Earth Week educates people about environmental initiatives

Earth Week has arrived in Champaign-Urbana with events being held throughout the week relating to sustainable and eco-initiatives.

Students for Environmental Concerns runs Earth Week events every year to raise awareness and to connect people who are concerned about the environment, said Eli Chen, Earth Week chair for the group and Illini Media employee.

Earth Week events started off with keynote speaker Michael Ableman, a farmer and author who promotes sustainable agriculture. Ableman gave his lecture, “Feeding the Future” on Tuesday night at the Illini Union. He discussed the problems that modern society inflicts on farming and what the future holds for agriculture. He offered solutions on how to make farming more sustainable and also featured a few people who started their own sustainable farms.

“What we can do is reach out to youth, provide programs and schools (in sustainable agriculture practices) and most important, provide land and technical support for folks who farm themselves,” Ableman said.

Connie Ger, Urbana resident, works on a farm and came to hear about how Ableman accomplished everything he has in his farming and activism.

“I’m kind of inspired to keeping going this way (farming) and being active in the community,” Ger said.

Wednesday brought the Earth Week Organizational Fair that featured an array of environmental organizations from both Registered Student Organizations and community organizations.

The purpose of the Organizational Fair is to get people interested and involved in all the opportunities the campus and community offers in environmental initiatives, Chen said.

Paige Millburg, sophomore in LAS, said she was impressed with the knowledge the organization members had. She said she learned about the student farms on the campus, in which research is conducted and students grow produce and sell it to the farmers’ market.

“The people (organizations) there really knew what they were talking about, and it really represented all the different environmental things that we’re (the University) doing,” Millburg said.

On Thursday, a junk swap was held at the University YMCA. People could bring in any gently used items such as clothes, books, CDs, electronics and accessories, said Lauren Parisi, Earth Week workshop coordinator and sophomore in LAS. People could then browse for items they wanted, Parisi said.

“That way it prevents people from just throwing stuff out that they don’t want,” Parisi said. “You’re preventing garbage, which is a huge problem.”

The Illinois Student Senate Committee for Environmental Concerns hosted a movie night where they showed Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax and an episode of Planet Earth. The winner of the organic T-shirt contest was announced and Common Ground, an Urbana food co-op, educated people on locally grown food.

For Earth Day on Friday, Nancy Creamer, director of North Carolina State University’s Center for Environmental Farming Systems, will be speaking about how North Carolina built a statewide local food economy.

There will also be a Earth Week Benefit Concert at the Urbana-Champaign Independent Media Center, where there will be live entertainment. The proceeds of the concert go to local nonprofit environmental organizations.