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Sustainability is the focus during Earth Day festivities at UC Merced

University of California, Merced freshman Ilsia Gonzalez, 18, of Los Angeles, participates in a dumpster diving game as she attempts to find a ticket that would win her a free shirt, during Earth Day on the campus of UC Merced in Merced, Calif., on Thursday, April 20, 2017.
University of California, Merced freshman Ilsia Gonzalez, 18, of Los Angeles, participates in a dumpster diving game as she attempts to find a ticket that would win her a free shirt, during Earth Day on the campus of UC Merced in Merced, Calif., on Thursday, April 20, 2017. akuhn@mercedsun-star.com

Scholars Lane at UC Merced was lined with informational booths, games, and food vendors on Thursday, for the purpose of celebrating the annual Earth Day Festival.

“We’re here to educate students, staff and the public on sustainability, composting, conserving water, eating local produce and eating healthy,” Matt Hirota, event organizer, said.

Earth Day is nationally celebrated on April 22 and has been observed for more than 30 years.

This year’s festival at UC Merced was made to be more interactive with more games, Hirota said, so people can learn new things about sustainability in a different way.

“For me, I want my children to to have the same opportunity and clean air I had,” Hirota said. “I try and protect the environment as much as I can.”

Hirota said he hopes people who attended the festival can learn about “the personal impact they have on the environment,” from anything to the amount of plastic they use and throw away everyday to the amount of pollution they cause by driving.

Monique Gama, recycling coordinator for the City of Merced, was teaching students about recycled materials and how to repurpose everyday items.

“My big goal is really to show them we can do so much more with bottles and cans,” she said. “If everyone recycled one thing a day we can make a huge difference.”

The UC Merced student club Alliance With Animals was raising awareness on animal cruelty in the meat and dairy industries, while explaining how eating fewer animal products can be more sustainable for the planet.

On Thursday the club was focused on fish consumption.

“Often times we just sit down and don’t think about what’s in front of us on our plates,” said Beatriz Hernandez, Alliance with Animals club member and second year sociology student. “We hope they see the impact their diet has on the environment.”

Monica Velez: 209-385-2486

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