University officials are expected to launch a new website later today to highlight more than a month-long string of activities that will take place on campus throughout the rest of the semester to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Earth Day.

According to a press release expected to be released later today, the series of events, a joint collaboration between several student groups on campus, faculty and University administrators, is part of the University’s effort to “turn Earth Day into Earth Month.”

In the release, President Mary Sue Coleman calls the collaboration of events a chance to reflect on the past and to think about how to move forward.

“With our growing level of teaching, research and action related to sustainability, the University continues to build on the foundation set 40 years ago by students and faculty committed to protecting our environment,” Coleman is quoted in the release as saying. “This year’s Earth Day activities are an opportune time to reflect on the past four decades and focus on solutions for the future.”

Earth Day, which is commemorated on April 22 every year, was born out of a massive teach-in at the University in 1970, when more than 15,000 people packed Crisler Arena to learn about the environment. The event included several notables like musician Gordon Lightfoot, environmentalist Barry Commoner, advocate Ralph Nader and politician Edmund Muskie.

As part of this year’s festivities, a similar event — though on a much smaller scale — will be held at the Michigan League on March 25. The event is meant to highlight several issues related to the environment and to promote the University’s new sustainability initiative. It will feature student-moderated panels of industry experts and faculty members.

In a separate press release expected to be released this morning, Prof. Don Scavia, who serves as special counsel on sustainability to Coleman and is also the director of the Graham Environmental Sustainability Institute, called the event a sign of the value the University places on sustainability.

“Our 40th Anniversary Earth Day Teach-In provides a good example of the University of Michigan’s strong commitment to sustainability,” Scavia is quoted as saying. “Engaging the community and building public awareness at a local level is essential for positive progress toward sustainability on a global scale.”

Many other events — more than 30 in all — will take place throughout the rest of the semester.

White House official John Holdren, who serves as assistant to the president for science and technology, will also take part in the University’s Earth Day celebration — delivering the ninth annual Peter M. Wege Lecture on March 22. Holdren is expected to discuss plans for the nearly $148 billion for federal research and development President Barack Obama set forth in his budget proposal to Congress.

As part of the festivities, a forum at the Ross School of Business on how ethics and the economy interact with the environment will take place tomorrow.

In addition, an environment fair on the Diag aimed at raising awareness of environmental efforts on campus will be held in early April and a BioBlitz — in which students will work to identify as many species as possible at Nichols Arboretum — will take place on April 10.

On April 1, a sustainable fashion show encouraging organic and fair trade clothing purchases will be held in the Michigan Union.

LSA senior Matt Gacioch, who has worked with officials to help coordinate this year’s Earth Day events, said the fashion show is a good example of how students can lead more sustainable lifestyles.

“You don’t need to go out and buy really expensive, new clothes or the expensive new clothes that you buy can be more sustainable and more eco-conscious,” Gacioch said.

Nancy Connell, director of strategic communications for the University, said other activities on campus are being expanded to increase awareness of environmental issues. For instance, University Housing Residence Halls have offered sustainable meals in the past featuring food from local vendors and this year University officials are planning to expand the practice.

“This year, instead of doing only the residence halls, they will also do it in the eating establishments in the Union so that there’s a broader awareness,” Connell explained.

A full listing of events being offered to the campus community can be found on the University’s new Earth Day website that will be launched later today.

University officials will also be posting flyers and banners across campus to promote the series of Earth Day activities and to encourage those on campus to live more sustainable lifestyles.

Connell said the University’s decision to highlight environmental sustainability fits nicely with Coleman’s new campus sustainability initiative.

“When you look at the history and then you look at the tie in to U-M sustainability, it seemed natural that a way to do this would be to make more of a celebration out of Earth Day and to make it not just an administrative-driven or academic-driven thing, but to bring the students in also,” she said.

Connell added that the campus events would serve two purposes — to raise awareness, and through that, to educate students and members of the University community.

“The more you understand why you’re doing something, the more inclined you are toward doing it,” Connell said.

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