Trinity’s Stand Band blared their horns to help attract students and professors to the Earth Week Festival last Friday. Once they arrived, Eco Allies members taught professors and students how to recycle, giving out free plants and reusable shopping bags. Before attendees left, members of TU Progressives made sure they were registered to vote for politicians who would support sustainable legislature.
This year’s earth week offered a range of opportunities for the Trinity community to learn about sustainable living and climate change. The festivities began with Nacho Hour on Wednesday, April 18. They continued with Sustainabili-TEA on Thursday, where the sustainability office discussed what it means to be sustainable on campus and how students can help. Friday’s Earth Week Festival included organizations from across campus who talked about their perspective on sustainability, and Eco Allies also led a sustainability-themed trivia night on Friday evening. Earth week concluded with Garden Work Day on Sunday, April 22, when students met to garden native Texas plants.
Eco allies — an organization focused on raising awareness of environmental issues on campus — was the primary group organizing earth week festivities.
“[Sustainability] is something that everyone kind of knows about in the back of their head, but they don’t really think about it on a daily basis,” said Katherine Jones, sophomore geoscience major and president of Eco Allies. “So Earth Week is our chance to draw people’s focus to environmental issues in maybe a more positive way than we see all the time.”
Jones and other Eco Allies members contacted various on and off-campus organizations so that they could represent a range of perspectives at Friday’s Earth Week Festival. Some on-campus organizations who tabled at the festival included Trinity Bee Alliance, the Biology Club and the Stand Band. This year, the festival also included organizations from the San Antonio community, such as Bat Conservation International, Bexar County Master Gardeners, MOVE San Antonio and Native Plant Society.
Phillip Trenthem, sophomore, tabled for Trinity’s Bee Alliance on Friday to spread awareness about the importance of bees and other Texas pollinators. Trenthem believes that Trinity students need to learn how to protect local pollinators and understand their importance.
“Trinity students don’t really participate in this kind of thing and it’s important for college culture to promote what people need to know about the world,” Trenthem said.
The Eco Allies table focused on promoting good sustainability habits on campus. Dillon Akins, sophomore, led a table that showed students what kind of things can and cannot be recycled. Akins emphasized the urgency for more recycling and sustainable living.
“We’re trying to let people know what is and isn’t recyclable. Earth Fest is just a way to promote sustainability, help people get more aware of sustainability on campus, get people engaged with Earth Day and Earth Week and this is just my part of the deal. There are only fifty years left of Texas landfills, so that’s in our lifetime,” Akins said.
Trinity’s push for sustainability won’t end with Earth Week, however. This year, the sustainability office and the sustainability committee will be presenting a new initiative called STARS to the students.
STARS, the Sustainability, Tracking and Reporting System, enables universities to measure their sustainability performance. The committee will look at environmental measures like energy use, water use and building compliance with sustainability. In addition, the program focuses on social equality like community engagement, tuition affordability and diversity.
Kelly Carlisle, English associate professor and the chair of the university sustainability committee, is hopeful that the program will lead Trinity to become more sustainable.
“What we’re hoping is this process of everyone sitting down and answering these questions and thinking about sustainability is going to make us have more of a sustainable culture,” Carlisle said. “The first time we do it we’re just going to measure where we are. We hope eventually it will lead us to take significant changes on an institutional level, so we can really be a sustainable institution.”
Gregory Hazleton, professor in the environmental studies and English departments, believes Trinity is headed to a more sustainable future. Through initiatives like Earth Week, STARS and the environmental studies program, Hazleton believes that students are engaged and interested in protecting the environment. He’s also hopeful that the increasing interest in environmental studies seen in first-years will continue throughout the years and lead to action-based plans.
“I think that it’s becoming clear in both political debates but also in conceptual ideas that there are some challenges about the human population and how we’re treating our environment. So I think it’s important to think about those challenges and see them not through the lenses of despair but through lenses of action,” Hazleton said.