much waste you make, and when you do make waste, try to recycle it,” said Caplan.
Highlighting green technologies, the BLUElab group featured a “bio-digester” that takes human waste, and uses bacteria to emit natural gas that can be harnessed for energy. The BLUElab group is a “student run organization that works to find sustainable solutions to development problems” according to their website, and hopes to soon test their product.
Focusing on environment justice issues for the last day, Earth Week rented a jousting ring, scheduled to hold a symbolic fight between the environment and issues such as fossil fuel.
“It is commonly understood that the poorer you are, the more you are exposed to environmental injustice,” said Caplan.
When asked why someone should care about environmental issues, Caplan responded, “You breathe air everyday, you drink water everyday. That will be compromised unless you do something about it.”
McDonald admitted that it can often be difficult to get students to care about the environment, but remains optimistic.
Caplan said the group will begin planning for next year’s event this upcoming week.
As far promoting environmental issues this year is concerned, “as long as it sits on our consciousness, I think we have done our job,” said Caplan.