In celebration of Earth Day, the University of New Mexico held its 13th annual Sustainability Expo on Thursday, April 20. The event occurred outside the Student Union Building on Cornell Mall, where various UNM student and city organizations presented their sustainable projects, proposals and products.
The Sustainability Expo had about 70 booths, both from the University and around the city. They showcased sustainability initiatives that could apply both off and on campus, according to Jessica Rowland, a lecturer in the UNM Sustainability Studies program and organizer of the Expo.
One of the reasons for the Expo was to celebrate the Earth and educate the community on how to be sustainable, Rowland said.
“Just making it clear to folks on campus, students, staff and faculty, how many opportunities there are to engage with a variety of organizations, both here at UNM and in the larger community to take action to make this a more resilient planet,” Rowland said. “So really thinking about how we can all engage together in sustainable actions.”
At the event, the sustainability component of the UNM 2040 Opportunity Defined was presented. It hopes to “reduce our environmental impact to ensure that UNM contributes to a sustainable world,” according to the initiative framework.
Previous initiatives by the University include the addition of solar panels on the roofs of buildings on campus, the reduction of water usage and the landscaping, according to Rowland.
“In terms of the built environment in the buildings, there's a lot of initiatives to save energy and to use less water. But there's a lot more that can be done for,” Rowland said.
Between 10 to 15 teams of students were able to showcase their sustainability projects at the Expo. One of them, from the local food systems class, is focused on increasing access to food on campus. The team partnered with a local food pantry to collect donations as well as utensils so that students who live on campus have resources to cook healthy meals, Rowland said.
Khadijah Burke, member of UNM Leaders for Environmental Action and Foresight, said that they wanted to raise awareness on the discrepancies in recycling policies between UNM and the city of Albuquerque.
“Only Plastics One and Two are recyclable (on campus), whereas in the city of Albuquerque, numbers one through seven are recyclable,” Burke said.
A goal of the organization is to push UNM to declare a climate emergency. Currently, over 7,000 colleges, universities, technical schools and community colleges from around the world have declared a climate emergency, in which UNM is not included.
“It's important for us, as the University, to push forward with how we want our future to be,” Burke said.
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The UNM sustainability studies program implements the three pillars of sustainability, which are social, environmental and economic with a focus on incorporating all three pillars into a sustainable future, according to Jess Newman, a student in the program.
The program focuses on both local and global connections because sustainability can be approached from both perspectives, Newman said.
Sarah Blake, an administrative assistant at the sustainability studies program, said that the biggest lesson that stuck with her was from Andreas Hernandez, a lecturer in the program. Hernandez had told her that on an individual level, there isn't much someone can do past not using single-use plastics and recycling. This is why it takes a collective effort to make change and to try to be individualistic about it can lead to heavy burnout.
“I think that's important for everyone to know. Because when you take it as not an individual issue, it becomes more manageable,” Blake said.
Rowland said those involved in the program were excited about how sustainability will continue to evolve on campus and looked forward to more similar projects being implemented as part of campus culture.
“That's really what we're pushing for, is to have sustainability not just be a buzzword, or an academic approach, but something that the campus is actively pursuing and that folks are seeing as this true cultural shift,” Rowland said.
Annya Loya is the news editor at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @annyaloya