Lehigh University community celebrates Earth Day, learns about sustainability

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Crowds of Lehigh students bustled along the front of the UC lawn to celebrate Earth Day Tuesday afternoon. Students created posters, planted flowers and showed off their homegrown kale plants as part of the celebratory environmental event.

Prior to the Earth Day festivities, one may have not been involved or even aware of the concept of sustainability on campus because it is not always a subject that is being advertised or enforced in our daily lives.

Sam Kupersmith, ’16, is an eco representative for her sorority chapter on campus. Kupersmith attends meetings with other Greek-affiliated eco-reps and they discuss how to bring more environmental awareness into the Lehigh community. The eco-reps are also responsible for planning activities and events that show the importance of being environmentally conscious.

This week, Kupersmith and other members of the community participated in the “Lehigh Trash-n-Show,” where students from campus-wide organizations created outfits out of recyclable objects and modeled them on stage for the audience.

“Doing the campus events is so fun because you get to know the other eco-reps and plan events together,” Kupersmith said. “I think we should do as much as we can to help the environment and if there is anything our chapter can do I want to participate in it.”

Many Greek chapters and other organizations helped support the event by hosting an Earth-themed educational booth at the fair. The booths and their prizes drew attention from individuals attending the fair and offered knowledge about Lehigh’s efforts to become more eco-friendly.

Many students used the celebration as a way to show the university that Lehigh should be taking steps toward protecting the environment and educating students on why the community as a whole should make more of an effort to be environmentally sound.

Greek chapters created educational posters showing how much recycling and trash composition they achieved this year compared to last, showing their improvement in the environmental initiative in the Greek community.

Other students hosted booths with fun games that asked environmental questions and gave rewards to the students. There were also booths with homegrown food including honey and kale offered to the students, and poster boards that educated them on a green initiative.

President Alice Gast made a celebratory speech at the event, announcing the planting of a new tree on the UC front lawn in honor of Earth Day. Students enjoyed planting their own plants into small boxes of soil at some of the booths.

Though to some these efforts may not seem like they would make a huge impact on the ecosystem, small acts eventually add up to a bigger change, and spreading awareness is the most important step to creating change.

Katie Klaniecki, the sustainability program coordinator at Lehigh, helps to plan the annual Earth Day events and said she looks forward to seeing the initiative grow each year.

“This day of celebration brings attention to our natural resources and the need to work together to protect and preserve our environments for future generations,” Klaniecki said. “Every day should be Earth Day, and this fair shows Lehigh community members how to integrate more environmentally-friendly behaviors into their lives.”

She said she was pleased with the number of people who came to the Earth Day celebrations, spread awareness through their educational booths and showcased the success of the university’s green efforts as a whole.

Klaniecki was also especially excited about this year’s Earth Day because of the new environmental addition to the front lawn.

“At this year’s fair, we recognized and honored President Gast’s commitment and dedication to advancing sustainability at Lehigh,” she said. “A white oak was planted on the UC Front Lawn in recognition of her contributions and Lehigh’s continued commitment to sustainability.”

A student employee in the Office of Sustainability, Dana Raber, ’14, has been working all semester to plan the Earth Day fair and its activities. Raber said she put a lot of effort into spreading sustainability awareness on campus and said the events that took place on the lawn took months of planning.

“I have been contacting local businesses and on-campus organizations to get them interested in being involved in the Earth Day Fair for the past couple months,” Raber said. “I think we have attracted a wide variety of organizations, which is going to make the fair especially vibrant and a lot fun. I’m very excited to finally see it all come together and for students to get to see all the sustainable initiatives on campus and in the Lehigh Valley.”

Students who enjoyed playing games, eating and getting involved in the green initiative can attest to a successful Earth Day and the campus activities left students with greater environmental awareness.

Story by Brown and White news writer Emilie Moy, ’16.

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