Earth Week will focus on campus sustainability


Students particpate in the Olmstead Place State Park cleanup, one of several cleanups planned this month. In addition to Earth Week, there will be several events focused on sustainability and eco-friendly habits around campus during April, which is widely known as Earth Month. A downtown cleanup, Yakima River cleanup and an Earth Day Family Festival are among the events happening around the community.

Cassandra Hays, Scene Editor

Sponsored by the Environmental Club, CWU Sustainability Council and CWU Operations, Earth Week is being put on from April 15 to 19. The purpose of the week is to teach students how to live eco-friendly as well as to start a conversation about sustainability on campus.

Each day of the week is themed to focus on a certain topic. Monday’s theme is “reuse.” According to Alina Stuckey, member of the Environmental Club, there will be a demonstration to teach students how they can live plastic-free. Stuckey said the Nutrition Club will discuss reducing food waste as well as demonstrating how to repurpose an old t-shirt by turning it into a reusable shopping tote.

Tuesday’s focus is on “reducing,” and will include a presentation on urban farming given by Kate Doughty, farm and sustainability manager at the Wildcat Neighborhood Farm located off of Alder street. Wednesday is going to cover “Operations Earth Day,” where students will learn about food waste and environmental justice. There will be a sustainable investments and divestment panel in SURC 135 on Thursday. According to Stuckey, the panel will be a Q&A format.

The week will come to an end with Friday’s interpretive nature walk, which will take place at Olmstead Place State Park and focus on nature appreciation and climate change awareness.

Malena Niece, vice president of the Environmental Club, said this is the first year the club has put on Earth Week. Niece hopes to see interest in the events grow in the coming years.

The Environmental Club stays active on campus and in the community in an effort to make CWU more sustainable. According to Taylor Kennedy, senator of the Environmental Club, the club was started by environmental science majors but has grown to include students of all majors who have an interest in sustainability.

“Our club has really turned into almost like an activism group,” Kennedy said. “We try and pick up anything that we can to make campus more sustainable, because Ellensburg and [CWU] is really not sustainable at all compared to what it could be.”

Stuckey said sustainability means something different to everyone. She said she personally believes social factors play a significant part in sustainability.

“To me, it means respecting Earth’s boundaries and environment-

al limits so that we can have a thriving future, and that for me involves social justice issues, so respecting communities of color that are affected the most,” Stuckey said. Niece said the Environmental Club focuses on more environmentally based issues. The club has specific goals they want to achieve each year. The goals mainly focus on resource management and being eco-friendly, in addition to social justice issues and people who are being affected by the changing environment.

“I think right now the club is really focused on the fundamentals of environmentalism because the campus itself is so behind on the sustainability aspect, so we’re just trying to push for these basic things that other schools have done a long time ago,” Stuckey said.

CWU could be making several changes to become a more sustainable campus, including proper recycling, waste management, reducing single-use plastics in dining areas and divestment efforts, according to Stuckey.

Stuckey said Earth Week’s focus on sustainability is important because it is a universal issue that everyone should care about. She added that weather trends such as wildfires, flooding, freezes in the Midwest and large scale hurricanes show that the planet is already being negatively affected.

“It affects everyone one way or an other,” Stuckey said. “So I think that it’s definitely something we should all care about because we’re all being affected and it will only get worse.”  

Kennedy emphasized that the lack of interest in sustainability efforts is part of what contributes to the negative effects on the environment. She said people may not realize the severity of the situation because it has always been that way.

“I personally am really scared of the normalcy of that coming with it. The pollution that we already have is kind of standard to us, right? We’re born into it,” Kennedy said. “I mean, no one would really know that Ellensburg has super bad air quality, but we do and we’re just used to it. So eventually it will get worse and worse and worse…and I don’t even know if we’ll really remember what it was like to not have it because we’re so separated from it. Maybe sustainability and preaching that kind of thing is just kind of like a remembrance of what things used to be, what things could be.”

Students could take several steps to live a more eco-friendly lifestyle. Consumerism plays an important role, according to Kennedy. She said certain brands may not have the most eco-friendly practices, and encourages people to do their research before buying.

“Honestly, just watch what you buy,” Kennedy said. “We have the ultimate power as consumers.”

Niece said that buying used clothing is one way to make a positive impact. Clothing cannot be recycled, so buying used clothing allows the garments to be used or repurposed for a longer period of time.

“I take pride in shopping at secondhand stores,” Niece said. “It’s not so much what you wear, but where you’re getting it from. I wouldn’t say everything I wear doesn’t have microplastics in it, but someone already bought it so it’s not as bad as buying it brand new.”

Stuckey added that buying new clothing can have a negative impact due to the production process surrounding most clothing brands. The process uses a significant amount of water and generates air pollution, in addition to the typically-poor working conditions that are common practice in many clothing factories and distributors. Stuckey said that buying items new is an idea that has always been prevalent in society.

“We are constantly told we need to buy the new things…and I think we need to step back from that and be like, ‘this is a toxic culture that we are born into’ and we need to kind of reject it, even if it’s [in] minor ways,” Stuckey said.

Stuckey adds that using renewable sources of energy and taking public transportation, walking or biking to class are other ways for people to reduce their impact on the environment.

In addition to Earth Week, the Environmental Club will be partnering with the Center for Leadership and Community Engagement  to host several cleanups this month at Olmstead Place State Park, the Yakima River and downtown Ellensburg.

The Environmental Club encourages people to attend the Earth Week events and learn about sustainability as it pertains to CWU.