Expectations were high for this year’s Earth Week, which kicks off Monday, but organizers at USC say they lacked the resources and support to hold an event of the magnitude they had hoped.
This is only the second year USC has celebrated Earth Week as an organized event, but, nationwide, the awareness week is in its 40th year.
Sustainability Program Manager Matthew Oden said many people had high hopes for USC’s Earth Week this year, but it did not come together as planned.
“We do realize that there were a lot of expectations from the community, given that this year marks Earth Week’s 40-year anniversary, but right now we don’t have a lot or resources or manpower to make very extensive efforts,” Oden said.
Because there is no staff or budget for Earth Week, Oden said it was difficult to coordinate the event. At this point, there is no complete schedule of events, and organizers are not sure if there are events every day.
Some events, however, have been coordinated, through the efforts of student groups, including USC’s Net Impact Environmental Business Club and California Public Interest Research Group. The groups have arranged to have vendors on Trousdale Parkway selling eco-friendly products Thursday — including compact fluorescent lightbulbs and canvas bags — and are hosting a guest speaker and a flash mob.
The green flash mob, organized by CalPIRG, will take place at Tommy Trojan on Tuesday and feature dozens of students wearing green and blue shirts lying down in the shape of the earth, along with one student dressed as a smokestack to symbolize the harmful effect of pollution on the planet.
Guest speaker Dick Lowry of Blue Oak Energy will come to campus Wednesday to discuss the effectiveness of solar energy in the battle against global warming. Lowry, a USC alumnus and director of business development at Blue Oak Energy, will also talk about his company’s approach to alternative energy.
Kathryn Jacobsen-Majer, a sophomore majoring in political science and the incoming director of operations for USC Net Impact, said she hopes these events will encourage students to think more about sustainability and the environment.
“Our main goal here is awareness,” she said. “There’s so much we can be doing, both to make this a bigger event at USC and to promote alternative energy. We need to mobilize to get people more interested and involved.”
Net Impact, a global student organization that promotes sustainable non-profit business practices, is currently aiming to get at least 1,000 signatures on a petition to bring more alternative energy to USC, add more recycling units and LEED certify all buildings.
The event will also feature an Eco-Fair, coordinated by Alan Kita, the budget/business analyst for USC TRIO Programs. Kita said, next year, USC hopes to collaborate with organizations that currently employ unsustainable practices to demonstrate the process of becoming an eco-friendly business. For now, however, USC’s Earth Week has limited resources and is unable to make such extensive efforts.
“This year, we’re just happy to have people come out and enjoy themselves, and maybe come away from the Earth Week events with a little more consciousness about the environmental impact of what they do, buy and wear,” Kita said.
Groups such as USC Net Impact and CalPIRG hope that the 2010 Earth Week events will pique student interest and get more people involved so Earth Week at USC can become a more comprehensive event in the future.
“I think Earth Week is just another event for most people,” said Stephanie Ashley, a freshman majoring in earth sciences and creative writing. “But the environment is something that we’re affecting all the time; we should all learn more about how to protect it.”
Richard Wei, a volunteer student coordinator for Earth Week, agreed.
“Like a New Year’s resolution, environmental sustainability is about more than just a day or even a week,” he said. “We want Earth Week to encourage people to think about the planet in everything they do.”