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SIU celebrates Earth Month in April

A long shot of a lake with tree-lined shores in the distance
SIU News

Southern Illinois University Carbondale is celebrating Earth Month in April with a variety of special activities, highlighted by the Green Fund Award Ceremony later this month.

The university, and its sustainability office, is partnering with the city of Carbondale to offer events all across town, all month long, including planting projects, story hours, scavenger hunts, workshops, a tree planting and much more. This year’s Earth Month theme is “Planets vs. Plastics.”

“According to EarthDay.org, 100 billion plastic beverage containers were sold last year in the United States, which averages more than 300 bottles per person,” said Aimee Lemrise, director of sustainability. She noted that while a small percentage are converted into park benches, none become new plastic bottles and “95% of all plastics in the U.S. won’t be recycled at all, leaving the demand for virgin plastic undiminished.”

The culmination of each year’s sustainability and “green” activities at SIU is the Green Fund Grant Award Ceremony, slated for 3 p.m. April 24 at the John C. Guyon Auditorium in Morris Library this year. At that time, the winners of the Green Fund grants will be announced.

Students, faculty and staff work hard to create proposals for diverse sustainability projects. Prior to the 2024 awards, more than $3.5 million in grants has been allocated for 325 unique projects since the adoption in 2009 of a student Green Fee of about $10 per semester. A student-led initiative launched the Green Fund Grant Program.

The ceremony will also feature the award of the inaugural Student Writing Competition scholarship. Students were invited to write essays relating how the Imagine 2030 sustainability pillar relates to their interests and how they are personally impacted by sustainability. The winner will claim a $750 scholarship and share their essay during the awards ceremony.

Other awards and presentations will take place as well, including the Environmental Ambassador Awards, which honor students who volunteer numerous hours toward sustainability efforts. A reception will follow the ceremony.

Other noteworthy activities

A variety of special events and workshops are slated during the month, including:

  • Saluki Water Workshop: Local high school students will attend a variety of hands-on workshops April 18 at the College of Engineering Building and McLafferty Annex focusing on water resources in a variety of fields, including engineering, geology, zoology, agriculture and forestry led by SIU faculty and programs and hosted by the Universities Council on Water Resources, a national professional organization housed in forestry in the College of Agricultural, Life and Physical Sciences.
  • Papermaking: Niah Barbee, a horticulture production major, will help participants create paper that can be used for classic stationery, pressed flowers and much more from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. April 18 at the Student Sustainable Farm.
  • Honeybees and composting: Angie Kuehl, Jackson County Health Department recycling coordinator, will lead the workshop at 4:30 pm. May 2 at the Student Sustainable Farm. Participants will learn the value of honeybees and composting and make beeswax wraps.
  • Arbor Day tree planting, 9-11 a.m. April 22, beginning at the corner of Mill and Poplar streets.

Contests galore

Competitions during the month include:

  • Each Tuesday, Students Embracing Nature, Sustainability and Environmentalism (SENSE) will sponsor a Plarnathon competition at 6:15 p.m. in the lower level of Lentz Hall. Participants will use provided materials to make mats for people without homes.
  • Come join in the Eco Scavenger Hunt at the Sustainability Hub at the Student Center, beginning at 11 a.m. April 10. Everyone is welcome to participate.
  • A recycling bingo game will start at 11 a.m. April 16 at the Renaissance Room at the Student Center. All can join in the fun.

More about SIU sustainability

Lemrise said she recently participated in a world crops seminar study abroad class in Costa Rica taught by Steven Still.

“What stood out significantly was how Costa Rica is addressing plastic consumption and waste,” she said. “I was amazed to see how easy reducing single-use plastics can be, and unfortunately, saw some of the detrimental impacts of plastics to the Caribbean Sea and beaches. Single-use water bottles are not even allowed in Carrara National Park, and the beaches provide stations with buckets featuring very intentional marketing messages for individuals to use to collect plastic waste from the beach. This experience has shown me there are many meaningful steps we can implement in our daily lives to reduce plastic consumption – bringing your own reusable water bottles, avoiding plastic straws, shopping at second-hand stores and saying no to single-use items such as disposable razors and packaging – and it has fed my drive to lead the way with intentional outreach and education through the Sustainability Office.”

To learn more about SIU sustainability and find the complete schedule of events for Earth Month, visit the Office of Sustainability website, email sustainability@siu.edu or call 618-453-2846.

Lemrise said efforts are underway to create an ongoing sustainability mindset at SIU and persuade people to embrace sustainability as a lifestyle and practice. She encourages people to share their sustainable living practices, gardening tips, Farmers Market finds or similar things by tagging SIU sustainability on social media or emailing sustainability@siu.edu.

Christi Mathis — student affairs; diversity, equity and inclusion; business and analytics; education; health and human sciences; psychological and behavioral sciences; innovation and economic development; international education.

SIU News is produced by University Communications and Marketing - 618-453-2589. Twitter: @SIUCNews
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