The Eighth Annual Earth Day at California State University, Dominguez Hills on April 22 kicked off with food, fun and a commitment to develop and grow the university as a leader in environmental sustainability.
Rod Hay, dean of College of Natural & Behavioral Sciences–who is also director of the university’s Center for Urban Environmental Research (CUER)–read a letter from University President Dr. Willie J. Hagan, who wholeheartedly agreed to participate in eco-friendly efforts, including the Sustainability Circle and the Green Campus Commitment. These initiatives push the university to act as a living laboratory where ‘green’ practices can be learned through campus activities, including facilities, planning and curriculum.
“Through our participation in this Sustainability Circle, CSU Dominguez Hills will have access to the latest thinking, tools, and frameworks to effectively imbed sustainable practices among campus,” read President Hagan’s letter. “At the end of six months, we anticipate implementing approximately 10 new sustainability initiatives, at least two of which will be focused in the area of energy.” President Hagan added that he anticipates the campus will be poised to sign the President’s Climate Commitment and participate in the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Ratings System (STARS) by Earth Day 2015 – next April.
Hay and American Indian spiritual leader Jimi Castillo of the Tongva nation, the indigenous Southern California natives, drove down the East Walkway in a Tesla model S vehicle, as students admired the sustainable car. Community partner Southern California Gas also displayed a gas powered (CNG) Honda vehicle, while fellow partner Southern California Edison featured a solar fountain. In addition, partners such as Enlightened also contributed to the event with an energy efficient lighting exhibit.
Castillo spoke about the importance of taking care of the environment, and how “every single day of our lives should be Earth Day.” According to Castillo, students were an integral part of cleaning up the environment and the university’s sustainability efforts are a big step in the right direction.
Associated Students, Inc. (ASI) president-elect Chris Fernandez announced during the event that ASI just received a $1,000 Greenovation Grant from California State Student Association (CSSA) to work toward sustainable transportation. This grant will support the university’s efforts to bring bike paths to campus in collaboration with the city of Carson.
Adjunct biology professor Connie Vadheim was also presented with an award for her tireless efforts to increase environmental awareness and sustainability both on-and-off campus. Vadheim, who writes a nature blog, teaches classes at both CSU Dominguez Hills and at nearby nature preserve Madrona Marsh, and is deeply involved in the university’s numerous eco-friendly efforts, told the event’s attendees that the best way to help their communities is to show the next generation how wonderful the Earth is.
“The children are stewards of the future,” she said after receiving the award. “Take them outside to play – it will instill a love of nature in them.”
Co-chairs of the Earth Day Committee, earth sciences lecturer Judy King and central plant manager Kenny Seeton, also featured the CSU “Campus as a Living Lab” grant program during the event. The project collects data on energy use and provided research that eventually led CSU Dominguez Hills to upgrade portions of the campus with energy efficient lighting products in 2013.
Farmers market booths provided organic and nutritious fruits and vegetables to those in attendance, while presentations set up by various clubs and groups on campus–including the Ecology club and the Recycling Committee–displayed innovative recycling methods, a native plant sale, student art and numerous ‘green’ student projects.
Students were encouraged to volunteer for ‘green’ activities, donate used items such as eyeglasses and paper bags to recycling campaigns such as the Grateful Hearts Storehouse, and even wear ‘Love me, I recycle’ organic cotton T-shirts to show their pride in the environment. Included in all the earth-friendly activities was a surprise flash mob that featured nearly 40 people who danced on yoga mats to an up-tempo instrumental song celebrating the environment.
Brittney Ford, a communications and media student who is also the founder and CEO of The Eco Comfortable Project, set up a booth to educate attendees about how to implement sustainability in their living spaces through managing their own gardens in conjunction with other home owners and renters.
According to Ford, raising awareness that we are part of the problem is the first step.
“We’re leaving a carbon footprint behind, and we need projects and initiatives to counteract that,” she said. “That’s why events like Earth Day here on campus are so important.”
The event was sponsored by CSU Dominguez Hills’ sustainability committee, which is an arm of CUER. The sustainability committee is made up of members of each department across campus and focuses on numerous ways to advance the university’s goal of increasing partnerships and funding to support the educational, research, and public service missions as they relate to sustainability. The university is committed to a comprehensive approach that includes water conservation and recycling initiatives, sustainable energy use and transportation.
“This event is not just an opportunity to showcase the important work of our students, faculty, and staff, ” said Cheryl McKnight, director of the Center for Service Learning, Internships, and Civic Engagement (SLICE) and the American Indian Institute. “It’s also helping to fulfill the mission of the CSU system, and especially the mission of Dominguez Hills in providing education that is accessible and transformative. We’re helping to educate our community about why it’s so critical for us to take care of the Earth.”
For more information on Earth Day 2014 at CSU Dominguez Hills and many other campus and community events, click here.