By Erin Delman
Sunday, April 17 marked the start of Earth Week, a seven-day period surrounding the national Earth Day on April 22. Events began with a showing of Gasland on Sunday, April 17 and end on Saturday, April 23 with Octopus Garden’s first planting.
The environmental groups on campus have spent weeks preparing events, from the Environmental Club’s petitioning on Wednesday to Ozone House’s clothing swap today. Undoubtedly, the initiatives have or will raise awareness about sustainability and benefit the campus environment, all while celebrating what the groups so diligently work to protect: the Earth.
Yet as students react—some positively and some negatively—to the week’s festivities, many find themselves wondering who is behind all the action.
There are four main environmental groups on campus, all of which have different, albeit important, goals.
1. U-SUSTAIN: Consisting of about 40 environmentally and socially-concerned students, faculty and staf, the committee oversees major sustainability initiatives on campus, including the annual Presidential Green Grants. President Ainley established U-Sustain after signing the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment to spearhead initiatives to reduce the campus’s carbon footprint. U-Sustain is run by a leadership committee consisting of Sustainability Coordinator Mary Ellen Contompasis; student co-chairs Erin Delman ’12, Meghan Haley-Quigley ’11, and Shabana Hoosein ’11; faculty co-chairs Jeff Corbin and Laura Macmanus-Spencer; and staff chair Fred Puliafico. The group meets twice a term. The next meeting is Tuesday, May 10 during common lunch hour in Old Chapel.
2. ENVIRONMENTAL CLUB: From petitions against Mountain Top Coal Removal to movies about organic food production to speakers on weather manipulation, the club focuses its efforts on raising awareness and educating the campus about the most pressing and prominent local, national, and international environmental problems. It is run by co-presidents Haley-Quigley and Delman, treasurer Bobby Meeson ’13, and secretary Kyle Lanzit ’13. Weekly meetings take place on Mondays in Humanities 116 at 9:00 p.m.
3. OZONE HOUSE: Located at 1294 Lenox Road, Ozone House offers a community for environment-loving members of Union. Now in its sixth year, Ozone has introduced the campus to countless initiatives, including Café Ozone, Ozone Dance Parties, the Ozone Cookbook, the Ozone Calendar, the campus recycling program, and Campus Kitchens. Led by House Manager Eliza Duquette ’11, Ozone offers housing to 15 upper-class students who attempt to live sustainable lifestyles. The thermostat is kept low (even in the winter), showers are short and sporadic, and composting is a daily occurrence.
4. OCTOPUS’S GARDEN: Curtis Breuer ’14 is the newly elected president of Octopus’s Garden Club, which works to support the on-campus organic garden. The garden supplies local, pesticide-free to Union’s dining halls. Their first event of the term is Saturday, April 23 at 10:00 a.m. at the garden.
These groups and their sub-committees spend the entire year raising awareness about issues that plague our planet. Oftentimes, however, the members worry that their fundamental purpose gets diluted among a sea of negativity.
“We spend so much time explaining to people what we are doing wrong and what needs to be fixed,” Meghan Haley-Quigley ‘11 said. “But that is not what we are all about. Inherently, we love the planet in all its magnificence. We just want to encourage others to revere it as well.”
So, moral of the story: You don’t need to dig through trash, heckle passerbys, or get your hands dirty to support the campus environmental initiatives. Instead, go for a hike. Sit in the gardens. Breathe the fresh air. We are borrowing this Earth and with a little effort and a lot of respect, we can continue to do so for generations to come.