Environmental Almanac: Campus Earth Week activities scheduled

Environmental Almanac: Campus Earth Week activities scheduled

In anticipation of Earth Week, which begins today, I checked in with some of the people who are coordinating events on the University of Illinois campus.

First stop, two undergraduates who are active in Students for Environmental Concerns (SECs): Michaele Strauch, who will graduate in May with a degree from the School of Earth, Society and Environment, and who chairs the SECs Earth Week committee, along with co-conspirator and first-year student Julia Nikolaeva.

They wanted to call special attention to two events that are designed to bring together students, faculty, staff and members of the wider east central Illinois community.

One is an address by Stephen Ritz, who is billed as "part-teacher/part-activist from the South Bronx who believes that students shouldn't have to leave their community to live, learn and earn in a better one."

Ritz will speak about how he has transformed himself from a classroom teacher to an urban farmer who equips at-risk children to work for their own good and the good of their community by growing vegetables.

In addition to the enthusiasm, intelligence and love evident in his work, Ritz brings the added cachet of a speaker who has given a popular TED talk, which you can see at ted.com/talks/stephen_ritz_a_teacher_growing_green_in_the_south_bronx.

Ritz will speak from 7 to 9 p.m. Wednesday at the Ikenberry Commons Student Dining and Residential Programs Building, 301 E. Gregory Drive, C. The talk is free, and all are welcome.

On a related note, Strauch pointed out, students and members of the local community are invited to participate in a volunteer workday at the Prosperity Gardens on North First Street in Champaign, "one of Champaign's fastest-growing urban farms."

The workday will take place from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, and lunch is included. Volunteers are asked to help facilitate planning for this event by registering in advance at tinyurl.com/PG-workday.

Many of the Earth Week events scheduled for campus have to do with bikes, and SECs is promoting attendance by distributing raffle tickets to students who turn out for Earth Week activities. The prize? A customized bike, rebuilt from the frame up by seven members of the SECs Earth Week committee, with guidance from Campus Bike Shop manager James Roedl.

Next stop, Morgan Johnston, who is campus sustainability coordinator for Facilities & Services and an affiliate with the Institute for Sustainability, Energy and Environment.

Johnson asked that I call special attention to the second annual campuswide bicycle census, a volunteer effort that will take place from 10 to 11 a.m. Wednesday.

The bike census, which is coordinated by Facilities & Services in cooperation with the local advocacy group Champaign County Bikes gathers data about the location and number of bikes on campus to facilitate planning for bike parking and infrastructure improvements.

Volunteering for "Every Bike Counts" requires only a little over an hour on the day of the event plus a half hour of advance training, and many counters are needed to make it work. Registration is requested at tinyurl.com/kcbc4t4.

Earth Week is about policy, too. Michelle Wander of the Agroecology and Sustainable Agriculture Program in the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences asked that I highlight public events featuring Craig Cox from the Environmental Working Group, which will also take place on Tuesday.

Following a reception from 5:30 to 6 p.m., Cox, whose involvement in agricultural policy dates back to work on the 1996 farm bill, will provide some thoughts about the conservation and environmental implications of current federal policy and the challenges facing agriculture and the environment in the 21st century. This event is free and open to the public and will take place at the Alice Campbell Alumni Center.

For a complete listing of events and further links, head to the website of the UI Institute for Sustainability, Energy, and Environment at sustainability.illinois.edu/earthweek2014.html.

Environmental Almanac is a service of the UI School of Earth, Society and Environment, where Rob Kanter is communications coordinator. Environmental Almanac can be heard on WILL-AM 580 at 4:45 and 6:45 p.m. on Thursdays.

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