Conservationist and Sierra Club founder John Muir observed that if you tug at a single thread in nature, you’ll find it is attached to the rest of the world.
That theme of interconnectedness is central to the weeklong Earth Week celebration that UMass Lowell students, faculty and administrators in partnership with the City of Lowell and the Lowell National Historical Park organized to highlight sustainability efforts and promote environmental protection across the campus, the community and beyond.
“It’s the desire of the whole campus community to be leaders in sustainability,” says Richard Lemoine, director of environmental and emergency management. “You can see it in the green buildings that are being constructed on campus, in the implementation of conservation measures and in solid waste reduction through recycling.”
As part of its Climate Change Initiative, the University has pledged a goal of being climate-neutral by 2050 and to build research, education, and outreach programs that inform students, the community and society about climate issues.
Global Movement, Local Activities
The Earth Week observance grew out of Earth Day, an event launched in 1970 to raise environmental awareness that is now observed in 192 countries involving an estimated 1 billion people.
Campus Earth Week activities include a residence hall electricity reduction challenge, a bike-to-campus program, screening of environmentally themed films, a climate change awareness event and a citywide Recycling Day.
“The excitement around these activities is evidenced by how many people are interested in them and is an indication of our University’s leadership in this area,” Lemoine says.
Tree Dedicated to Marathon Bombing Victims
Chancellor Marty Meehan, along with student leaders and administrators, kicked off the week’s events with the planting of a tree behind Weed Hall on South Campus. The Briotii red horse chestnut, a specimen tree with blooms of deep red clustered flowers, was dedicated to the victims of the Boston Marathon bombings and is now part of the South Campus tree walk.
Throughout the week, students in residence halls will be competing to see which building can demonstrate the steepest drop in electricity demand. In the dining halls, post-consumer waste, or food left on plates, will be measured at meal time as a first step in establishing a campus composting program. The University is planning to join the city’s composting initiative, which includes local restaurants.
On April 25, students and staff gauge recycling efforts by sorting through dumpsters behind Bourgeosie Hall. In the most recent tally, the University was recycling nearly 58 percent of its waste, including paper, plastic, metals, electronics, glass, batteries and even vegetable oil from the dining halls, which is blended into biodiesel fuel.
On Saturday, April 27, from 12:30 to 3 p.m. , the Student Environmental Alliance hosts “Beat the Heat,” a climate change awareness event on the Campus Recreation Center lawn featuring environmental businesses and organizations, games, music and food. Guest speakers include Lowell Mayor Patrick Murphy, city recycling manager Gunther Wellenstein and Assoc. Prof. Juliette Rooney-Varga, director of the UMass Lowell Climate Change Initiative. Students can get information about jobs and learn about internships and volunteer positions with environmental firms, non-profits and climate change groups.
“We want to raise awareness about climate change and help find practical solutions,” says Heather Mehri, a senior biology major who is president of the Student Environmental Alliance. “We hope more people will get involved and the alliance will grow.”
The week’s event wrap up on Sunday, April 28, with Recycling Day. Held in partnership with the city of Lowell, electronics, paper, bike parts, textiles and more will be collected from noon to 4 p.m. at the Notini Company, 225 Aiken St., Lowell.