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Campus Earth Day celebrations ignite passion for the environment

Final Project Earth Day Shoot-266 (1).jpg

Sophomore Carly Barello signs a UNC Sunrise Movement petition on the quad on Monday, April 22, 2024.

When students walked across campus on Monday, they might have encountered booths giving out small potted plants or tables on Polk Place raising awareness for environmental causes. 

These activities, as well as others across campus throughout April, were all a celebration of Earth Day — a global event which falls every year on April 22 and elevates environmental conservation efforts and sustainability initiatives.

On Polk Place, the Student Environmental Action Coalition, a Campus Y committee, hosted an Earth Day 2024 event that featured campus climate change initiatives and opportunities for students to get involved. 

Tabling at the event was UNC Senior Caitlin Flanagan, a member of the Citizen’s Climate Lobby, a nonprofit which works to pass environmental policy. She said that initiatives like the CCL provide people with an outlet to put their passion for climate change advocacy into practice.

Her table highlighted environmentally-conscious policies such as energy reform and carbon pricing, which puts a price on carbon emissions at the source of pollution.

Over the past month, Sustainable Carolina hosted a clean-up, a sustainability research symposium and the culminating Earth Day festival. Sustainable Carolina is housed within the UNC Institute for the Environment, according to their website.

Last Wednesday, the initiative held an event celebrating Earth Day that highlighted sustainable initiatives on campus. The event, Festival on the Green Roof, was a continuation of the month of celebrations across campus. 

Melanie Elliott, a sustainability analyst for Sustainable Carolina, said the event was a way to educate students on reducing their campus carbon footprint and improving the environment, at UNC and globally.

“So that means reducing carbon emissions on campus, having local food on campus and clean, high-quality water in our streams and other initiatives,” Elliott said.

The festival featured booths hosted by campus departments such as the UNC Office of Waste Reduction and Recycling, Carolina Dining Services, UNC Stormwater and UNC Transportation and Parking.

Elliott said that this year’s Festival on the Green Roof was a celebration of campus sustainability initiatives over the past year. 

She said the different events throughout the month highlight the efforts of the people who have “boots on the ground,” and are doing the work that the campus needs, while encouraging students to do the same. 

One table, hosted by UNC Stormwater, displayed a poster highlighting student activities that have a negative environmental impact and harm local creeks. 

“We're responsible for ensuring regulatory compliance for surface water — so that means pollution prevention, education and training and outreach to help students and staff learn how to not create pollution that affects surface water and leaks around campus,” Janet Clarke, an environmental compliance officer for UNC, said.

Another table, hosted by UNC Transportation and Parking, promoted sustainable travel options and the Commuter Alternative Program — a rewards program for people without a campus parking permit.

The booth offered bike water bottle holders and bike vests to encourage students to turn to sustainable commuting options.

‘It's about reducing people's dependence on cars for sure, and trying to get people at the very least in buses, or you know, at most walking and biking; although that takes a little bit extra effort,” Landon Coley, the transportation planner for the office, said

Abigail Brewer, the communications and engagement specialist for Sustainable Carolina, said the best way for students to get involved with sustainability at UNC is to meet people.

As a hub for campus sustainability, Sustainable Carolina’s website showcased events hosted by other campus organizations throughout April.

One such event was a mindfulness walk through the Coker Arboretum and peaceful painting hosted by the UNC LGBTQ Center in conjunction with North Carolina Botanical Garden as a part of UNC’s Pride Week.

Andrew Prevatte, the administrative support specialist for the center, said that the event was an extension of this year’s Pride Week theme surrounding reconnection to community and re-grounding. 

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They said that the walk — a guided tour of the Coker Arboretum led by a member of the NCBG — and painting session was designed to be a unique way for students to interact with nature.

For Flanagan, these events are a way to ignite interest in the environmental action and policy in college students.

"We're in college, we have a lot of passions — we're thinking about different policies," she said. "We're learning new things about how we can change the world around us, especially when it comes to the environment and politics." 

@dthlifestyle | lifestyle@dailytarheel.com

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