University Partners with Community for Monthlong Lowell Earth Day Celebration

Youngsters march in 2015 Lowell Earth Day Parade
The Lowell Earth Day Parade will help kickoff a celebration at the UMass Lowell Inn & Conference Center on Saturday, April 23.

By Karen Angelo and Ed Brennen

What began as Earth Day, observed every April 22 across the globe to raise awareness about environmental protection and sustainability, has grown in recent years on campus to become “Earth Week.”

And it’s still growing.

This year the university, along with more than two dozen community partners, is dedicating the entire month of April to eco-conscious activities and educational events as part of the citywide Lowell Earth Day Celebration 2016.

Featuring 26 organizations, including the UMass President’s Office, the City of Lowell, Middlesex Community College and the Lowell National Historical Park, the monthlong celebration includes canal and city clean-up days, whitewater rafting trips on the Concord River, climate change film screenings, art workshops and sustainability lectures.

It all culminates with the Earth Day Festival on Saturday, April 23, at the UMass Lowell Inn and Conference Center, where more than 30 nonprofit organizations, garden and energy companies will be on hand to educate the public about sustainability. The free festival, which is preceded by an Earth Day Parade in downtown Lowell, will feature live music and dance performances.

The communitywide celebration was made possible thanks to a $30,000 creative economy grant awarded to Political Science Prof. John Wooding in 2015 through the UMass President’s Office’s Creative Economy Fund.

“Our challenge as a community is to re-imagine Lowell,” says Wooding, a member of the university’s Climate Change Initiative. “We wanted to engage children, our students and the entire community to ignite ideas on how we move forward to protect the environment, prevent and prepare for climate change disasters and promote sustainable practices in our lives.”

The Office of Sustainability has played a key role in coordinating this year’s Lowell Earth Day events, which kicked off with a panel discussion on “Accelerating the Green Energy Transition” on April 6 at University Crossing.

“Integrating our Earth Day celebration with the surrounding communities furthers our institutional mission of one city, one campus,” says Tyler Arrigo, program coordinator for the Office of Sustainability.

Arrigo adds that the Earth Day Festival, which also features urban gardening workshops led by Mill City Grows, will provide students with opportunities to connect with local organizations. 

Students march in 2015 Lowell Earth Day Parade
Students from around the area march in the 2015 Lowell Earth Day Parade.

“A lot of the organizations are looking for interns or have job opportunities, so it’s a great way for students to make connections with a wide array of community partners,” he says. “It’s also a great way to see what’s out there in the city in a very unique way.”

Wooding adds that the monthlong celebration can serve as a model to other UMass campuses for cross-departmental, as well as community, engagement in promoting social and cultural events.

“My hope,” Wooding says, “is that this communitywide Earth Day celebration is institutionalized each year so that we can keep people engaged and hopeful for a brighter future.”

Here are some of the events planned this month. Check out the ( events calendar for more.

  • Concord River rafting trips every Saturday and Sunday at 9 a.m. and 1 p.m., starting at the ICC. Presented by the Lowell Parks and Conservation Trust, Zoar Outdoor and UMass Lowell. Costs $83 per person.
  • UMass Lowell canal cleanup on Saturday, April 16, from 9 a.m. to noon.
  • The Earth Day Parade starts at noon on Saturday, April 23, at the Lowell National Historical Park Visitor Center and proceeds down Shattuck to Middlesex Street en route to ICC. The mile-long parade features four brass bands as well as local school children and youth groups displaying puppets they created throughout the month.
  • Mill City Grows hosts the Urban Growers Gathering featuring gardening workshops and seed swaps on Saturday, April 23, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the ICC.
  • Students involved in the Climate Change Initiative are creating short films that will be screened on April 26 at 6:30 p.m. at the Lowell National Historical Park Visitor Center.