Last Thursday, March 31, the University of Maine Green Campus Initiative (GCI) held its second annual Sustainability Carnival in the Memorial Union. GCI’s mission is “to develop a broad based, student-led effort toward environmental awareness and stewardship by promoting sustainable relationships between the ecological, economic and social systems on campus and in the local community,” according to its website.
GCI distributes monthly newsletters called the “Green Zine,” where people can find useful information about sustainable living. The group also participates in the annual President’s Dinner on the Mall and in Maine Day where members sort the waste accordingly through Zero-Sort recycling. This recycling method provides both economic and environmental benefits to the UMaine community.
More than 60 people attended last week’s Sustainability Carnival. The idea for the carnival came during last year’s GCI’s meeting when Abby Sennick, who is part of GCI’s team, received her electricity bill. During the meeting, Sennick and the team discussed ways to prepare students who live on campus for paying their own bills once they move off campus.
“Being sustainable costs less than wasting stuff. For example when you leave appliances plugged in, you are still being charged for electricity that you are not using. Even if you buy things that are cheaper, and you end up wasting them, you are essentially paying that money for nothing,” Sennick shared.
Last year’s carnival was held in the Wooly Room, in the Doris Twitchell Allen Village apartments (DTAV) because the targeted audience were those who were about to move off campus.
“We chose that area because students living in apartments have more control over how much electricity they consume, and do their own cooking, so we also gave some budget cooking skills,” Lori Lommler, supervisor of GCI, said.
In addition to the location change, this year’s Sustainability Carnival offered more interactive content. Visitors learned about meal planning at the financial sustainability table and hunger in the United States and in the world at the food and hunger table. Visitors also made bags from old T-shirts at the upcycling table and tasted some local honey at the bee education table.
“Today bees are suffering from pesticides, and they are super important for pollination,” Sennick shared.
Bees are the main pollinators of many fruit and nut crops. For nearly a decade, bee population in the United States has been dying off at a dramatic rate — up to 30 percent per year, according to nonprofit news outlet Mother Jones. The cause of this problem is a class of insecticides called neonicotinoids. Used in commercial agriculture, these chemicals have lethal effects on bees.
Sennick contacted local honey businesses including the Honey Exchange Spring Break Maple & Honey.
“The businesses were super excited and sent us their promotional information and some of their honey,” Sennick said.
There was also a banner on which people could sign their names, and share what they do in order to live sustainably.
“I especially liked the banner because it gave people the opportunity to really think about their ways of being sustainable,” Lommler said.
All of the tables at the Sustainability Carnival had interactive activities. There was a trivia game at the hunger table, and the recycling education table had a wheel which people could spin in order to get a category and answer questions about recycling.
“People seemed pretty into it, and got into good conversations with us,” Sennick shared. “It is exciting that we are making difference in these people’s lives, and hopefully they will act upon that.”
There was also a general information table about Green Campus Initiative, and several people shared their interest in joining the GCI.
Lommler hopes that GCI will help change the culture on our campus.
“Our role is to help people understand that University of Maine strives to be more sustainable, we want to conserve more and waste less. If we can help make that shift with students as they are coming in, help make sustainability a part their daily activity, then UMaine will make progress on being more sustainable,” Lommler shared.
“With this kind of work that we are doing, our aim is to reach everybody and make sustainability approachable to everyone. If everybody does a little, it is a lot better than a few people doing a lot. In saving money, every penny counts and similarly in sustainability, every little thing counts,” Lommler added.
Visitors were encouraged to bring a non-perishable food item to donate to the Black Bear Exchange on campus. Those who attended had a chance to enter into a raffle to win gift cards to local businesses including Verve, Bear Brew, Pat’s Pizza, Governor’s and The Boomhouse.
GCI is going to have a table in the upcoming Hope Festival on April 23. Put on by Peace and Justice Center of Eastern Maine, the festival’s goal is to celebrate peace, justice, the Earth and the people on it.
“Last year we had a recycling education table [at the Hope Festival] and people loved that,” Lommler said.
For this year’s festival, GCI is planning to bring general information, one of its trivia games and the local honey tasting session with information on bees’ declining population.