As we progress into spring, the quad is brimming with students and community members enjoying the blooming flowers and sunshine. Earth Day is an opportunity for people to reflect on the importance of sustainability and preservation to ensure everyone can continue to enjoy what the Earth has to offer.
Students and community members are placing an emphasis on learning and educating others about these topics and providing ways to take action and make a difference, even on a small scale.
Janna Starr, N.C. Botanical Garden
Janna Starr, facilities and events manager and sustainability officer at the N.C. Botanical Garden, said the garden takes an "everyday is Earth Day" approach. They continuously work on becoming more sustainable while educating the public and fostering an appreciation of native plants and wildlife.
The garden has a program called Edible Campus UNC, which is releasing videos throughout the week focusing on sustainability on campus to celebrate Earth Day. The topics range from environmental justice and student activism to composting.
Starr encouraged people to do what they can, whether that is advocating for the environment at town hall meetings, supporting environmental nonprofits like the garden or planting native species in their own yard.
“When you buy a native plant and you put it in the ground at home, you are able to provide a food source and also a habitat for our native pollinators and our native wildlife in the area,” Starr said. “It's so important that we restore Earth by putting in the ground what belongs here and what is good for our system.”
Starr believes starting small and focusing on what individuals can do personally is a good way for them to overcome the anxiety many feel when facing widespread environmental issues.
“When we do that, we start to look at solutions and moving forward instead of feeling kind of paralyzed by the future and the crisis of climate change,” Starr said.
Noah Barnett, Carolina 360 founder
Junior Noah Barnett is the president and founder of Carolina 360, a club that focuses on environmental problems around the world and how to combat them on a local level in Chapel Hill.
On April 24, the club is hosting a speaker panel with Climate Action NC and Vegans for Peace with representatives from various organizations, such as A Voice for Efland & Orange and the Orange County Climate Council.
Barnett said that while Earth Day isn’t the only day the environment matters, it brings the environment to the forefront of conversation, which is a crucial first step in creating change. For some, it may be what shifts their mindset toward being environmentally conscious.
Barnett places great value in paying forward his knowledge on the environment in order to create a domino effect for others.
“It's almost like we're all pieces of a puzzle to putting the environment back together," Barnett said. “If you just change your own lifestyle, it shows, and people start to take notice of that. And if you tell the people around, pass it forward, then we're getting a ton of people that are being more conservative, being more sustainable, working towards a better environment and understanding that how their lives work now is not the best for the future, and change that.”
Sara Kent Trollinger, Cleantech intern
First-year student Sara Kent Trollinger is an intern for the IE Cleantech Corner initiative, a student organization within UNC’s Institute for the Environment that highlights SMEs and startups dedicated toward a sustainable future.
For Earth Day, Cleantech released a video called “Every Day is Our Earth Day – 2021,” reaching out to students across different majors asking what they believe is the importance of the environment.
Trollinger moderated Cleantech's webinar on creating sustainable cities through urban planning with Silvia Dragomir and Megan Horst from Portland State University.
Trollinger emphasized the importance of recognizing the ways the environment is intertwined with people’s daily lives. She said it’s not just a secluded nature spot, but also interacting with each person all the time.
“It doesn't matter what you're studying, what career you're trying to pursue, where you live. The environment is a part of who you are,” Trollinger said.
Tollinger believes education is a good step toward this awareness, whether it’s taking an entry-level environmental studies class or researching on your own time about sustainability or other issues.
“It's important to go ahead and start educating yourself now, because there are a lot of things that are going wrong with the environment, and we need to start protecting it and we need to start realizing how to coexist with the environment and change our lifestyles,” Trollinger said. “The sooner we do that, the better, because there's an impending climate crisis that we need to be aware of.”
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