Earth Week piques interest in sustainable clubs

Monday morning during activity hour, many students leaving the Science and Art buildings found an unusual sight as they exited classes. Tables topped with vegetables lined the exterior pathway of the Organic Learning Garden as part of the first day of the Center for Environmental and Urban Studies (CEUS) and Associated Students' Earth Week at Santa Monica College. Microbiology student Christian Cervantes, ate from a sample of pestos and salad, all made by students. ”I noticed there were a lot of people eating and I just wanted to join them eat,” said Cervantes. “It’s delicious.”

For other students, the event sparked involvement and interest in the green clubs. Student Alexander Bogayevicz waited for six minutes in a line that curbed around the walkway to be able to pick out free vegetables. He left shortly but returned soon after to inquire with the organizers about involvement with the garden.

He said he always liked growing his own vegetables to cook with and enjoyed their succulence. When asked why he wasn’t before involved with the garden and the clubs, Bogayevicz said, “It was just never in front of me. I was always busy.” He added, “I think it’s important to use any free space you can find to grow plants and food.”

A large portion of the vegetables that were given out were gleaned from local farmer's markets, meaning that they were taken as donation where they otherwise would have been thrown away. The AS was also on hand to provide info and free reusable bags to students.

Garden manager Cheyenne Morrill is a common fixture at the garden and she contributed her popular tahini salad dressing to the sample offerings.

“I make this almost everyday and sometimes I forget that other people aren’t eating healthy and making the same kinds of decisions as me," said Morrill. "It was really exciting for me to see everybody really liking the recipe, taking pictures of it, and wanting to try it at home.”

The gleaned offerings were nearly exhausted after a few hundred students passed through to claim their free bags and vegetables, causing the CEUS staff to search for more boxes of bags on two occasions.

Morrill noticed the popularity of the event growing from the previous year, saying “it wasn’t overwhelming to the point where we can’t manage the people. I think it was a lot more well managed than last year.”

New interim Sustainability Project Manager Ferris Kawar, who is replacing the recently resigned Sustainability Director Genevieve Bertone, said he gives "all the props" to Bertone for leaving a crew of students in place who were self-driven and self-motivated to manage the event over a month and a half without any set leadership, while he has only been at SMC for three weeks.

“It’s great because all of the clubs get together," said Kawar. "They all kind of channel their energies into this one week.”

No stranger to SMC, Kawar worked at Sustainable Works teaching green workshops to local residents 14 years ago, before Bertone helped lead a charge for a green initiative at SMC. Kawar notes how much the campus has grown since then, going from one green club to three highly active clubs, educational programs that were non-existent, and an infrastructure for supporting the sustainability program.

Each day for Earth Week a different sustainability club is leading the activity organization.

Tuesday, Eco-Action organized a discussion/debate over whether environmentalists could still eat meat and later hosted a screening of “Cowspiracy” which shines a light on the environmental issues behind the meat industry.

Wednesday, all of the sustainable clubs will host a series of workshops in the Organic Learning Garden, ranging from using a bike that generates electricity to urban foraging, which AS sustainability director Andrea Gonzalez referred to as “intense” adding “it’s gonna be awesome.”

Thursday, AS and Plastic-Free SMC will present what’s been dubbed the Cultural Festival on the quad, featuring the Green Truck and two live bands. The event will also feature displays of art made from recyclable materials which have been “up-cycled.”

On the final day of Earth Week on Friday, the sustainability clubs will meet at guard tower 20 on Santa Monica Beach for a SMC Community Beach Clean Up, which plans to attract hundreds of participants.

AS representatives will be on hand at the events on Wednesday and Thursday to give out free reusable bags, reusable water bottles, and bamboo utensils to AS members who have paid their AS membership fees at the beginning of the semester.