Earth Day Reflection

Happy Earth Day! 

This year has been very busy for us as the Campus and Community Engagement interns. We have put on three events this year, and all have been a great success! We are incredibly proud of how the year has progressed, and would love to share some of our internship takeaways, and what we will be doing this summer. Finally, we would like share the highlights of our most recent event, the 2023 Earth Day Celebration. Before reflecting on Earth Day, we wanted to share our personal thoughts on the event and what we will be doing this summer.

My name is Haley Wegener, and I am so grateful that I had the opportunity to intern for the Office of Sustainability! I loved being able to work with other groups around the campus and Ames community, as well as the attendees of the events. Our Earth Day Celebration was very successful, and such a great event to end the year. I cannot wait to continue working with Live Green! this summer as we continue with events such as Rummage Rampage and College Creek Cleanup! I hope you all can attend these awesome sustainability-related events!

My name is Haylie Moore and I’ve had a blast during my time working for the Office of Sustainability! Earth Day was one of our most successful events, and it’s always such a pleasure to witness people from the community learn about and celebrate sustainability. I have especially enjoyed interacting with all of the attendees and organizations at our events! As I look forward to the summer, I’m excited to incorporate the sustainability pieces that I learning in this internship to my international internship in Costa Rica. I wish you all continued success in your sustainability journeys at Iowa State and beyond! 

Now, with the official recognition of Earth Day, being in its 53rd year – let’s reflect on a little history. 

In 1970, two separate individuals created the concept of Earth Day: peace activist John McConnell, who hosted an Earth Day celebration during the Spring Equinox on March 21, 1970, with help from the United Nations; and U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson, who hosted an Earth Day celebration on April 22, 1970, which more than 20 million Americans participated in. Fifty-three years later, this beloved annual holiday is coordinated by the Earth Day Network and celebrated by more than one billion people in 192 countries across the world. 

ISU celebrated the 53rd anniversary of Earth Day with the theme of, “The Opportunity is NOW! The Urgency is NOW!” This year, more than 400 students, faculty, staff and members of the Ames community attended ISU’s Earth Day Celebration for a morning and afternoon of interacting with, and learning from over 20 campus and community tabling organizations! These groups were able to talk with a diversity of social, economic and environmental organizations about their initiatives, upcoming events, volunteer opportunities and how they were making a contribution to building a sustainable future, along with how to celebrate Earth Day! It was wonderful to see the excitement for and commitment to sustainability that each group helped foster!

Our event theme, “The Opportunity is NOW! The Urgency is NOW!” served to remind students, faculty and staff that now is the time to take sustainable actions to ensure a sustainable, just and healthy future for all. It also points out the many opportunities that we have to get involved in sustainability, whether through big or small actions. It was so exciting to see the many people who were interested in learning about the sustainability practices that are taking place across campus and the Ames community. It was extremely empowering to see how many people are involved in sustainability throughout Ames, and it helps to give us hope for our future. We all had an opportunity to come together, learn from each other and make a difference. 

Attendees each had the opportunity to win sustainability-minded prizes by completing a prize card, which could be filled out by interacting with organizations and by completing sustainable activities. Participants were especially excited about the opportunity to win reusable mugs, infuser water bottles, compostable sponges, mini sewing kits and reusable snack bags. Lemonade infused with locally-grown lavendar and fruit-infused water were catered by ISU Catering and available to those who brought a reusable mug (or earned one at the event). In addition, 88.5 KURE, Iowa State University’s student-run radio station, was present to provide lively tunes for the event. The Earth Day Celebration was further supported by a generous donation from Ames Insomnia Cookies, furthering both engagement and excitement about campus sustainability. Finally, ISU Recreation Services, Adventure Programs offered their time to provide free bike tune-ups to attendees. 

As well as learning from and networking with tabling organizations, attendees had the opportunity to experience new opportunities for greener living. The event offered a GIY (“Green-It-Yourself”) activity of “plarning,” creating products with yarn made from used plastic bags. This was an idea that was thought of and implemented by our wonderful planning committee, who also demonstrated to event attendees how to make and create with plarn. We then had plastic bags for attendees to try to create their own plarn, and provided “take-home” balls of plarn to create with after  they left the event. Additionally, there were QR codes that led attendees to links and instructions for various plarn creations – inspiring attendees to upcycle their excess plastic bags rather than throwing them away. See our Live Green! Pinterest page for more GIY ideas and sustainability-related crafts!

In addition to creating and networking, each year, Earth Day Celebration attendees are encouraged to also challenge themselves and leave a pledge noting how they are committing to a personal challenge to live more sustainably. As attendees entered the event venue they were greeted by a tri-fold chalkboard prompting them to leave a pledge or make a statement of sustainability for 2023 toward committing their own green mark toward a sustainable future. The three prompts were, “What is your urgency?” “What is your opportunity?” and “How will you celebrate Earth Day?” These prompts were designed to encourage attendees to reflect on how they are impacted by things such as climate change and other environmental issues going on today, as well as opportunities they have to implement sustainable practices into their daily lives – and to reflect on celebrating Earth Day. An additional point of engagement was our Earth Day Celebration photo booth with a variety of fabulous photo props made from recycled cardboard for “striking an Earth Day pose”.

The 2023 Earth Day Celebration could not have been made possible without the many campus and community organizations who dedicated their time to share their efforts with the Iowa State campus community. If you would like to learn more about these organizations, please visit their website at the following links: 

  1. Ames Campus Lions Club
  2. Ames Climate Action Team
  3. Ames Student Association for Malaysians
  4. City of Ames
  5. Culinary Science Club
  6. Department of Student Wellness
  7. Emerging Leaders Academy Team Dynamite
  8. Engineers for a Sustainable World
  9. Engineers Without Borders
  10. Horticulture Club at Iowa State
  11. ISU Dining
  12. ISU Facilites Planning & Management – Utility Services
  13. Iowa Department of Natural Resources –  Iowa Waste Exchange
  14. JAX Outdoor Gear
  15. MFA Program in Creative Writing & Environment
  16. Network Against Human Trafficking
  17. Recycling Services
  18. Slackline Club
  19. Sustainable Agriculture Student Association 
  20. The EcoTheatre Lab
  21. The Green Umbrella
  22. Wind Energy Student Organization 

Additionally, we would like to extend our appreciation to our FANTASTIC planning committee, Saumya Balaji, Isaac Twedt-Ball, Shelene Codner, Omri Jamison, Jess Kowalski, Matti Rebelsky and Anna Weber. We would also like to thank the many volunteers who assisted at the event, Sharon Badilla, Omri Jamison, Patrick Kinn, Jess Kowalski, Michael Musal, Mia Nollett, Matti Rebelsky, Valarie Slade, Elizabeth Smith and Anna Weber. A special thank you to 88.5 KURE for providing music, Insomnia Cookies for their support through a generous cookie donation and the many campus and community partners who helped with logistics, materials and promotions: Central Stores, Copyworks, Iowa State University Parking Division and a special thanks to all the colleges assisting us with marketing through displaying event information on building info monitors!

We would like to thank you so much for taking the time to read our post, and we encourage you to take part in our fabulous events throughout the summer and next school year! Please visit the Live Green! Website for more information about our upcoming events! We look forward to seeing you at our next Earth Day Celebration!


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