Earth Week rocks SMC to its core

For the past several years, Santa Monica College has been nurturing a tradition of being environmentally savvy and sustainable through it's Center for Environmental & Urban Studies (CEUS), alternative transportation initiatives, and various outreach from many of the clubs on campus. Having organized 11 events already last year, the environmental groups within the college aimed to further spread their message this past week at the annual Earth Week.

A collaborative effort between Associated Students, the CEUS, the Eco-Action Club and many other groups on campus, Earth Week aimed to raise awareness on ecological and environmental issues while promoting sustainability to the student body.

Starting with a Students Feeding Students event held at the Organic Learning Garden on Monday, April 18, the week's schedule was packed and there was an event almost every day. The Zero Waste Festival followed on Tuesday, held on the quad and Do It Yourself (DIY) workshop sessions took place on Wednesday. After a guest speaker panel and a movie night on Thursday, the series culminated with an Ecofeminism conference held Saturday.

Some of the events were interactive while others were lectures that highlighted the benefits of a strong ecology and the importance of environmental awareness.

The objective behind Students Feeding Students was to connect students with local farmer's markets, ask for donations of unsold produce to distribute amongst other students, and minimize the food waste within the community.

"[Food Waste] is an ongoing issue that is happening every week," said Ferris Kawar, Sustainability Project Manager at the CEUS. "Students feeding students is the one event we try to do consistently. With about 200 students present last year, this year was fairly comparable in terms of student turnout, especially with the vice president of Zambia visiting that same day... We're trying to connect the students with fresh, locally grown, healthy, seasonal foods that people don't normally get to eat... Food is expensive and you don't want to waste that."

The Zero Waste Festival attracted crowds of students to tents, kiosks, food stops, and a makeshift thrift store laid out on the quad.

“Earth Week is every week to us,” said Natalie "Sunshine" Flores, president of Sunshine Partnerships, a co-op originating in Venice that works in conjunction with the campus organic learning garden to convert vacant lots into gardens throughout the community. “We’re looking forward to [using] Assembly Bill 551, which would see owners of vacant lots getting a tax break for having their land used for gardens or urban agriculture." Flores also highlighted an upcoming "farm-to-table" dinner hosted by the co-op on May 1 at their flagship garden in Venice.

Some of the other displays at the Zero Waste festival included sourdough bread baking lessons, demonstrations on how to use clay in gardening, and a Backwards Beekeeping tent complete with an observation hive of live bees.

Susan Rudnicki, who works with Backwards Beekeeping, was educating passersby on the importance of honey bees to promoting a strong ecology and helping plant life grow in the environment.

“All of our fruits and vegetables come from pollinators like bees,” said Rudnicki, who described the goal behind Backwards Beekeeping as to rescue and relocate honey bees in place of extermination by pest or vector control companies.

Wednesday's Workshop and DIY Day took place outside of the Organic Learning Garden. Throughout the event, a steady stream of students worked their way through the row of educational and entertaining booths, drawn in by a giant inflatable squid set up in front of the entrance to the garden.

“Rather than just having informational booths or lectures, when it’s a DIY and more interactive, you get more people in and you get them doing something,” said Eco Action Club president, Kira Oikawa-Clark. “Then while they’re doing it, you’re telling them what the purpose is and the information.”

DIY projects showcased included homemade face washes and scrubs made out of oils, honey and sugar, as well as natural clothing dyes made out of onions, avocados and turmeric. They also demonstrated how to turn an old t-shirt into a reusable bag.

“We’re mainly just trying to help people avoid these toxic chemicals, teach people how to recycle properly and just be more conscious of what they’re putting on their bodies,” said Ashley Morales-Retana. Their main purpose was to educate attendees on “how their actions can affect the environment and how they can improve it.”

Lina Lopez, a member of the Corsairs for Animal Rights & Ethics (CARE) Club, was providing information on animal agriculture by making a guessing game to learn just how much land and water is used by the industry.

“A plant based diet is really sustainable compared to a very heavy carnivorous diet,” said Lopez. “It’s good for your health, good for the animals, and it’s good for the environment.”

Attendee Rachelle Bieser’s favorite exhibit was the trash sorting game and compost education booth. “All this information — if you don’t specifically take an environmental studies class, then you’re not going to learn it and it’s not going to come across you in your day-to-day life,” said Bieser. “So it’s great that they bring it here to where it’s completely accessible to students.”

Thursday's Earth Week events included a panel of environmental activists during the day, and a movie screening in the evening. The panel was made up of producer and filmmaker Todd Darling discussing his film "Occupy the Farm," Lauren Trucker, co-executive director of Kiss the Ground, an organization whose mission is to inspire and advocate for the restoration of soil worldwide, and Ryland Englehart, co-founder of Kiss the Ground.

"Urban farming today provides 15% of the world's food supply," said Darling who showed excerpts from his film arguing his case for constructive agricultural uses of public land and the importance of conserving water.

The speakers used their time to advocate responsible consumption of resources and bring an awareness to the struggle of building a "regenerative agriculture," that both provides us with and sustains our ecology.

The movie screening took place later that evening in the Cayton Center, where around 30 students gathered to watch “Blue Gold: World Water Wars,” a 2008 documentary by director Sam Bozzo based on the book by Muade Barlow and Tony Clark, about the privatization of water. Prior to the main film, several short films were aired about the agricultural system, relating to the panel held earlier in the day.

Kawar said, “When you’re able to reach 30 students and have them learn about issues you normally never hear about, I think it was really great to see them stay on campus late and put in the time to learn about it."

The final event for Earth Week took place on Saturday, where over 100 students filled a lecture hall for the third annual SMC Global Eco-Feminism Conference sponsored by the SMC Global Citizenship Initiative and the Associated Students. There were nine speakers from various backgrounds and organizations, as well as the keynote speaker, Rebecca Walker, the co-founder of Third Wave Foundation, an activist philanthropic organization. Each speaker discussed their contributions and work with environmental issues and how women played a key role.

Walker spoke on combining her own philosophies within eco-feminism saying, “I have always wanted to break down this notion that we are somehow discrete beings and try to put forth the notion that we really are all one body.”

To read more about the Eco-Feminism Conference, click here.

Everything from information on how to properly recycle to delicious organic recipes and tastings to a bearded dragon were present at Earth Week. Abderezak Azib, vice president of the Eco-Action club, best described the overall goal of Earth Week when he said, “Our goal is to educate students. We organize [Earth Week] to spread awareness, and you can tell that anyone who comes down and has a smile on their face at least got something out of it.”