Staff, students hope Earth Day efforts lead to changes

By Kelly Gustafson

Though April 22 marked the 38th anniversary of Earth Day, environmental expert Bill Sullivan said he hopes this year’s efforts will lead to lasting changes.

Sullivan, an environmental council member at the University, emphasized that now is the time to take actions to protect our Earth and sky because climate changes are already upon us.

“We’re at a critical juncture,” Sullivan said. “We need to make changes. It’s not going to go away.”

These changes do not have to be life-changing, said Katy Kantner, freshman in LAS. Kantner stressed that even students on campus can make a difference.

“Students don’t always need to take the bus, they can walk,” she said. Kantner added that the United States has the money to live better; therefore, citizens should be living smarter.

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Sullivan said in the 20th century industrialized nations used 1 trillion barrels of oil. He predicts that in the next 30 years alone, the world will need to use an additional trillion barrels in order to satisfy the demand for energy. The world’s population is also estimated to increase by one-third by the middle of this century.

For these reasons, Sullivan said “going green” is not just a fad because “we’re going to be facing very serious competition for petroleum” in the near future.

“If every country lived the way the U.S. does in terms of using energy and resources, the world would need four more Earths to survive,” Kantner said.

The best way to start making a difference is by educating the public, he added.

“Education goes way beyond raising awareness,” Sullivan said. “We need to engage students in the process and educate a generation of new leaders, thinkers, and, most importantly, doers.”

Kantner said she tries everyday to “make small steps to live differently and live consciously.” She said she buys clothes made from hemp and other environment-friendly materials, as opposed to cotton. She also said she purchases paper made from banana trees because it takes less energy to manufacture it. In addition to recycling water bottles in her dorm room, while at home, her family uses the garage door rarely in an effort to conserve energy.

Sullivan pointed out that our own campus provides a great opportunity for environmental research and experimentation.

“We can use ourselves in order to find out how to function as a more sustainable place,” he said. Our campus, Sullivan added, functions like a small city, complete with transportation, housing and food supplies.

Kantner said she thinks a lot of “going green” is a trend but hopes it is longer lasting.

“Fads can turn into habits. People should at least make a habit of protecting the environment, if not a passion for it,” she said.