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Student organizations collaborate for Earth Weeks

The barrage of late snows blanketing the flora on Manitou Heights last week did not stop St. Olaf’s environmental organizations from showing the campus what it means to be green. A group of student organizations held events both on and off the Hill to celebrate Earth Weeks 2013.

Earth Day activities are held all over the world on April 22. Not satisfied with just one day of environmental celebration, St. Olaf students expanded Earth Day into two weeks worth of activities. Events ranged from Phenology Walks with Ole naturalists to speakers focused on environmental topics.

Though the official Earth Day has passed, Earth Weeks’ events will continue until May 1. Campus organizations involved in the Earth Weeks programming included SustainAbilities, Environment-Asia Connections, Environmental Coalition, the Environmental Studies Department and other academic departments, the Student Naturalists, the Clean Plate Campaign, individual students and Transition Northfield.

The variety of organizations involved brought people from all corners of St. Olaf together to stand up for the Earth. SustainAbilities coordinator Sonja Smerud ’14 saw this wide mix of students as a big plus for the cause.

“Environmentalism shouldn’t be limited to the ‘earthy-crunchy-hippie-tree huggers,’ but involve people in a variety of social groups,” Smerud said. In an attempt to extend the reach of Earth Weeks beyond those traditionally concerned with environmental issues, the coordinators made an effort to give Oles a range of opportunities to get involved.

Earth Weeks had a unifying effect on St. Olaf’s relationship with the greater Northfield community as well. Oles collaborated with Carleton students and Northfield residents at events like Carleton’s Earth Day Contra Dance. Many students embraced the celebration of green living on Saturday, April 19 at a Northfield celebration involving mind-opening discussions, food and music.

On the Hill, one of the most visible Earth Weeks events was the Environmental Arts Extravaganza held Thursday, April 17 in the Buntrock Commons Crossroads. Many students were drawn to the sounds of poetry and music as they passed through Crossroads.

The event gave students a chance to take a break from their busy schedules and show off their creative sides by making environmental art with provided supplies. The highlights of the event were appearances by musical groups such as Agnes A Cappella and the Krossmen.

Members of the Poetry House read environmental poems between musical acts. Thomas Churchill ’14, one of the poets involved, said, “It’s cool that so many different groups of students played a part in this event.”

The Bon Appétit staff, guided by Board Manager Randy Clay, also contributed to Earth Weeks with Low-Carbon Diet Day on Monday. Bon Appétit gave out free smoothies and educated students about reducing the carbon footprint of their food choices.

“The smoothies were so good,” Lizzie Carlson ’14 said. Regan Keller ’14 echoed her sentiment, adding, “It was awesome to see Randy teaching students about earth-friendly eating. You could tell he was so passionate about it.”

“Turnout at events thus far has been good,” Smerud said. “One residence hall event had 70 people at it . . . and the Olaf compost event pulled 30 people, which is not bad for a dinner discussion around here.”

Other students attended movie showings to learn more about topics like environmental activism in China and climate change. Despite the many successes, last week’s bizarre weather did affect some Earth Weeks plans.

Environmental Coalition Organizer Kirsten Maier ’13 canceled Monday’s Campus Trash Pickup amidst flurries of snowflakes. Other events had to be moved inside and there were concerns about whether a tree planting that was planned for Friday, April 26 would even be possible with the wet ground.

Those involved with Earth Weeks saw the erratic weather as evidence of the need for increased environmental concern.

“This should be a discussion that is on everyone’s minds. Look at the snow outside! A lot of the extreme weather we’re seeing is caused or made worse by changing global climates,” SustainAbilities representative Christian Graefe ’13 said.

Those interested in learning more about environmental issues should check out the continued Earth Weeks programming this month. More information about environmental organizations at St. Olaf can be found on the St. Olaf Environmental Coalition Facebook page at

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