Earth Day Fair to bring clubs together around sustainability

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In honor of yesterday’s Earth Day, Occidental is hosting its first-ever Earth Day Sustainability Fair Friday as the culminating event of Earth Week. The fair will showcase the sustainability efforts of a wide range of campus groups, such as the biology department, the Beekeeping Club, the Hawaii Club and the Green Bean Coffee Lounge.

The goal of Occidental’s Earth Week is to educate the campus community about sustainability. Sustainability Coordinator Emma Sorrell ‘13 is spearheading this year’s events with the help of the Sustainability Committee, which monitors the college’s use of resources and pursues environmentally-friendly on-campus projects. Biology and theater double major Dylan Bruce (sophomore), who also serves as the sustainability intern for Campus Dining, is working with Sorrell as a member of the Sustainability Subcommittee for Outreach and Education.

“Hopefully we will be able to keep momentum going and have a more cohesive group that works around sustainability on campus in the future,” Sorrell said.

Sorrell and Bruce believe that the Earth Day Fair will show the Occidental community that sustainability is easily attainable and relevant to everyone.

“We want to engage people and show them that this stuff is fun and important at the same time, that these issues do matter to them and that they are connected,” Bruce said.

The Earth Day Fair will elucidate how sustainability relates to students’ daily lives by showcasing the diverse ways in which groups from across campus are tackling environmental issues.

“We hope that students will see how broad sustainability is,” Sorrell said. “It’s everything from bees to transportation and everything in between.”

Green landscaping

Professor of biology Gretchen North will lead the biology department in selling succulent and perennial plants on the quad during the Earth Day Fair to raise awareness about water-conscious landscaping.

“It is important that the campus is moving towards drought-tolerant planting,” North said.

According to the Public Policy Institute of California, at least 50 percent of the state’s urban water usage goes toward landscaping — namely, watering nonnative plants.

The biology department will also educate students about the importance of pollinators, such as butterflies and hummingbirds. In response to the plummeting monarch butterfly populations, students in North’s Flora of California class became interested in establishing butterfly gardens around campus. They started by planting milkweed on a plot of land behind Stewart-Cleland Hall where, according to North, six monarch caterpillars have already found a home. North’s students have also planted a garden outside of the Bioscience building for hummingbirds.

“There’s a nice, renewed focus on pollinators and how to attract and plant them,” North said.

Bees: California’s pollinators

Occidental’s Environmental Health and Safety ManagerBruce Steele and the newly formed Beekeeping Club have planned an exhibit for the Earth Day Fair to show the environmental importance of bees, and hopefully cure some students of their apiphobia (fear of bees). Steele will bring an observation beehive that he maintains at the Kidspace Children’s Museum in Pasadena and hold a honey tasting for his audience with samples of honey sourced from black sage, orange groves and wildflowers. Samples of honey from various areas will show how different floral sources affect the taste of the honey.

The Beekeeping Club will also look for ways to network with other campus groups at the fair to reiterate the relevance of bees in campus sustainability initiatives such as the Biology department’s monarch butterfly and hummingbird gardens and the Hawaii Club’s taro crops.

Steele explained that bee pollination is imperative to not only California’s flower populations, but also to food crops such as melons, apples and alfalfa used for livestock feed. According to Steele, the world would be bereft of almonds without healthy California bees because 80 percent of the world’s almonds come from the San Joaquin Valley.

“Bees play an incredibly important role in our food supply,” Steele said.

He also noted how far-reaching implications of bee health are becoming increasingly apparent as environmental changes threaten their populations.

“From a sustainable perspective, bees are a canary in the coal mine. They are an indicator of the health of the ecosystem,” Steele said.

The bee exhibit will educate students on the importance of bees and the necessity for sustainable agriculture in relation to colony collapse disorder, an epidemic caused by anthropogenic introduction of new viruses, pesticides and malnutrition.

Water-conscious farming

Earth Week will give Hawaii Club a chance to share their poi — a Polynesian dish made from the taro plant — with the Occidental community in order to raise awareness about the environmental issues affecting the livelihood of taro farmers in Hawaii. They will also sell shirts to promote, “I am Haloa,” a documentary about Hawaiian identity and culture that the club will screen next year.

