The Office of Sustainability has historically expanded Earth Day festivities to the entire month of April instead of only the day itself. While holding events is difficult now that the semester has been so drastically interrupted, Sustainability Manager Jay Price talked about the importance of following through with this year’s plans.
“[Earth Day] is a celebration of the Earth, so to speak,” Price said. “This particular year is the 50th anniversary of Earth Day — it started in 1970. It is basically an opportunity to partner with other organizations and showcase what they are doing and provide an opportunity to engage students and others around environmental sustainability in particular, but a little bit of social sustainability too.”
Earth Day began April 22, 1970 after U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson proposed the idea for a nationwide “teach-in” movement to the media. Around 20 million people took part in rallies and demonstrations across the country, which ultimately led to the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency as well as the passage of the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts, among others.
According to Office of Sustainability Outreach Coordinator Leah Fontaine, the office will be hosting the annual Environmental Leadership Awards on Earth Day itself, April 22.
“We host the Environmental Leadership Awards every year, and we actually have eight different awards we hand out,” Fontaine said. “Those go out to students, faculty, staff, student organizations and even community members. We try to encompass everyone that is working to make orange green.”
Fontaine said that nominations for these awards will be open until midnight on Sunday, April 12. Last year’s awards included wins by the business-oriented student organization Alpha Kappa Psi and Mayor Madeline Rogero, among others.
In addition to the Leadership Awards, Fontaine also said that the office will be conducting a social media push during Earth Day.
“We will mostly be on Instagram that day because that is where we have one of our largest student-based audiences. We will be doing live Instagram’s throughout the day, and we will start it off with a morning yoga session. It should not last too long, but it will be a good way to start your day,” Fontaine said.
“After that we will be doing some talks, we will be having trivia. … On our Instagram story, we will have little trivia questions, and if you answer and get it correct your name will be entered to win some of our merch,” Fontaine said.
Fontaine also said that while the Office will be posting on its Facebook and Twitter accounts, the majority of live content and other larger events will be on Instagram.
As for what his office is doing this year to celebrate, Price listed some additional upcoming events that are still going on:
“On April 17 we are partnering with the Center for Career Development to hold an Environmental and Sustainable Career Mingle,” Price said. “We are inviting five employers to talk about their organizations and engage with students: try to recruit, conduct interviews and give students an idea of what it takes to get a position in an environmental organization.”
The Career Mingle will take place at 1 p.m. over Zoom.
“The day after that, on the 18th, we are trying to promote a Sustainable Day of Service,” Price said. “In the past we have partnered with the Jones Center for Leadership and Service to hold [the day of service]. Again, not something that we can physically do, but we are trying to promote environmental or sustainable service of some kind — encouraging folks to pick up trash, donate blood, volunteer at a soup kitchen, donate food and things like that.”
On April 24, Arbor Day, the office will be celebrating UT’s status as a Bee Campus. The certification came last year through a partnership with Bee City USA, an initiative of the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation that aims to get cities and campuses across America to establish sustainable habitats for pollinators like bees.