UC Merced’s main walkway took on a carnival atmosphere on Thursday, when the campus observed Earth Day.
The newest campus in the University of California system prides itself on its relatively green buildings, water conservation and solar panels. So the school’s staff looks to make the day fun yet educational.
Xaviour Beasley, 20, a junior studying mechanical engineering, pedaled a bike connected to a blender. The display was meant to treat students to a smoothie while making them think about conserving electricity.
Beasley, who is originally from San Francisco, said he learned during Earth Day that replacing light bulbs and fixtures with energy-efficient versions is not only good for the plant but also for his wallet. “That’s kind of interesting,” he said.
Another student, Elizabeth Balbuena, said she had been to past Earth Day events, where she learned about the importance of separating trash from recyclables. The 21-year-old from Montclair, who studies cognitive science, played a ring toss game made of recyclable bottles.
Water conservation worked its way into many of the games. A squirt-gun game tried to get students to think about how they waste water, and the school’s Office of Sustainability used repurposed corks to plant drought-resistant succulents.
“We’re trying to educate students about drought-friendly plants,” said Elizabeth Arguellez, a student intern with the office.
The campus is often looking for ways to be greener as it looks toward its “triple-zero” goals – to consume zero net energy through efficiency and renewable energy production, produce zero landfill waste and prevent as much carbon emission as the university produces by 2020.
To that end, Matt Hirota, UC Merced’s waste reduction and recycle coordinator, said the campus will move next year to using wooden utensils in the dining halls. They can be composted with other trash, unlike plastic cutlery.
He said the wooden utensils were a necessary move to reach the conservation goals.
Another effort highlighted at Earth Day was the Office of Sustainability’s effort to be labeled a Tree Campus USA by the Arbor Day Foundation by the end of the year. Director Colleen McCormick said adding and maintaining native, drought-resistant trees will help consume carbon and add shade to the campus.
“There are numerous benefits of trees,” she said.
The university was also recently recognized for its effort. Princeton Review, known for its books and college rankings, featured UC Merced in the 2015 edition of its free book, The Princeton Review Guide to 353 Green Colleges.
Sun-Star staff writer Thaddeus Miller can be reached at (209) 385-2453 or firstname.lastname@example.org.