The 50th anniversary of Earth Day became an indoor affair as colleges and community groups took their festivities online this week.
Espoir DelMain, a junior at Dickinson College, is home in Minnesota due to coronavirus-related closures, but she’s putting the finishing touches on the “Carlisle Celebrates Earth Day 2020!” event scheduled for this Saturday.
The event will be streamed to Facebook and YouTube from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and feature short videos that include farm tours, crafts, games, music and information from groups including Penn Future, Clean Air Board and PennEnvironment as well as members of Carlisle Borough Council and others who are “highlighting the importance of local action for this global issue,” DelMain said.
A schedule is available on the Facebook event page at https://www.facebook.com/events/195878288352191.
The event started out in Cumberland Valley Rising’s environmental committee, but expanded to bring in people and organizations who were interested in sustainability issues, DelMain said. In addition to the committee, the event is hosted by PennEnvironment, Amani, Serve the City Carlisle and borough council member Joel Hicks.
“We really wanted to highlight local folks who are doing something so that we can feel more connected in this time of separation, uncertainty, stress and fear and remembering and celebrating the folks around us who are doing a lot already for this issue,” DelMain said.
DelMain, who has served as the coordinator for Cumberland Valley Rising’s environmental committee for the past two years, said initial plans for Earth Day would have brought people together at Biddle Mission Park.
COVID-19 changed that.
“While COVID has brought a lot of inopportune, unjust and deadly consequences, we can really take it as an opportunity to realize how much action can be taken from home and also realizing how much our future is at stake,” DelMain said.
In addition to an online celebration Wednesday and a two-day teach-in this week, Dickinson College’s activities include mentions in People magazine’s special edition marking the 50th anniversary of Earth Day.
Neil Leary, director of the Center for Sustainability Education, is among the top experts in climate action featured in the article, “50 Things You Should Know & Do to Help Save the Planet.”
Leary contributed three of the 50 tips, from easy ways to help the planet to urging readers to push for change at work.
Tips are offered by some of the most prominent names in environmental advocacy and sustainability leadership, including former vice president Al Gore; Jane Goodall; Today Show’s Al Roker; Patagonia CEO Rose Marcario; Greenpeace’s Janet Redman; World Wildlife Fund’s Nikhil Advani; the Cousteau family, and others.
People also noted that Dickinson was one of the first 10 colleges in the country to achieve carbon neutrality.
The college announced the goal of becoming carbon neutral in 2007, when the college became an early signatory of the Presidents Climate Leadership Commitments and shortly after resolved to reduce its net carbon emissions to zero by the year 2020. It is the first college in Pennsylvania to achieve carbon neutrality and has led sustainability rankings in higher education throughout the pursuit of neutrality.
“Through more than a decade of collaborative effort, the entire Dickinson community has made this ambitious achievement a reality,” said President Margee Ensign in a news release announcing the achievement. “Sustainability is one of the pillars of a Dickinson education. We are meeting our civic obligation to the future by taking responsible, scientifically supported actions to slow climate change now.”
“The single biggest project we’ve done to reduce our carbon emissions is our 3-megawatt solar field, which has reduced 10% of our total carbon emissions,” said Ken Shultes, associate vice president for sustainability and facilities planning. “Dickinson is also part of the largest solar power purchasing agreement among independent colleges in the nation. In total, Dickinson’s solar projects account for more than 65% of the college’s electricity consumption.”
The college concentrated on efficiency improvements to heating, cooling and electrical systems across campus, reducing its energy use per square foot of building space by more than 10%, even as the campus grew by about 15% over the decade. Dickinson also focused on encouraging sustainable behaviors among students, faculty and staff through education and outreach programs. It also added three dual-port electric vehicle charging stations on campus in 2020 to support the purchase and use of the low-emission vehicles by the college community.
Dozens of projects and initiatives on and off campus connect sustainability projects to the classroom and community. These include the college’s USDA-certified organic farm, a laboratory for food studies and science programs; the on-campus Handlebar bicycle cooperative; the Dickinson-based Alliance for Aquatic Resource Monitoring, which trains people to test the health of their local waterways; and the Center for Sustainable Living, or “Treehouse,” a student residence focused on sustainable living practices.
Earth Day is usually celebrated at Shippensburg University with a week of activities known as “StewardSHIP Week.”
It starts with clean-up activities in local parks, usually in collaboration with the Pennsylvania Parks and Forestry Foundation, said Antonia Price of the university’s Center for Land Use and Sustainability in an email to The Sentinel. The Cumberland Valley TrailFest would have been last Saturday and the week would have continued with events like a movie, guest speakers and other events that focus on taking care of the Earth while giving back to the community.
Instead of these hands-on opportunities, Shippensburg switched to an online format to deliver videos on how people can practice good stewardship even as they stay home. Price said the videos draw on the expertise of faculty who are most enthusiastic about stewardship and sustainability and try to offer a variety of topics.
“We hope that people will share videos and photos of how they are celebrating StewardSHIP week and Earth Day so that we can show our collective impact and help everyone feel just a little closer and more positive during this challenging time,” Price said.
The videos are being posted throughout the week on the Twitter and Facebook accounts for Shippensburg University and the Center for Land Use and Sustainability. Price said two or three videos are posted each day at varying times.
Those social media accounts can be found at:
“This is a beautiful time of year to celebrate our earth, and we hope that people will enjoy the content that we are sharing, and feel inspired to create their own,” Pricce said.
A highlight of the week’s activities was the signing Wednesday of the Campus Climate Commitment by university President Laurie Carter and Cindy Dunn, the secretary of the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and a graduate of Shippensburg University. The event had to be transitioned to a webinar format, but Price said they are hoping to hold a ceremonial tree planting or live event in the future.
The commitment kicks off a collaborative effort at on-campus carbon neutrality planning and working on climate resilience efforts. A joint campus community task force will be created to look at the campus’ collective strengths and needs while conducting a community vulnerability assessment.
“This is an enormous task to take on, and we will have to start slowly and plan carefully to make sure that we best support our communities with the resources and expertise that we have on campus,” Price said.
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