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Campus Marks Earth Day with Festival of Fun and Education

April 15, 2013

Sustainability being a campus hallmark, it’s no surprise the UC Merced campus takes Earth Day very seriously, even though the events planned are fun.

Each April 22, people around the country mark Earth Day, which began in 1970 and is seen by many as the start of the modern environmental movement.

Campus waste reduction and recycling Coordinator Matt Hirota said he hopes everyone – students, staff and faculty, will join in the celebration, which actually takes place the Thursday before Earth Day – April 18.

That’s the day the most students are on campus, Hirota said, and offers the best chance to get the most participants.

We always do it on a Thursday,” he said. “It’s one of the few holidays that people usually just celebrate on the closest day or whichever is most convenient. Many municipalities do it on a weekend.”

The celebration is planned for 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Scholars Lane.

We’ll have free food – and everything will be compostable – as well as cool prizes including reusable grocery bags, T-shirts and solar-charged bike lights to give away,” Hirota said.

In addition to environmentally friendly information booths from the campus surplus office, TAPS, the Lantern Café, a bike mechanic, the city and county of Merced and the        Modesto Compost Facility – which collects all of the campus’s compostable materials – there will be a recycled-art show with prizes awarded. Get more details on the UC Merced Recycles Facebook page.

Hirota and his staff also plan a group of environmentally related games (see a video here) like Recycle Ring Toss, Crazy Compost, a basketball toss and an “operation e-waste game.”

The operation game has all e-waste items that can be recycled,” Hirota said. “That’s our big new game this year – it should be a lot of fun.”

Celebrating Earth Day in a big way is a natural for UC Merced, with its Triple Zero Commitment to consume zero net energy through efficiency and renewable energy production; to produce zero landfill waste by reducing excess consumption and recycling to the maximum extent feasible; and to produce zero net greenhouse gas emissions by preventing as much carbon emission as it produces.

Much of UC Merced’s research also focuses on renewable energy, climate change, water and soil health and other topics that relate to the environment.

UC Merced is also committed to constructing energy efficient buildings and finding every way it can to save energy and reuse and recycle, from the chemicals in labs to the recycle bins found everywhere around campus.

Earth Day began when then Sen. Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin saw the effects of a massive oil spill in Santa Barbara in 1969. He announced the idea for a “national teach-in on the environment,” built a coalition and promoted events across the country.

According to the Earth Day website, the first Earth Day saw 20 million Americans taking to the streets, parks and auditoriums to demonstrate for a healthy, sustainable environment in coast-to-coast rallies. Colleges and universities organized protests against the environment’s deterioration, and groups that had been fighting oil spills, factory pollution, sewage dumping, toxic dumps, pesticides, freeways, loss of wilderness and the extinction of wildlife banded together.

Earth Day led to the creation of the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the passage of the Clean Air, Clean Water and Endangered Species acts.

This year’s national theme is global climate change.