By Song My Hoang
Union is an institution of higher learning and is one that has a strong environmental policy program. Earth Week, held from April 21 to April 26, proves to the community that Union stands by what it teaches.
Sustainability Coordinator Meghan Haley-Quigley stated, “If this college is seen as a microcosm of the universe, we create a space and instill certain values that transcend the values of the college into students’ lives as they move forward.”
Some vendors from the Schenectady Greenmarket set up stalls outside of Reamer Campus Center on Monday, April 21. Haley-Quigley said that the college invited vendors that sold prepared products rather than fresh produce because not every student has the ability to cook fresh produce.
3 Chicks and a P came to sell hummus, pesto and various spreads. Pika’s Farm Tables sold Belgian waffles and prepared soups and bisques. The Peanut Principal, the first peanut butter company to be admitted into the New York City farmer’s market, sold different types of nut butters. Wellington’s Herbs and Spices sold spices, herbs, tea and baked goods.
The committee tried to align this event with Admitted Students Day in order to create a close-knit, community atmosphere.
Vendors are always happy to be invited because they get to meet new potential customers and encourage students to go to the Schenectady Greenmarket every Sunday.
Several students have asked Haley-Quigley if Schenectady Greenmarket vendors can come to Union every week. Although she appreciates the students’ excitement, she wants to stress that the whole idea of the event is to connect with the local community and encourage students to step outside of the gates of Union.
“There’s no reason to bring it here because students have the opportunity to go into Schenectady and connect with the local people,” added Haley-Quigley.
The Union Cycling and Bike Repair Expo was held on Tuesday, April 22. This past fall term, Andrew Parnes ’17 received a Presidential Green Grant to start a bicycle repair center.
It aims to build infrastructure for bikes, such as bike racks and bike security; to educate the campus about bike safety, particularly on best practices for riding a bike and the importance of wearing a helmet; and to provide a bike repair service.
Parnes set up a table with tools from his bike repair shop and was open to anyone who brought their bikes for repair.
Haley-Quigley stated that the bicycle repair center should be open in the basement of Beuth House within at least two weeks from now. Students will be able to go to the library and check out a key card that will let them into the back entrance of Beuth House.
Parnes is also trying to build a relationship with local bike shops to offer student discounts. He wants to promote a bike lock and helmet loaning program in the library. This is not the same program as Campus Safety’s new program.
Haley-Quigley mentioned, “We were not aware of Campus Safety’s efforts to prevent bike theft. However, if we’re working on the same effort, we should join forces.”
This new bike repair center aims to provide a safe environment where students feel comfortable biking and storing their bikes. It is a center for community outreach as well as a place to teach students and faculty about fixing their bicycles.
The ultimate goal is to increase the number of bicycles ridden on campus and in the Schenectady area, which decreases the number of cars driven.
On Wednesday, April 22, there was a clothing swap for Malawi Mommies, which is organized by the Kenney Community Center. “The event intended to remove the stigma that is associated with buying secondhand clothes and to promote sharing within a close community,” commented Haley-Quigley.
Many students donate their clothes to the Salvation Army, but this event provided students the chance to exchange clothes with fellow community members. This act of exchange promotes the use of fewer resources.
The iCommit campaign, initiated by the Union dining group Sodexo, began on Friday, April 25. This was an opportunity for U-Sustain to partner with Dining Services to collect pledges from administration, faculty members and the student body for Earth Week.
Haley-Quigley shared her Earth Week commitment, which was not to create any waste via product packaging.
This year, Sodexo wanted to give people the opportunity to share comments about their commitments.
“We encourage individuals to make commitments that are realistic to them. These commitments can last for a week in spirit of earth week or they could be long-term goals,” explained Haley-Quigley.
On Tuesday, April 22, and Thursday, April 24, West Dining Hall organized an event entitled Zero Out Plate Waste. The compost station was replaced with a table and three clear, plastic buckets. The compost was then placed on a scale so that students could see how much they threw away.
This was a physical representation of waste, which aimed to persuade students to reduce their food wastes. Haley-Quigley commented, “This event targeted newer folks on campus, which can have greater results because these students are here for the remainder of the time. It’s hard to change things for upperclassmen who have an idea of the status quo from their previous years.”
The Octopus’ Garden Work Day was featured on Saturday, April 25.
Octopus’ Garden aims to show how organic and sustainable gardening can be completed while donating proceeds to Union’s food service and local food banks.
There are opportunities to be involved with Octopus’ Garden during fall and spring terms, as well as during the summer.
Earth Week has received positive feedback, and U-Sustain will continue to work hard to reach more people.
U-sustain aims to increase the visibility of their events in the public eye. Haley-Quigley added, “Hopefully with a friendly attitude, U-Sustain can instill awareness about environmental sustainability.
“We have no desire to make anybody feel guilty. We just want to express the idea that we share the same planet and the same resources,” Haley-Quigley continued.
Earth Week showed that the Union community continually strives to make a positive environmental impact to enhance the quality of community members’ lives.