Many Lehigh students, faculty, and others visit the different company and department tables at Lehigh's Energy Systems Engineering Earth Day event, on April 18, 2024, located in STEPS Concourse. The Energy Systems Engineering Earth Day event intends to celebrate the earth, as well as educate on different ways to save energy, and help and appreciate the earth, etc. (Bukky Omole/B&W Staff)

Celebrating Earth Day, understanding its significance


While Earth Day is an opportunity to appreciate our planet, it has extended far beyond a reminder to bask in the beauty around us. The end of April celebration has evolved into a worldwide movement that raises awareness about environmental issues and promotes actions to protect our planet.

The Office of Sustainability partnered with the Energy Systems Engineering program and other local organizations to host an Earth Day celebration that emphasized its true meaning on April 18 in STEPS.

“I think it’s a really good day for everyone to step back,” Christian Koehlerschmidt, ‘24, a member of the Renewable Energy Club, said. “You know, college students can get really busy. It’s a good opportunity to take a second to think about the waste you are producing.”

The welcoming staff  featured Susan Kanarek, the graduate coordinator of the Energy Systems Engineering program and the organizer of this event. She said she put many hours into organizing this event and was extremely excited to share it with the Lehigh community.

Kanarek said she had the responsibility of reaching out to vendors for the event.

“A lot of the people who are participants are actually sponsors of student capstone projects for the master’s program in Energy Systems Engineering,” she said.

At the event, Kanarek greeted students and handed out bags filled with environmentally friendly pens, bookmarks and other trinkets. She also discussed how Energy Systems Engineering is seeking students passionate about energy who want to be future leaders in the energy industry.

Rudy Shankar, the director of the Energy Systems Engineering program and a Lehigh professor, said the Lehigh community can continue to support sustainability efforts beyond Earth Day.

“As we became more aware of the damage we were doing to the environment and (that) climate change is a reality, we celebrate our early awareness to committing to a more sustainable energy use,” Shankar said.

Shankar said Lehigh’s desire to become more sustainable in energy use reflects the imperative transition towards cleaner, renewable energy sources on campus. He also said Lehigh’s commitment to net-zero carbon use by 2040 means emitting no more carbon dioxide than pre-Industrial Revolution days.

“We teach our students that their responsibility lies in the ability to communicate to various stakeholders —“their neighbors, other companies”— in teamwork, in work ethic and in innovation,” Shankar said. “They are the future makers.”

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