Officially, International Earth Day is commemorated on April 22 this year, and its theme is “Invest in Our Planet.” CSUDH held its 16th annual Earth Day Festival on April 18, and the message that sustainable practices can create prosperity for people and businesses alike was clearly on display.
Organized by the university’s Office of Sustainability, the festival included exhibits by nearly two dozen campus and statewide organizations. Southern California Edison displayed their electric Ford F-150 Lightning to show the company’s commitment to growing their electric fleet, from pickup trucks to larger service vehicles. Other events included a Farmer’s Market with locally and sustainably grown produce, free recycling of e-waste, batteries, and shoes, and a talk by environmentalist and artist Kim Abeles.
Lionel Moreno is an energy advisor at SCE and part of the company’s Mobile Education Program that sets up information exhibits at various community events. “I’m here to promote our Pathway 25 program, which is aligning our carbon and climate goals with those of the State of California,” he says.
Moreno adds that students are interested in more than just the company’s green initiatives. “I would say half the questions are about how to get a job at Edison,” he says. “We have a corporate communications department, so we need writers and graphic designers. There are a lot of different kinds of jobs and internships available.”
Irene Kurata has worked with the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium for about 10 years–first as a volunteer and for the last few years in educational outreach and advancing the messaging of the aquarium. “I grew up in Los Angeles, and I knew almost nothing about the ocean,” Kurata says. “It provides more than 50 percent of the oxygen we breathe. The ocean’s kelp forests are as important to biodiversity as our rain forests.”
Crowds of students were drawn by the skull of a bottlenose dolphin and the jars of live grunion, but they learned an important lesson about the fragility of our marine ecosystems. “These little fish live their lives pretty much as prey, and they keep living as long as there are sandy beaches,” Kurata says. “Global warming is making oceans rise. What happens when our beaches are underwater? The grunion will suffer, as well as all the other organisms that rely on them for food. It’s all connected.”
In its sixth year, the Office of Sustainability’s Green Hero Awards honor amazing students, faculty, and staff members who have gone above and beyond to champion CSUDH’s sustainability efforts. Dr. Lissa McCullough, a lecturer in philosophy was this year’s Faculty Green Hero Award winner. Jasmine Jackson, a member of CSUDH’s first College Corps Program cohort, earned the Student Green Hero Award. The Staff Green Hero Award this year went to Nathaniel Notti, formerly a program coordinator in Facilities Services.
The campus has become a sustainability leader in higher education for innovations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions across campus with new rooftop solar panel installations and other energy-saving measures. Just last month, the university earned STARS Gold under the AASHE sustainability ranking system. No other campus in the CSU system has progressed from Bronze through Gold in a shorter time.
Each year, the Office of Sustainability hosts the Earth Day Festival to highlight the university’s commitment to reducing its carbon footprint and to supporting environmental justice. Communities of color are inordinately burdened by the effects of climate change. Sustainability is one of CSUDH’s core values and one of the critical ways we support our South Bay neighbors.