Earth Day event promotes sustainability


“Happy Earth Day.” said Zack Pistora, senior in political science and vice president of Students for Environmental Action, loudly into the microphone. In response, “Happy Earth Day.” came shouting back to him from all corners of the Union Courtyard, which was packed with people and clubs as part of the celebration of the 40th annual Earth Day yesterday afternoon.

“We’re here to promote sustainability,” said Stuart Watts, junior in agronomy. “The importance of the one home we live on — planet Earth.”

One booth in the courtyard was for the Association of Resident Halls, which has helped spur projects in the residence halls to be energy aware. One such program was an energy-saving contest in which all the residence halls competed against each other to see who could cut their energy intake most. The Strong Complex won the contest with a 17 percent energy reduction in one month.

“The residence halls normally spend about $100,000 a month on utilities and we reduced that by 17 percent,” said Ryan Felber, programming committee coordinator for ARH and senior in humanities. “With the halls making less of an impact, less money is spent, so there is more money to give back to the campus.”

Felber said the residence halls hosted a green fashion show earlier in the year. He said they also collect pop tabs for Ronald McDonald House and they are constantly improving their recycling programs.

“Students are responding really well,” Felber said. “Some of the halls really went all out for the energy-saving contest. We’re really moving toward a more sustainable lifestyle.”

The Union itself was also represented in the jumble of booths, displaying all that’s been improved in the last couple of years towards sustainability. Chartwells, the Union food provider, uses only socially- and ecologically-certified coffee, milk free of artificial growth hormones and cage-free eggs. It recently made the switch from Styrofoam to biodegradable containers and plastic ware. Also in the process is the switch to all LED light bulbs, once the old bulbs died.

At noon, the stage was occupied by singers and speakers, one of which was Ben Champion, K-State’s director of sustainability.

“I was on the selection committee for the Udall scholarships, which go to people who are interested in environmental policies,” Champion said. “I read 95 of these essays and I had this amazing epiphany — how similar today is to the 1970s when Udall first started making speeches.”

Morris K. Udall was a representative in the House of Representatives in the 70s who was very environmentally-aware. Udall was responsible for creating the Alaska Lands Act which doubled the size of the national parks system and tripled the size of the national wilderness system.

Champion also talked about the amount of money spent on utilities each year at the university.

“There’s $16 million in utilities each year for the university,” Champion said. “That’s $700 per student, per year.”

The event was originally going to be held in Bosco Plaza but was relocated to the Union courtyard due to rain.

“Unfortunately the weather didn’t hold out for us,” Watts said. “But we’ve had a real strong turn out, a lot of people coming by on their way through the Union for lunch.”

A T-shirt swap took place at the bottom of the stairs, where people could bring by an old shirt and trade it for a different one. There was also a tie-dye booth for those looking to enhance their old shirts.

Other booths at the event were for Big Poppi’s Bikes, Students for Environmental Action, Sierra Club, Student Farm Club, Flint Hills Area Bike Club and Fair Trade Advocates. The Big Poppi Bicycle Co. station featured two bikes set up where students could race each other to see who could pedal the fastest and make the most energy.