In preparation for April’s national observance of Earth
Month, campus and city groups took to the Diag yesterday to educate
passing students about environmental issues.

Some of the groups passed out tip sheets and guides on how to
conserve energy during “Earth Day on the Diag,” while
others had more specific issues to address.

The student group Transformers had a table on ecological
“footprints,” which measure how much land, water and
energy are used to produce a person’s daily consumption. This
measurement is then converted into a geographic area distribution,
telling a person how much physical land their consumption takes
up.

“Consumption is very extensive. It includes the food that
we eat and how much land it takes to grow the food, the type of
materials our houses are built out of and how much energy is needed
for lighting and heating and the modes of the transportation that
we use,” said Rackham student Kathleen Mogelgaard, a member
of Transformers.

She said Americans consume a large amount of energy compared to
most developed and developing nations. “If every person on
Earth had a footprint the size of the average American’s
ecological footprint, we would need four and a half planet
Earths,” she said.

The Transformers also passed out fluorescent light bulbs, which
use less energy, meaning a power plant can burn less coal than it
would burn for a regular bulb. Although they are more energy
efficient, these bulbs, at $7, cost more than normal light bulbs.
Transformers started with 80 free bulbs at 10 p.m., and by the time
Earth Day on the Diag ended at 4 p.m., all of them had been given
away. Students could sign up on a list to receive more fluorescent
light bulbs.

Other groups decided to use their tabling time on the Diag to
advocate specific issues with handouts and fliers.

Environmental Justice Group members asked students to fill out
surveys as part of its campaign to have Fair Trade Coffee offered
in the residence dining halls.

RC freshman Jen Herard said regular coffee sells at 40 cents a
pound but not all profits go directly to farmers. Sales of Fair
Trade Coffee, which is valued at $1.26 per pound, would allow
farmers to meet their basic necessities while also being able to
send their children to school, she said. The price of Fair Trade
Coffee is higher than regular coffee because it has to meet strict
international standards to provide assistance to farmers.

“Students drink a lot of coffee so if they change their
purchasing habits, coffee vendors will see that there is a market
for Fair Trade Coffee,” Herard said.

She said Environmental Justice is also trying to push Starbucks
Coffee Co. to sell Fair Trade Coffee more regularly in its Ann
Arbor shops. “Starbucks is supposed to have Fair Trade Coffee
but they don’t always do, so if customers go in and ask for
it specifically, they have to brew a whole pot,” Herard
said.

Students for Public Interest Research Group in Michigan also
took advantage of Earth Day on the Diag to petition for the
reduction of mercury emissions from power plants.

Signatures collected on postcards will go to the Environmental
Protection Agency.

Mercury, a highly toxic chemical, is emitted from power plants
and then enters the ocean. Humans can ingest this hazardous
chemical by eating contaminated fish.

“Two years ago, the EPA said they could reduce mercury
emissions by 90 percent but then they didn’t do anything
about it,” LSA junior Liz Brisson said. “We’re
trying to change that.”

She added that the EPA has a court-ordered deadline of Dec. 15
to issue rules about a reduction in mercury emissions.

According to LSA junior Carolyn Hwang, mercury can create health
problems comparable to the effects of lead poisoning.
“Mercury emissions are especially a problem for pregnant
women. Unsafe levels can cause neurological damage to
fetuses,” she said.

Students for PIRGIM and other environmental groups want EPA
officials to reduce mercury emissions by 90 percent by the year
2008.

“Earth Week at the University” will continue
throughout the weekend. Today, Martha Marks, founder of Republicans
for Environmental Protection, and Joe Schwarz, Republican candidate
for the seventh congressional district of Michigan, will speak on
the topic “Conservation is Bipartisan” in room 1040 of
the Dana building at 7 p.m.

Students for PIRGIM and Project SERVE will sponsor a day of
environmental service on Saturday.

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