Students gather around outside STEPS building to view a live hawk at the Earth Day event on Friday, April 22, 2016. Other animals, including a skunk and snake, were also shown to students in order to raise awareness for the environment. (Hayley Pochtar/B&W Staff)

Earth Day celebration promotes sustainability

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Though the sun was only poking through the clouds and drizzle covered students as they walked across campus, Earth Day celebrations were held at Lehigh on April 22.

Despite the fact the holiday was not as sunny as some may have hoped, the annual Earth Day Fair brought together different student groups, departments and off-campus organizations to promote an eco-friendly Lehigh and South Bethlehem community. Through games, informational sessions and modules presented at the fair, students in attendance learned how to apply environmentally friendly practices to the world at large.

Lehigh’s Office of Sustainability worked closely with a multitude of groups to host an event that incorporated the community as well as components of sustainability.

“We tried to get all three aspects — environmental stewardship, social equity and economic prosperity — in all the booths,” said Katharine Targett, the sustainability program manager.

Booths at the club helped target these specific areas, as did events held throughout Lehigh’s Earth Week celebration, including seed planting to benefit South Bethlehem.

“Creating awareness and education through these booths was a great way to encourage people to practice sustainability in their daily lives,” Nicole McCallum, ‘18, said.

A large goal of the Earth Day fair was to include booths that had interactive elements, Targett said.

Nia Baker, ‘19, organized the booth for the Women’s Center.

“At first, it was difficult to find a connection between gender issues and environmentalism,” she said, “but I researched and found ‘ecofeminism.'”

The Women’s Center booth featured urban gardening, a movement advanced by women to bring healthy produce to urbanized areas. Baker said to bring this movement to their booth, volunteers provided mini planters made out of recycled plastic bottles. People were then invited to plant seeds and decorate their planters.

“As a vegan and a feminist, I thought it was interesting,” Baker said. “I never thought of a feminist approach to environmental ethics.”

There were also booths that asked students to guess how long it takes for specific items to decompose. The Office of Sustainability’s booth asked students to write down their sustainability goals for Lehigh. The fair also featured a waste audit and wildlife demonstrations.

Another large goal for the Earth Day Fair, as well as Lehigh’s Earth Week celebrations, was inclusivity.

“We had one or two speakers, community service events, the South Side clean up, education and awareness events like the bike presentation and nutrition talk, even a divestment presentation,” Targett said. “We wanted a mix to show everyone can contribute.”

Students had the opportunity to eat from food trucks and participate in raffles at the Earth Day Fair, but Targett said the primarily goal was to promote awareness for the environment.

“It’s really an awareness and education issue,” Targett said. “It’s a day we can reflect on all the Earth and the globe has to offer us, and reflect back on what we have to offer it. It’s a day we can think about ways we can further improve our environmental stewardship.”

Students running booths and simply attending the fair had the opportunity to realize the importance of working toward a more sustainable campus.

“I think we are all somehow involved in an organization that strives to be more eco-friendly,” Alli Rubin, ‘18, said. “My organization does composting and recycling, and we like to be part of a larger effort at Lehigh.”

Baker noted she learned a lot from the different booths at the fair and said it was refreshing to see students paying attention to issues that are largely ignored.

“It was encouraging seeing so many students invested in this type of social change,” Baker said.

She said students hopefully left with a better idea of what needs to be done to continue promoting such change.

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