How Auburn is celebrating 52 years of Earth Day

People have been celebrating Earth Day for over five decades. In Auburn, the Office of Sustainability has been working to celebrate the event since its inception in 2008.

“At the time, in 1970, Earth Day was the biggest event in American history,” said Mike Kensler, director of the Office of Sustainability. “There were 20 million people in the United States alone.

Its role is to help people improve the natural world and our community.

“It was to help people understand the issues and then take action, and we came to understand that so many things are interconnected,” Kensler said.

Something that helped this demonstration was the first lunar trip because it helped people contextualize the world they live in.

“No one had ever seen anything like this, and no one had any idea what the Earth looked like, and after seeing what it looked like on this lunar journey, they thought, ‘Wow, this is so beautiful and precious, yet incredibly small and vulnerable,” Kensler said.

In 2020, the Office of Sustainable Development had planned a number of events for the celebration of the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, but COVID-19 forced them to cancel their plans.

However, this year the office is able to host its Earth Day Extravaganza, where students can interact with sustainable living habits through the activities, education, and food featured at the event.

The Earth Day extravaganza will be hosted by the Department of Waste Reduction and Recycling, Office of Sustainability, Department of Geosciences and UPC.

There will be crafts, puzzles, succulents, and a drone at the event. This event will take place on campus from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Earth Day, April 22. The event aims to help students acquire the knowledge and tools needed to live sustainably.

“We can create a flourishing world if we can call the world to it,” Kensler said.

One of the tools used by the Office of Sustainability is the sustainability compass. The compass was created in the 2000s and is used around the world. It is divided into four systems which each represent a system conditioned for sustainability.

The four compass systems include nature, economy, society, and well-being.

“In these points, you can ask yourself: ‘What is the state of the natural world that we all depend on?’, ‘Do we have a healthy economy that includes everyone?’, ‘Do we have healthy communities and a thriving society?’, and ‘Do we have individual well-being?’ said Kensler.

The Office of Sustainability works with faculty, students, student groups, and student affairs to educate them about these things.

“If you think about the backline of the Auburn Creed, what does that look like in practice?” said Kensler. The last line of the creed reads: “I believe in Auburn and I love it.”

With this in mind, the office partners with the university architect, campus planner and faculty experts to see how people can intentionally design the future in a more user-friendly way.

“It’s really inspiring and sobering at the same time, and if we can keep that perspective in mind, I think we’ll behave very differently towards each other and towards the planet we live on,” said Kensler.

The office also offers a monthly newsletter which they send out in order to spread awareness. They host at least one event per month with some events including expert speakers.

“As an office, as far as we’re concerned, every day is Earth Day,” Kensler said.

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