Photo by Alistair Blacklock/The Gazelle

SIGs celebrate Earth Day at DTC

Photo by Alistair Blacklock/The Gazelle Several dozen students gathered at the Downtown Campus garden on April 22 to show support for Earth Day, an ...

Apr 27, 2013

Photo by Alistair Blacklock/The Gazelle
Several dozen students gathered at the Downtown Campus garden on April 22 to show support for Earth Day, an international occasion devoted to the recognition of environmental issues.
“It’s really difficult to structurally change the school at this point,” said freshman Louis Plottel, leading member of Ecoherence, the sustainability action and awareness Student Interest Group that organized the Earth Day celebration. “So we decided that instead we wanted to do something to both educate and celebrate environmentalism.”
Students and faculty mingled amongst various stalls set up around the garden, all of which were aimed at raising awareness and support for greater protection of the environment. Some were designed to educate, with informational posters and booklets, whereas others required more active participation, such as signing a letter of support for the movement to encourage New York’s campus to divest from unsustainable investments.
Behind one stall, One Act of Green, a row of colorfully inscribed papers was arranged for students to post environmental challenges for each other. Requests ranged from the simply turning off the lights when leaving a room to the more long-term charge to “never take a take-out box again.”
“The idea is that once they start doing it, they’ll realize that it’s not actually a big deal,” explained freshman Anishka Arseculeratne, who was running the booth.
Arseculeratne was challenged to do all her readings on her laptop for the rest of the semester instead of printing them, an act that she believes is feasible. Other students whose names were blazoned across the wall expressed more skepticism about their challenges.
“My roommate challenged me to turn out the lights at night,” said freshman Sala Shaker. “Sometimes I just leave one light on because I’m scared and I cannot sleep in the dark. I don’t know how I feel about this. I’m usually a super eco-friendly person. I turn out the lights all the time. My only problem is that I am scared of the dark.“
Arseculeratne expressed hope that targeting small, manageable acts will be a successful way to change the community as a whole.
“It’ll become part of their routine,” she said. “And then the whole community, hopefully, will gradually become more environmentally-friendly through the little small acts.”
The importance of a community acting together to combat environmental issues was an underlying theme throughout the night. The event itself was a collaborative effort between different SIGs, all of which had to find ways to shape their contributions to the event’s message. The SIGs represented at Earth Day included Veggie Might, Music Society and Bakers’ Guild. Other members of the community contributed as well, such as NYUAD Assistant Professor of Practice of Biology John Burt, who gave a talk about coral reefs. On The Beat, a student-run music publication, made posters and a playlist for the event.
“We wanted to do a lot of collaboration,” Plottel said. “We realized that part of the way we can make the most amount of change is by showing each SIG the ways that they can be environmentally sustainable. And then they can make that a part of their message … and it’ll disseminate out.”
The Bakers’ Guild, who provided snacks for the night, came up with creative ways to support Earth Day through their cooking.
“We haven't worked with Ecoherence before,” said sophomore Haley Smith, founder of Bakers’ Guild. “And we actually haven't gotten a request like this before either. Usually we get more general requests with few or no limitations, but it was fun and challenging to work within guidelines that were in line with the SIG's mission.”
The request for earth-friendly baking was met by using all organic, vegan and locally sourced food. The Baker’s Guild’s efforts were well-appreciated as attendees quickly devoured kale chips, homemade hummus, zucchini bread and chocolate beet cake.
“I definitely think cooking with a purpose and a message was a rewarding experience,” Smith continued. “[It] forced us to put some extra thought into where our ingredients come from and what we do with them. “
As dusk fell, candles were lit and cushions laid out as the Music Society SIG hosted the first OpenMic Unplugged — a musical performance by students using no electricity.
“When we heard Ecoherence was interested in something like that, [we] thought it was kind of our musical responsibility to help out with it,” said freshman Jules Bello, who organized the musical performances though the Music Society.
The atmosphere was cozy as the audience huddled together, surrounded by flickering candlelight, to hear songs being performed without microphones. While some students had prepared acts, many more were urged on stage by their friends for impromptu performances. The sense of community was strong as students sang along, encouraged one another and laughed frequently — leaving a lasting impression on all those who attended.
Clare Hennig is features editor. Email her at
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