Earthfest: Grounded in sustainable energy
March 27, 2014

• Earthfest is still a relatively new tradition on campus—only about six years old. But it’s coming full circle. And for this year’s commemoration, March 27 through April  18, WPI’s sustainability coordinator and campus groups have been working hard to make it the best yet.

“We spent the first year focused on finding the best ways to engage sustainability initiatives,” says Liz Tomaszewski, WPI’s facilities system manager and sustainability coordinator, “celebrating Earth Day. Then students expressed interest in more, and more activities were added.” With exams conflicting with the real Earth Day [April 22], the one-day event eventually expanded to become a weeks-long way to call attention to the environment.

And behind this longer conservation and ecological awareness event comes stronger sustainability groups, according to Tomaszewski, such as Students for a Just and Stable Future (SJSF), the Student Green Team, and the student Eco-Reps All collaborate on Earthfest planning, bringing their own expertise to the table. Other student groups participating in these activities include Habitat for Humanity, Engineers without Borders, and the Global Humanitarian Alliance.

“Some student groups have different focuses, solving the world’s important problems,” said Tomaszewski. “The Student Green Team and the Eco-Reps try to build awareness around recycling, energy efficiency, and day-to-day kinds of activities, while SJSF tries to affect the political landscape,” she says, by way of example.

Earthfest lineup

Thursday, March 27

This year’s Earthfest activities kick off with the Senior Sustainability Seminar Poster Presentation & Discussion, at Higgins Labs 116 from 5 to 6 p.m. Robert Krueger, director of environmental and sustainable studies, will holds a forum on economic values.

“Corporations measure success based on profits, but is that valuable when you see depletion of resources and communities?” asks Tomaszewski, giving an example of the types of issues up for discussion.

Monday, March 31

Phil Giudice, CEO of Cambridge-based energy storage firm Ambri, will present “Perspectives on Creating a Better Future.” Higgins Labs 116, 5–6p.m.

Wednesday, April 9

Alicia Barton is the featured speaker at Atwater Kent 116. As the, CEO of the Mass Clean Energy Center, will speak on “Growing a Clean Energy Economy: Careers in Cleantech.” Atwater Kent 116, 4pm

All-day Deep Energy Workshop, sponsored by WPI’s Civil & Engineering Environmental Department. Rubin Campus Center Odeum, 8:30 am to 4:30 pm.

Friday, April 11

Midnight is the deadline for submissions to the 3R Video Competition: Reduce! Reuse! Recycle! sponsored by the Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship. “This really calls attention to recycling,” Tomaszewski says of the event, “with two categories of competition, each with a $250 prize.”

Wednesday, April 16

6th Annual Sustainability Project Competition. Gordon Library, 2–4pm. Tomaszewski says this event was one of the first to be included in Earth Day/ Earthfest events at WPI, and is one of the most popular, with “students talking about what they’ve done for sustainability-themed research to judges from WPI  and around the state.”

The final Earthfest event, the 3rd Annual Electronics Waste Drive, is a student favorite, Tomaszewski said. “It started with students; it was their initiation,” she says. The effort, where they accept “anything with a cord,” for recycling, according to Tomaszewski, except air conditioners and refrigerators, is held in cooperation with the department of facilities. Computers and TVs are collected most, she says, and the entire community is most welcome to participate.

Now, sustainability events are very different than they were five or six years ago, at WPI and elsewhere, according to Tomaszewski.  “We didn’t have the best attendance,” she said. “People had just started talking about it — it wasn’t on people’s radar like today … awareness has improved.”