Earth Week Promises Joy, Work, Exhibitions, Debates at SUNY Oswego

OSWEGO – SUNY Oswego brims with plans for Earth Week 2010, April 17 to 25.

The campus will fill with interesting season seasonal scenes: Electric and fuel cell vehicles purring along campus streets. Students dressed all in white chasing each other with powdered pigments. Athletes running on bright green grass maintained with sustainable methods. It’s about fun, teamwork, innovation — and shared concern for a planet whose troubles include pollution, toxins and climate change.

“People hear about climate change, but they don’t know that much about it, really,” said Katherine Raymond, secretary of Students for Global Change on campus and coordinator of SGC’s second annual Mother Earth Week. “We’re trying to bring it down to the individual level and show people they’re affected, in this specific way.”

The group’s full week of activities joins other SUNY Oswego initiatives aiming to engage students, faculty, staff and visitors in the education, debate, entertainment and cleanup projects of Earth Week.

The first Sustainability Fair on April 21 will offer campus and community members a chance to see and test drive a fuel cell vehicle and view an electric sports car, a wood-to-gas truck, a Smart car and hybrids. Visitors will meet vendors of green products and services, from organic farming and gardening to solar and other energy contracting to ecofriendly cleaning and more. The fair will run 4 to 8 p.m. in the Campus Center arena.

“We are very excited by the nearly 30 vendors currently registered,” said Nola Heidlebaugh, the college’s civic engagement coordinator. “Because the event is free to vendors and to the public, we have been able to recruit a remarkable diversity reflecting a range of products and services.”

Practicing sustainability

Beyond scheduled events, Earth Week provides a chance to highlight sustainable practices on campus. Ron Randall, for example, talks about his grounds division’s low-mow/no-mow program, fully absorbed spray nutrients and outdoor double containers for trash and recyclables.

“Absolutely, yes, we have changed the programs to some of the much more sustainable ideas,” Randall said.

More college-owned acreage each year feels the mower’s blade less frequently. Randall said the grounds crew used to mow right up to the tree line, but many areas now grow naturally, with just a flail-mowing every couple of years. This practice saves fuel and time, giving grounds an opportunity to give more care to landscaped areas of campus.

“It’s a completely different aesthetic,” he said, pointing to a field gone natural that separates trees from grass along the road across Route 104 from the main campus entrance. “We used to keep it mowed down to the flat, but last year we added 70 or 80 feet (toward the road to Laker Hall) to it.”

Events bountiful

Meanwhile, SGC’s Raymond notes many events are planned each day during the Mother Earth Week observance. She acknowledges some things won’t happen. “It’s all been loosely organized, because that’s how our group works,” she said.

Yet SGC has some plans well along:

– Scheduled a lakeside cleanup for Saturday, April 17

– Adopted, for the second year, a holiday idea from India, a color festival that features powdered pigments splattered onto white garb on April 18

– Received campus approval to tie chains of empty plastic water bottles around the trunks of trees on April 19 in the quad, symbolic of litter and waste

– Booked Kestas Bendinskas, associate professor of biochemistry, to lead a “State of the Environment” panel, 7 p.m. April 20 in Room 104 of Lanigan Hall

– Prepared a presentation at Quest — the college’s annual day to recognize and celebrate scholarly and creative activity — for midday April 21 on the four legs of the consciousness-raising campaign for climate change: social justice, science, politics and economics

– Worked with the grounds division on plans for a tree and shrub planting on Earth Day, April 22, in an earthen bed between Tyler and Culkin halls

– Planned a music-filled afternoon called the Oswegostock Festival on April 24