This week, students will have the opportunity to participate in a series of events geared towards learning about what they can do to work towards a greener future. Several environmental groups at Western are collaborating to put on Sustainability Week, which will feature a different sustainability themed event each day.
Nina Olivier, the Associated Students Environmental and Sustainability Programs associate director, said the primary emphasis of the week is education.
“We’re not trying to make everyone ride their bike or things like that, but we’d like to educate them about what if they actually did.”
In the past, Sustainability Week has taken place at the end of the year, but this year it will take place from Oct. 22-25.
“We’re doing it at the start, so students can start thinking about sustainable practices and the environment right off the bat,” Olivier said.
The week will feature five different events and will kick off on Monday with “Parking Day,” a sustainability info fair. The info fair will take place from 12-4 p.m., in the C-Parking Lot if weather permits, or in the Viking Union Multi-Purpose Room if it rains. Olivier said the emphasis is to get students thinking about the environmental implications of driving cars that goes beyond the carbon dioxide they emit.
“We also have to reflect on with cars, comes the need for spaces for them,” Olivier said. “I’ve been to Targets and Wal-Marts and their parking lot is two times or three times the size of the actual store.”
The goal is to transform the C-Lot into an open park featuring decorations provided by the AS Outback Farm, info-tables and possibly live acoustic music. Olivier said the point is to consider the allocation of land, and think about what Western could use the C-Lot for if it didn’t need the parking spaces. The Office of Sustainability, Western’s Wildlife Conservation Club, Students for Sustainable Water, the AS Environmental Center, the Recycle Center, Students for Sustainable Food and Students for RenewableEnergy all plan to have tables at the info fair.
On Tuesday, Oct. 23, there will be a showing of the film “Fixing the Future, Building Local Jobs, Income & Sustainability”.
Seth Vidana, Western’s Campus Sustainability Manager, said the film “highlights Bellingham as a leader in producing a local living economy.” The movie will air in VU 525 at 4 p.m. and will be followed by a discussion.
Wednesday will feature two events; the Local Foods Farm to Table Lunch and a keynote broadcast entitled “Preparing Students for a Changing Climate.” Olivier said the lunch will feature food from local farmers and businesses and is the event she is most excited for.
“I love that day because, to be honest I think eating is our number one connection to nature,” she said. “It’s what everyone has in common, whether you like the environment or not, you got to eat right?”
The lunch will be in the Viking Commons from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., and students can either use their meal plans or pay for admission into the dining hall.
The broadcast will be in VU 567 from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and Vidana said it will be focused on “preparing students for a changing climate.”
“It will run the gamut from jobs to education to all sorts of areas,” he said.
Thursday, Oct. 25 will feature the week’s biggest event, Western’s 2nd Annual Sustainability Awards. The event is aimed at recognizing different members of the Western community who have made an outstanding effort working towards sustainability.
“We’re so pleased that so many different facets of Western that are working on sustainability in their own way,” Vidana said. “We’ve got submissions that have to do with individuals that have taken it upon themselves to go the extra mile in adopting sustainability behaviors, academic teams that are researching sustainable technologies, student groups that are active in encouraging the student community to be engaged in sustainability issues and some specific academic programs as well.”
The event will also offer students an opportunity to hear from keynote speaker Alison Gannett, Outside Magazine’s “Green All-Star of the Year.”
In a unique and undeniably sustainable twist, Gannett will deliver her keynote speech via Skype.
“It goes towards what we’re for,” Olivier explained. “She’s all the way in New York right now and rather than expending all that carbon and fuel to get her clear across the country, we’re going to have her Skype-in.”
The Sustainability Awards will take place in the VU MPR from 4-6 p.m., and Vidana said it’s the event he’s most looking forward to.
“My hope is that people will attend everything, but we really want people to come see Alison speak and see their fellow students, staff and faculty be recognized for the good work that they’ve done,” he said.
Whether they go to every event or just one, Olivier encouraged students to take part in the week’s festivities.
“Each event has something for students to really touch on and that’s what I love about this year’s Sustainability Week,” Olivier said. “It doesn’t matter if you miss one or the other, as long as you go to one event there will be a take-home message for something you can do when you get home yourself.”
Both Vidana and Olivier stressed that long after the week is over, students can still get involved in working towards a more sustainable campus.
Olivier says one of the most important ways students can help out is with their buying power.
“Rather than resorting to big-box companies, looking into your local stores here in Bellingham,” she said. She also encouraged students to look into alternative transportation and join one of the many on-campus clubs devoted to sustainability.
“Though we face some complex challenges, there are multiple ways for students to do something about those challenges,” Vidana said. “Whether it’s in class, whether it’s what they buy on campus, how they transport themselves to campus, or what they do in their student clubs. There are choices to be made at really every point of the road.”