Sustainability Committee plans events to encourage awareness for Earth Day
The Sustainability Committee has a week of activities planned to raise campus awareness of Earth Day. The committee is calling this week UALR Pre-Earth Day Week and there are several opportunities for student involvement. The week started with the Sidewalk Chalk Art activity Monday and culminates with the Garden and Compost Day Friday April 19. The festivities continue on Earth Day which is Monday April 22 at the Diamond Cafe and includes the Earth Walk, Clothing Swap, Food Show, and the Newspaper Fashion Show. The Sustainability webpage on the school site as well as its Facebook page provides times and details on each event. This week is a major highlight of the committee’s schedule, but the efforts continue year-round.
Holly Warg, a senior International Studies major, has been an intern with the committee since last year. “Right now we’re really working on organizing Earth Day,” she said. The Pre-Earth Day Week is important because she says, “we can kind of make it into more of an awareness campaign and just get more students involved, instead of just having a one-day event.” One thing that she’s proud of is the committee’s involvement in the campus garden project. “It’s always been an interest of mine,” she said. “I like being able to grow my own food. Being able to help other people start to do it as well, that’s probably the most satisfying (thing) for me.”
Staff member Kathleen Becker, an interpreter for the Disability Resource Center, has been involved with the Sustainability Committee for two years and has been busy this week. “This my second year, so you’d think it would get better,” she said. According to Becker the American Association of Sustainability and Higher Education (AASHE) puts out a report each year called the STARS report. This report evaluates everything on a college campus for its sustainability requirements. Last year UALR qualified for Bronze status. “It meant that we did very well, however we can always have improvement to reach the Gold status,” Becker said.
Becker also stated that the committee provides grants to faculty members who apply “to do research in areas such as gardening, wind turbine; we just put out another grant that would be for any kind of research that a faculty or staff member would like to engage in.” The most satisfying aspect of being involved is simple for Becker. “I think just being on the committee and being aware that UALR is really committed to becoming a more sustainable campus,” she said.
There are ways for students to find out more about sustainability. “We do provide educational courses to individuals or students who want to learn more about becoming sustainable,” said Becker.
For the average student who doesn’t have the time to become more involved Becker gives this advice. “I think just becoming more aware of your carbon footprint. UALR has a lot of recycling stations here on campus, but I continually see plastics in the garbage. I continually see paper that could be recycled, in the garbage can. Just taking that extra effort to make sure that things are in their appropriate recycle container. It’s amazing how much is thrown away and put into a landfill,” she said.
Becker has high hopes though for the future of UALR sustainability efforts. “I think one of the goals for UALR could be to become a zero waste university and there are universities out there that are,” she said. “So if we could become that, then we would reach a goal that few others have, but we have to have the students involved.”