by Molly Majewicz
This year on Friday, April 22nd, the day was overcast and humid, but the predicted chance of rain didn’t deter many passionate Muhlenberg students and community members from creating a sustainability-centered fair, of sorts. On-campus groups like EnACT, the Community Garden Club (who taught gardening lessons that afternoon), and the Sodexo Dining Hall Chefs, along with community groups like the Lehigh Valley Vegetarians, the Green Party, and RenewLV came out to celebrate Earth Day and educate passer-by’s about the importance of sustainability and environmental consciousness.
The original Earth Day was April 22, 1970 and it gave voice to an emerging consciousness. Found Gaylord Nelson worked to bring environmental protection into the national agenda and Earth would bring attention to such concerns. According to earthday.org, on that day in 1970, 20 million Americans took to the streets, parks, and auditoriums to demonstrate for a healthy, sustainable environment in massive coast-to-coast rallies. Due to enormous public support, the first Earth Day led to the Environmental Protection Agency. It is now the largest international secular observance in the world and is celebrated by more than a billion people every year, including the students at Muhlenberg College.
Tom Littrell, coordinator of Muhlenberg’s Earth Day event had a few words on why this day is so important, this year and every year. “Sustainability is a big part of everything, we just want to make it seem neat and fun. Even just people walking by will be more aware.” He talked about food as a central issue being covered this year, including the topics of waste and compost. “Everybody eats!” he exclaimed. His point was emphasized when students passing between classes stopped to try the fresh pesto being made right in front of their eyes at Sodexo’s table. The smell circled the fair, enticing anyone who walked by.
Another EnACT activity advised at the fair was the Pop-Up Farmer’s Market that will be tomorrow (April 28th) from 11am to 4pm. The fresh food and produce will be provided by local farmers and organic organizations in the Lehigh Valley. With this event, EnACT hoped to get people thinking about where their food is coming from, in addition to supporting the local economy and fighting industrial agriculture. Any food not purchased by students during the day will be purchased by Muhlenberg’s Sodexo and used to make a farm-to-table dinner in the dining hall that evening, available to all students.
EnACT also encouraged the disuse of micro-bead cosmetic products by offering students sugar scrubs made from all-natural ingredients. One scrub was made from coffee grounds, coconut oil, and sugar. The recipe is so simple, it could be great DIY. For further instructions, click here. Another scrub EnACT made consisted of coconut oil, sugar, and essential oils to give you a pleasurable scent. Students could either pay for a jar of scrub—they ranged from $3 – $4—or they could simply trade in they old micro-bead product and receive a free jar.
The fair wasn’t dominated by EnACT, however. Other groups had excellent representation and drew in plenty of students. For example, the group Berg Bikes gave students the ability to make their own smoothies just by riding a stationary bike—they had attached a blender to the back wheel and it blended the fresh ingredients together when propelled by manpower. It was a great way to advertise their start-up program of 24-hour, free bike borrowing on campus.
This Earth Day extravaganza also included many community groups, as well. For example, the LV Sustainability Network was well-represented; they work to help various local groups and organizations collaborate and educate the community on what it is to be sustainable. The provide a one-stop resource for all things green. Another local group, C.A.T. (Coalition for Appropriate Transportation) promoted taking alternative forms of transportation, like biking or the bus, in addition to walking or even ride-sharing.
The morning started off slowly, but as the day went on, foot traffic through the fair picked up around noon and during class breaks. The clouds broke in the afternoon, resulting in a warm, sunny day—perfect for celebrating our Earth. The fair gave a platform to a collaboration of small groups on campus and within in the community to promote sustainability and environmental awareness. The sense of common interest was apparent; the dining hall chef talking with the owner of Tower Gardens Inc. about new gardening ideas exemplified this camaraderie.
Overall, the day brought attention to the treatment of our Earth and educated students about various aspects of sustainability in everyday life.