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Week of September 27, 2010

U-M sustainability efforts showcased at EarthFest

It has been said that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure, but last week at EarthFest many people’s trash became recyclable material.

As part of EarthFest 2010: A Party for the Planet, volunteers sorted through one day’s worth of trash from the Angell and Mason Hall complex to showcase how much waste is generated and how much of what gets put into trash cans actually can be recycled. Sporting personal protection equipment, students and staff members picked through bags of trash to discover that 40 percent of the waste could be diverted from a landfill and recycled.

“We found a lot of plastic water bottles, paper and coffee cups,” said Kevin Morgan, Planet Blue Operations team leader. “It’s amazing how much material in the garbage should be going into the recycling stream.”

The trash sort was just one activity at EarthFest, which took place Sept. 21 on the Central Campus Diag and Sept. 23 on North Campus at The Grove. University organizations representing sustainability programs throughout campus were on hand to educate event attendees on what U-M is doing to make the campus more environmentally sound. Student groups representing sustainability efforts also took part, as did student entertainment groups.

Event participants were challenged to educate themselves by interacting with staff representatives and getting a form signed indicating they had spent time learning about particular programs. Once completed, the form was exchanged for tickets allowing event attendees to sample locally produced food.

“We wanted to make EarthFest about engagement and education,” said Anuja Mudali, U-M marketing coordinator and one of the lead planners of EarthFest. “If every person who attended EarthFest came away with one idea on how they could make the campus more sustainable, then this was a success.”

Anyone who came to EarthFest had the opportunity to sign a large pledge banner indicating their willingness to make a sustainability behavior change. From turning off lights in offices or classrooms, to riding the bus or walking rather than driving on campus, several hundred signatures were gathered on the banner. Some even put their artistic talents to work, including one person who drew a shower head and pledged to take shorter showers in an effort to conserve water.

EarthFest also tied in the Integrated Assessment project by placing the participating organizations under one of the seven categories being studied by the project teams. By linking existing U-M programs to the project areas, those attending EarthFest got a firsthand look at what the university currently is doing in sustainability and what the future might hold once the Integrated Assessment project is completed.

EarthFest is a new name for the annual fall celebration formerly known as EnergyFest. The event also will serve as the soft launch for expanding the Planet Blue brand identity to encompass U-M’s overall sustainability promotion.

The event even caught the attention of a U-M alumnus, as Bud Riseman passed through the Diag and stopped to observe the happenings.

“I think this is just great,” said Riseman, a 1950 LSA graduate who lives in Florida but spends each September in Ann Arbor. “This is what college is about — educating people and having fun in the process.”

 

STAFF SPOTLIGHT

Erica Rose, administrative assistant, Office of University Development, on the importance of attracting U-M donors: “It’s exciting to be a part of the development community at a time when private support has become equally important, if not more important, than public support.”

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