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Thursday, Feb. 29, 2024
The Observer

Campus organizations observe Earth Week, pick up trash

Last week, the Office of Sustainability, GreeND and other campus organizations observed Earth Week to educate students and community members about sustainability and climate change. Earth Week culminated on Saturday with Earth Day, a worldwide celebration 53 years running.

Earth Week is a chance for students to engage in environmental stewardship, become more mindful of the world around them and learn about sustainable practices.

“Earth Week is an opportunity to remind our Notre Dame family about how we, as humans, are so interconnected with the world around us. Our hope is to be able to connect with different members of the Notre Dame community and to enhance the campus’s collective knowledge about sustainability and the multi-faceted issues within this area of work,” senior director for sustainability Geory Kurtzhals said.

Monday through Friday, the Office of Sustainability organized daily campus clean-up challenges. One day students were tasked with picking up blue, sidewalk snow-cleaning bristles. Another day the sustainability team gave out an award for the strangest piece of trash found on campus.

During the St. Joseph’s Lake group clean-up Tuesday, participants set off with garbage bags to collect trash around the lake including bottles, wrappers and paper.

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Angela Fox
Community members participated in a trash clean-up around St. Joseph’s Lake.


In addition to the physical act of clean-up, the Office of Sustainability co-sponsored a land acknowledgment and artist talk Monday. The office also offered a tour of the Notre Dame Linked Experimental Ecosystem Facility (ND-LEEF) at St. Patrick’s Park on Friday.

Thursday in Hesburgh Library’s Carey Auditorium, the Office of Sustainability held its keynote panel discussion on climate justice featuring professors, visiting scholars and students.

The panel, which was organized by Olivia Farrington, sustainability program manager at the Office of Sustainability, centered around the current situation of climate change and the people and communities most impacted.

“Events like the climate justice panel bring to light important issues that may otherwise be overlooked in sustainability work,” Farrington said.

Environmental policy professor Daniel Miller began the panel by discussing the sixth cycle of climate change report published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) a few weeks ago.

With the IPCC report’s “final warning" for the climate crisis serving as the conversation’s backdrop, panelists discussed the effects that humans have had on the Earth and how these effects disproportionally impact the most vulnerable and marginalized people.

“You can’t talk about the science of [climate change] without talking about the effects, and you can’t talk about the effects without talking about the people that are affected,” Noah Gonring, a senior environmental science student, said.

English professor Dionne Bremyer talked about the cycles of pain that marginalized people experience and how the climate crisis exacerbates this.

“[Marginalized] people suffer the most violent acts of climate change,” Bremyer said. “There’s this repetition of pain that comes again and again to those who are most vulnerable.”

The panelist also discussed the interdisciplinary nature of sustainability and why everyone should learn about climate change and climate justice.

Global affairs master’s student Emma Hokoda said she wants to see the University improve “infusing sustainability across the curriculum” by implementing a sustainability class requirement or including sustainability in the curriculum of different courses and majors.

In addition to the events put on by the Office of Sustainability, GreeND commemorated Earth Day by holding Sustainability Fest on Friday. The event was co-sponsored by ND Energy, the Environmental Change Initiative (ND-ECI) and Regeneration Farms, a local, sustainable farm in Mishawaka.

The festival, which was celebrated on Fieldhouse Mall, featured vendors from Regenerations Farms selling caramel apples and homemade goods and campus groups, such as Irish Gardens and student government.

"[Sustainability Fest] aims to educate students and visitors about what they can do [to be more sustainable],” said junior Patrick Murray, GreeND vice president of events.

Sustainability Fest coincided with the Blue-Gold Game, so both students and families visiting campus could participate in the activities, trivia and buy fresh produce from the farmers’ market.

“Hopefully, if we can just grab one person’s attention about sustainability, then I think that would be a success,” Murray said.