Blue and white goes green for a week

As students gathered around the Children's Nature Institute booth along the SMC boardwalk, Ponchita - a 12-inch Kenyan sand boa - was the main attraction as she slithered across the table displaying her orange and beige scales. The Children's Nature Institute was one of the many non-profit organizations including the Westside Food Bank, Wells for Hope, and the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition, that attended the Earth Week Festival at the Santa Monica College campus on Thursday, April 21, 2011.

"The object of this event is to promote and increase environmental activism by getting people involved," said treasurer of the Eco-Action Club, Svetlana Pravina.

The Earth Week Festival began about seven years ago and has made a tremendous impact on raising awareness in communities. The event is sponsored by the Eco-Action Club, which works closely with Sustainable Crews and the Associated Students.

"We planned the whole event. There is a raffle, and prizes include gift-cards, tees, baskets, magnets and food. This year's event is really exciting because, after five years, Club Grow was finally able to plant their trees and start their organic garden. We just had an Eco Heroes Award to recognize the people responsible for helping with the garden that will hopefully be built in about a month," said Pravina.

In order to advocate these eco-friendly solutions in a more appealing way, booths were handing out drinks, food and music was being played for all to enjoy. Sophomore Dolly Porsawatdee was enjoying a pomegranate tea offered by the Starbucks booth while sitting at a table in the center of the fair.

"It's a pretty casual event and it's attracting lots of people. I joined Sustainable Crews and learned that there's a dump in the ocean twice the size of Texas, and since I learned this I don't purchase plastic bottles anymore," said Porsawatdee. "All of the booths are educational but my favorite was the Children's Institution [booth] because the majority of children don't have the opportunity to go out much and this organization takes children out and educates them."

Fun games were designed to attract people to the event. To receive free food and drinks, treasure hunt handouts were passed out. After visiting a minimum of three booths and answering the questions on the handout, the piece of paper could be exchanged for fresh sandwiches and drinks.

The Art Tent was one of the many tents that offered hands-on arts and crafts. Sponsors helped people make bags out of old newspapers that could be decorated with glitter and painted so they could later be used to hold the items from other booths.

Next to the Art Booth was the Pledge Tree, where people could write a pledge to become more sustainable on leaf-shaped paper cutouts, and then hang them from the branches of the pledge tree.

Najii Thomas was among the many students who participated in hanging pledges from the tree.

"I pledged that I would not litter. I think it's really cool what they're doing because by pledging you're making a commitment to change something negative into something positive for the whole community," said Thomas.

Aure Drumillon was a volunteer for the A.S. booth informing students on the benefits of the new carpool program called Zimride.

"Zimride is a great program because not only do you save money but less gas is consumed.  It's great for the environment and it's free," said Drumillon.

SMC freshman Monte Marble was delighted to see so many organizations ready and eager to get involved with the school.

"I think it's very beneficial to SMC students because we're able to learn ways of becoming environmentally sustainable and friendly whether it's by cutting down on meat consumption or riding your bike," said Marble.

"It's great seeing the non-profit organizations focus on solutions whether it be through political lobbying or beach cleanups or building bike lanes because these policies are only successful if people advocate them," said Eco-Action Club president Harrison Wills. "EOP's are successful because people know about them, they're aware. It's like you have to plug in and get connected to you community or else in 50 years we're gonna say ‘why didn't we do something?' We have to put the community and the people above profit."