To celebrate Earth Day at Brandeis, the Office of Sustainability, the Center of Spiritual Life and student Sustainability Ambassadors organized Earth Week, a week-long series of events, talks and activities promoting sustainability and climate activism. Earth Week also featured participation from Brandeis Dining, faculty and external speakers.
Diane Lauber from the Center of Spiritual Life describes the motivation of organizing Earth Week as a means of “[combining] a sense of sacredness and appreciation for the miracle of our Earth, together with information on how we can and need to act these days to repair harm” in an email with The Brandeis Hoot.
Student Sustainability Ambassadors Dina Millerman ’25 and Eleftheria Topaloglou ’24 brainstormed ideas for Earth Week events and worked with Lauber and Mary Fischer from the Office of Sustainability to implement logistical plans for those events. Millerman writes, “We booked spaces, contacted professors and other student groups, advertised, created a website and dedicated our time to preparing everything and making sure everything ran smoothly” in an email with The Hoot.
Overall, the organizers of Earth Week shared with The Hoot their goals to impart the importance of environmental care and climate change action as well as a means of providing care and connection to the Brandeis community.
Professor Sally Warner from the Department Environmental Studies was one of speakers during Earth Week. On Wednesday, she presented a talk concerning the science of why people should strive to reduce carbon emissions and helped students brainstorm ways to utilize their skills, communities and interests to pursue a climate and environment-related career.
In an interview with The Hoot, Warner described the need for larger scale change in order to solve climate change. Warner shared, “If someone really cares about climate change and wants to make large-scale impact, the best way to do that is to make climate [their] career.”
On Friday, Earth Fest will take place to conclude the week of celebration. One speaker who will be featured is Larry Spotted Crow Mann, who is an award-winning Native American writer, playwright and poet. Mann will be sharing his interactive presentation which contains selections of stories and songs of the Nimpuc tribe, an indigenous tribe native to the New England region for thousands of years. Some of the themes that will be explored in Mann’s presentation are interspecies relationships and the role of humans within the larger scope of life on Earth.
Brandeis Dining initiatives throughout the week encouraged students to participate in Earth Week by featuring plant-based and locally sourced meals that reduce the environmental impact of the food supply. Throughout the week, the Rustic Roots station at the dining halls featured Future 50 Foods, or a more diverse range of plant-based foods as opposed to the 12 plant species and five animal species that provide 75 percent of the world’s food.
To start off Earth Week’s dining initiatives, Sherman Dining Hall instilled a Meatless Monday lunch, featuring exclusively vegetarian meals. For dinner, the Lower Usdan Dining Hall featured the harvest of the month, “Carrot Takeover.” On Tuesday, Sherman Dining Hall featured a special Earth Day dinner that highlighted sustainable, locally derived food. On Thursday, the kosher section of Sherman Dining Hall featured the seafood caught by the company Red’s Best. According to the Brandeis Earth Week website, “Red’s Best features underutilized species or by-catch, thus making local seafood consumption sustainable by utilizing fishermen’s full catch.” This reduces aquatic ecosystem strain by using a more diverse range of fish species and makes fishermen’s work more economical by allowing them to sell the day’s catch.
In addition to dining initiatives, Earth Week featured activities for the Brandeis community to partake in. On Monday, there was a clothing and book swap and donation at the Shapiro Campus Center. On Tuesday, Earth Week hosted an Environmental Justice Jeopardy and a screening of the documentary Fast Fashion: The Real Cost of Low-Cost Fashion. On Wednesday, teaching assistants from the course Tree Class led a nature walk for students to partake in and there was a yoga lesson on Chapels Field. On Thursday, students were encouraged to make their own plant pots with potted seeds to take home and participate in a meditation session outdoors. On Friday there will be rooftop gardening activities and educational and care resources at the Fellows Booths as a part of Earth Fest, the final celebration of the week.
The full schedule of Earth Week is detailed in the Brandeis Earth Week website.
As the current school year comes to a close, Warner shares news regarding the Environmental Studies Department. Last fall, the university had launched the new Environmental Studies minor and this spring, there will be the first graduates of the minor.
Furthermore, there will be a new course offered for the first time in the Environmental Studies department during the coming fall that explores the local waterways. Warner shares that the class’ goals are to explore how water travels the environment and through plumbing and determine some of the environmental goals to protect water passages in eastern Massachusetts. The class will involve taking field trips to sites of water processing such as the Deer Island wastewater treatment plant and the New England Aquarium.
Moving forward, the Office of Sustainability has designated the 2022 to 2023 academic year as the Year of Climate Action at Brandeis. According to the website, the President’s Task Force on Campus Sustainability created a draft climate action plan for Brandeis in 2020 that recommended that Brandeis “take a year-long effort to engage the entire community, including alumni, in curricular and co-curricular programming that catalyzes and deepens our understanding of climate change as a social justice issue.” As a part of this initiative, faculty from numerous departments across Brandeis will be incorporating climate change related course assignments, activities, and explorations. Additionally, there will be guest lectures and Brandeis will facilitate partnerships and collaborations between students and climate justice leaders and activists.
As Warner puts it, “Earth Day is one day and Earth Week is one week. It is important for us to continually think about the environment and climate change throughout the year and think about ways in which our actions can have ripple effects to have bigger impacts that are bigger than just us.”