“We want to promote understanding of the problems that are affecting the taro culture,” Art History and Visual Arts (AVHA) major Sarah Tamashiro (junior) said.

According to Tamashiro, taro grows efficiently with very little land and water, requires no refrigeration and is hypoallergenic, yet it is the most underused starch in world. Tamashiro believes that planting sustainable crops such as taro helps Hawaii’s local environment and economy and has the potential to do the same globally.

“We need to start thinking about how we can re-look at what we’re consuming,” Tamashiro said.

To educate Occidental students about the cultivation and benefits of taro, members of Hawaii Club planted taro in the Food, Energy and Sustainability Team (FEAST) garden and hope to yield a harvest by the end of the year. Tamashiro is excited about the prospects of the stronger partnership with the garden.

“We’re definitely going to work more with FEAST next year,” Tamashiro said.

Efficient waste disposal

The Green Bean will conduct a waste audit throughout Earth Week in order to combat the problem of wasteful disposal. Despite signs reading, “Compost Me!” and “STOP! Compost Only!,” Green Bean staff continue to see non-compostable items in compost bins, according to Urban and Environmental Policy (UEP) major and Green Bean Programming and Customer Experience Manager Caroline Bringenberg (senior).

“It’s a bummer that if there is one non-compostable thing in a bag, then the whole bag doesn’t get composted,” Bringenberg said.

Green Bean staff will display the contents of the compost, recycling and trash bins from the lounge on tarps in the academic quad.

“The main point of the waste audit is to educate the student body on how to sort their trash, and for them to see how many mistakes are made throughout the day,” Bringenberg said.

The display will also incorporate a game in which students can sort the waste correctly for a chance to win a Green Bean Klean Kanteen.

“We put a lot of effort into being a sustainable business, so participating in Earth Week will help to spread the word and show all our efforts,” Bringenberg said.

Other participants in the Earth Day Fair

Sorrell and Bruce believe that the Earth Day Fair will consist of the largest and most diverse participants of any campus event.

Campus Dining will provide samples of produce grown at local farms from which it plans to purchase produce. It will also display a regional map showing how it is shrinking its radius of supply. The Marketplace will feature local and organic food throughout the entire week, providing comparisons of the carbon footprint of different diets.

FEAST will give out mint transplants and a recipe for mint tea.

Several groups on campus will promote sustainable means of transportation. The physics department will display its solar car, the Bengal Bus and Zipcar will run promotions and Bike Share will host an introductory bike mechanics demonstration.

Oxy Green Tours, a student organization that gives tours centered around sustainable projects on campus, will run a water taste comparison. In an effort to eliminate plastic bottle waste on campus, UEP major and Oxy Green Tours founder Lila Singer-Berk (senior) came up with the idea to show students that tap water is just as good as bottled water.

“Occidental still sells bottled water while other schools do not, so the taste comparison is a small thing we can do to promote campus sustainability,” Singer-Berk said.

Oxy Green Tours will also give out Renewable Energy and Sustainability Fund (RESF) hand towels to those who can correctly guess the origin of each water sample. The towels were introduced last year to clip onto backpacks and save paper towels.

Students will also be able to kick around the SOCCKET, a soccer ball created by the environmentally responsible enterprise Uncharted Play, that uses kinetic energy to power small appliances. Students can also help paint an earth-themed mural.

RESF will host its second annual “Thrift Store” Clothing Swap during the fair. Students who have donated clothing in previous weeks will gain free access to clothing and Green Truck food. Those who did not donate clothes can charge $5 to their student accounts for the same perks.

The Prison Beautification Club will also promote their club at the fair and the economics department will display posters on the economics of sustainability.

Sorrell sees the fair as a promising start for greater participation in sustainable initiatives on campus.

“Hopefully students will learn about organizations on campus that they did not know were there before, and that there is a lot of networking to make sustainability a bigger presence on campus,” Sorrell said.