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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Education, activities, awareness and appreciation: Earth Week at the University of Arizona

Erika Howlett

Students for Sustainability co-directors Marissa Lee, Jeri Wilcox and Chelsea Mendoza pose with the organization’s mascot at the screening of “WALL-E” on Monday night.

In light of the recent announcement of the University of Arizona’s new Sustainability and Climate Action Plan, student organizations are working to raise awareness about sustainability issues both on campus and across the greater Tucson community. One outlet for these awareness initiatives is Earth Week, which takes place from April 16-22. 

Students for Sustainability is one of the student groups putting together a variety of different events for students to take part in throughout Earth Week. 

Some of these events include a craft night on the UA Mall, free cooking classes and an outdoor movie screening. The full list of events SFS is hosting for Earth Week can be found on the group’s Instagram.

The “Sustainability Summit”, a 4-hour long event that involves different environmental groups tabling on the Mall and a multitude of diverse guest speakers at the Student Union, is one of the highlights of this year’s Earth Week activities and emphasizes SFS’s commitment to environmental justice education, according to Poulami Soni, one of SFS’s co-directors.

“We have people from different environmental groups from around campus and the greater Tucson community like the Sky Island Alliance, Saguaro National Park and the Sierra Club. But we also have some really interesting perspectives from the city, with the Pima County Recorder and the Pima County Department of Environmental Quality, where we’re going to talk about super funds and environmental justice and how cities can interface with environmental groups,” said SFS’s other co-director, Halley Hughes. “And then we also have a speaker from the Indigenous Resilience Center, so not your average kind of lineup, it’s a very curated lineup around perspectives that are typically kind of left out of environmentalist groups, with a strong focus on equity and inclusion.”

UArizona Divest, “a student-led organization committed to collaborating with the UArizona community to align the university’s endowment with mission-driven investments to combat the climate crisis” will be one of the groups tabling at SFS’ sustainability summit. 

DIVEST will also host their own Earth Day event. On Saturday, April 22, from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. the group can be found on the UA Mall, writing positive messages about sustainability in chalk, according to DIVEST member Rhys Williams. 

“We’re really going for more of a coalition event anyone can join, but kind of like positive and in celebration of the Earth,” Williams said. 

UA DIVEST will be holding a chalk art demonstration on the mall on Earth Day, Saturday, April 22. This event will highlight issues like intersectionality in environmentalism and will raise awareness about the group's goals. (Photo courtesy UA DIVEST)
UA DIVEST will be holding a chalk art demonstration on the mall on Earth Day, Saturday, April 22. This event will highlight issues like intersectionality in environmentalism and will raise awareness about the group’s goals. (Photo courtesy UA DIVEST)

The group will also be partnering with Cats After Dark and the Arizona Youth Climate Coalition to host a movie night on Friday, April 21. 

These Earth Week initiatives come at an especially relevant time at the UA, taking place a few weeks after the announcement of the Sustainability & Climate Action Plan. Now more than ever, SFS and DIVEST are hoping to get students involved in these sustainability conversations. 

Samantha Wetherell, a student leader of DIVEST, encouraged students to complete the campus community input survey sent out in an email by President Dr. Robert C. Robbins last week. The survey will “inform the first phase of the action plan” and is due by April 30, according to the email.

Optimistic about the direction the university is headed in regarding climate action, the student leaders of DIVEST hope to carry this positivity into Earth Week. 

“We are kind of trying to use this event not only as a show of student support for divestment but for why we care about divestment, for why it’s important,”  Wetherell said. “Because it protects our marginalized groups, it brings in that element of intersectional justice, of sustainability. That’s kind of why we want to do this more positive event, looking not to issues of sustainability at school but what we can do in the future.”

Soni also talked about Earth Week as a tool to bring positive awareness to sustainability groups on campus and noted that Earth Week is one of SFS’ yearly highlights, and is a way for the group to raise awareness about the events and opportunities SFS offers on campus year-round. 

“I think Earth Week is kind of a public showing of everything we do all year round. We bring in speakers for our general meetings that touch on really cool, wide arrays of topics and we do activities and we plan things like this and we do educational initiatives all year round, and so it’s kind of like a ‘this is us, all the time’ but come see how cool SFS is,” Hughes said. “ I would say it’s less like we continue education from Earth Week and more like Earth Week is the flower of all of our other normal educational initiatives.”

In a commitment to follow through with creating a culture of sustainability on campus, SFS’ merchandise might look a little different this year. While SFS is typically known for its shirts and hoodies given out at events, the lack of sustainable vendors for these products caused SFS to pursue another course of action this semester.

“The UA doesn’t have any sustainable shirt vendors. They’re all fast fashion and very damaging kind of companies, so we have opted away from that and we won’t be doing that this year,” Hughes said. “In exchange, what we’ve been able to do is create raffle baskets that are worth over $100, and they are sustainable goods that match to the theme of the event that people will actually use and treasure and be able to advance their own kind of personal sustainability.”

These prizes will be awarded every day, and students will be entered to win by showing up to the events hosted by SFS all throughout Earth Week. 

“We definitely want people to know that there are cool things to win at Earth Week, it’s just going to look a little different this year because we wanted to put our money where our mouth was, being Students for Sustainability and giving actually sustainable prizes,” Hughes said. 

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