The tables were set and the sun was out. The only thing missing from the Downtown ASU campus’ Earth Day celebration was, well, the celebration.
Unaccommodating winds may have altered plans for the day’s festivities, but weren’t enough to keep event organizers from spreading sustainable practices throughout the university.
“The weather just wasn’t cooperating,” said Steven Harper, marketing and communications director for the Office of Public Affairs at ASU. “You need tents to be able to serve food outside, and because of the wind, we needed the anchors that we didn’t bring.”
Organizers were able to regroup last minute in the Taylor Place lobby, setting up tables featuring different sustainable activities: A pledge tree, a Voltaic solar backpack raffle and free seed giveaways, to highlight a few.
According to Jehnifer Niklas, program coordinator with the Global Institute of Sustainability, giving away seeds will encourage students to grow their own organic food.
“You’re not going to become a master gardener overnight,” Niklas said. “This is a small way to make gardening fun and accessible.”
Lauren Ettlinger, a freshman journalism student, was open to the idea of cultivating her own plants.
“I’ve never done this before,” she said. “If this works, I’ll definitely try more.”
Ettlinger brought up a problem many prospective gardeners living in campus dorms tend to run into: space.
Niklas noted the issue as well, but was optimistic about the ambitious alternatives she proposed.
“If students come to me, we could definitely look into building either a rooftop garden, or we could possibly do an urban garden with the space across the street,” she said.
A community garden, Niklas said, would work well in an urban environment if ASU were able to work out a deal with the city of Phoenix to plant in the Civic Space.
Niklas’ most recent cultivation was with the Polytechnic campus, establishing eight 20 ft. by 25 ft. gardens.
“The ground breaking was in January,” she said. “It’s big, but Poly has a lot of land.”
To build Poly’s massive garden, Niklas worked closely with Students Act Now for Sustainability—a group Niklas would love to see form on the Downtown campus.
“We work with students to put together strong proposals for sustainable practices,” she said. “As long as you can put together a strong proposal, we can move it to the next level and actually make it a reality.”
The entire event centered on inspiration. Event volunteers and coordinators aimed to motivate students to take an initiative when it comes to sustainable practices.
Harper approached Aramark and the Phoenix Public Market Urban Grocery and Wine Bar to bring in organic dishes made with locally grown produce.
Cindy Gentry, founder and executive director of Community Food Connections, said it is imperative for people to learn to buy local, organic foods.
“You’ll know where your food is coming from, and you’ll know the people who grow it,” she said.
According to Gentry, taking the small step to invest locally is a big step toward delicately impacting the environment—an idea that plays right in with ASU President Michael Crow’s Carbon Neutrality Plan.
“According to the plan, one of ASU’s missions is to advance renewable energy,” Niklas said. “We have the capabilities to be completely self sufficient by 2025.”
The Tempe campus is already working on creating a “net zero carbon footprint” with two parking structures topped in solar panels, and plans to slowly convert each building to solar energy.
Niklas, Harper and other event volunteers said they hope the Earth Day festivities will inspire students at the Downtown campus to take the same initiative the have already seen at the Poly and Tempe campuses.
Contact the reporter at firstname.lastname@example.org.