Earth Week: A Zero Waste Fair

This past Earth Week, UC Berkeley held its first zero waste carnival for an afternoon of sun, fair games, and zero waste lessons. Hosted by the Student Environmental Resource Center (SERC) and located on Memorial Glade, the carnival was composed of a plethora of stands where students, faculty, and pedestrians could participate in games and win prizes (including a “boba party” with boba in reusable mugs for 8 people!) while gaining invaluable knowledge about the environment! 

Some student organizations you might have seen at the fair were the ASUC Sustainability Team, Madewell, the Global Environmental Theme House, the Office of Sustainability, and Cal Dining Sustainability!

UC Berkeley’s ASUC Sustainability Team (STeam) strives for a variety of sustainability causes, but their focus this Earth Week was on textile waste. Textile waste is already a serious sustainability issue throughout the world as populations continue to rise and fashion trends constantly change, forcing industries to turn out more and more materials. Thus, the Sustainability Team educated passing consumers on the negative effects of “fast fashion”, and how textiles contribute to an incredible amount of waste and greenhouse gas emissions from landfills. A STeam member noted, “By shopping ethically, we can reduce the waste produced by humans and [thus] create a zero waste community.” Ethical shopping can be achieved through a variety of markets, such as consignment stores and sustainable clothing producers. 

One of these sustainable clothing producers is Madewell, a company who also made an appearance during Earth Week. Madewell is a clothing chain that sells denim jeans, shoes, and accessories. However, what sets their products apart from others is their responsibility towards the environment. By donating a pair of denim jeans, customers are rewarded with coupons and discounts. Madewell’s emphasis on quality without degrading the earth makes them a company worth noting. Aside from advocating for the use of their socially responsible company, they offered free tote bags labeled with “do well”—a quote that every individual should follow when it comes to the treatment of the planet.

The Global Environmental Theme House (GETH) is a small, but dedicated group of students committed to protecting the earth through education on environmental topics such as climate change, pollution, and sustainability.

Behind the table on the glade was one of their members, Sarah Xu. Sarah was in charge of the committee’s screen printing activity. Students were able to reuse shirts and decorate them with an insignia of a globe. The tabling event was a hit, as many people gathered around the stand to learn about the committee and get free screen printed shirts.

In addition, UC Berkeley’s own Office of Sustainability and Energy was present in celebration of Earth Week. Over the years, the Office of Sustainability and Energy has put tremendous effort into promoting zero waste and carbon neutral initiatives. Two of the organization’s student team were out on the glade with a wide array of reusable and sustainable utensils and products to educate people on environmentally-friendly alternatives. Some of the utensils and products include metal spoons and forks, disposable cups, glass bottles, and filter bags. Sage Leniera UC Berkeley student who also teaches a DeCal course on Zero Waste, noted that the philosophy of zero waste is important especially during a period where global “population is increasing and resources are limited.” Today, the Office of Sustainability has transformed from a purely administrative organization to a more accessible resource  through their various social media launches on Instagram and Facebook.

Cal Dining Sustainability,  whose members presented on the various types of waste on campus, and The Ecology Center, whose members discussed Berkeley’s new “Disposable-Free Dining” legislation, which will require food vendors to charge customers $0.25 for every single-use product provided, such as disposable beverage cups and containers, while disposable straws, napkins, and utensils for take-out will be provided only upon request. More fun activities included spinning wheels, which rewarded people with prizes if they accurately answered questions regarding the environment, tie-dye activities, and a water pong game that used reusable solo cups.

All these organizations came out this week to increase awareness about the importance of zero waste. Each table offered their own set of activities to engage the public in simple zero waste practices. One student articulately described zero waste to be “doing all you can to not produce waste–whether it is prioritizing quality over quantity [or] using reusable products.” This fair reminded the Cal community that there should only be one view when it comes to our planet– it is our job to preserve and protect it for future generations to enjoy.

SERC author: Shawn Tran

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