May 3, 2006
By Julia Marino
Clear skies and warm weather helped foster the overall entertaining and educational environment of the 2006 Earth Day Celebration held April 22 in front of College Green. Residents and students strolled through the green lawn, ice cream cones in hand, stopping to pick up trash in observation of Earth Day. A young boy skipped around playfully in a light switch costume to demonstrate energy conservation. The celebration featured a workshop on composting and recycling, a panel discussion about economics and the environment, live music by local and national artists, food, games and raffles.
The event was the joint effort of three Ohio University student organizations, Sustainable Living, OU Environs and Sierra Student Coalition, who touted their goal "to educate the community in both environmental problems and solutions." "Athens is an extremely environmentally conscious city, but this opens the eyes of more of the students," said volunteer Kristin Strobel.
Musicians began the celebration with performances on a stage in front of Baker University Center. Nigma Dummers, a band of African percussionists, enlivened the crowd with energetic beats and dancing. Other artists included Scott Tree and The Getaways, Eric and John, Hand Stand, and Attila Horvath, who wrote his songs while riding his bike.
One of the most unique acts of the day, however, was Sabastian Clark, a singer-songwriter who has lived, traveled and performed on an antique VW WestPhalia van since February. Clark said he plans to convert his van to bio-diesel and install solar panels. Perhaps he was inspired by the Mercedes Benz fueled by straight vegetable oil and bio-diesel on display by the stage, which provided a simple note left on the engine by the car's owner, stating how the oil is collected from local restaurants like Casa Nueva.
Sophomores Scott Pennington and Patti Graham were checking out the Mercedes and discussing the environment. "At least for one day, people who don't normally recycle will recycle," Pennington said. They both agreed that more people should use bio-diesel cars. "It's going to happen soon because our environmental resources are running out," Graham said.
Many organizations' booths decorated Union Street. ReUse Industries, where local residents can donate reusable items they no longer need, and Pangaea Tea, which served up organic and fair trade teas, juices and herbal infusions, were two of the most popular. Sustainable Living volunteers Kana Aoki and Sam Pepple held demonstrations of how to concoct easy cleaning recipes for a better environment from common household ingredients such as water and vinegar. "Not only are you going to save money, but you'll save your health, and your body from chemicals," Pepple says. Some members of Sustainable Living even live in the "Eco House," which collects energy through solar panels and houses an organic garden.
Vicky Matson of the Appalachian Ohio Group of the Sierra Club educated passersby on the group's environmental goals of exploring, enjoying and protecting Appalachian Ohio's public wildlands and promoting a new energy future for Appalachian Ohio. She said the organization's main initiatives are energy and anti-mountain-top-removal campaigns. In fact, Sierra Student Coalition, headed by President Tyler Dawson is planning a trip at the end of May to visit the mines in West Virginia and petition against mountain-top removal.
Dawson, who helped host composting and recycling workshops, said he hopes people "take a little bit of knowledge with them and spread it to others," and "to start understanding that we have to take care of our environment because it's the only home that we have."
Sustainable Living President Katie Harris said the most important thing is to "leave this place better than how we found it." At the end of the day, she asked everyone in the crowd to pick up a little bit of trash while the Nigma Drummers and dancers generated a playful beat. It is important that we try to "walk the walk, not just talk the talk," she said. "Even if all you've done is keep a piece of straw from going into the Hocking [River], even that makes a difference. Education and entertainment go hand in hand. We need to plant that seed of thought, and even if it's just for one day, it's worth it. Then we have next year," she said, "and we get to do it all over again."
Julia Marino is a student writer for University Communications and Marketing.