Earth month will be begin with Time for Change Week, an event aimed to increase environmental awareness in hopes to gain engagement from across the OSU community and set to run April 3 to 9.
Organizers said they hope the event has the same widespread impact as Buckeyethon.
“The environment incorporates everyone,” said Samuel Reed, Undergraduate Student Government’s director of sustainability and a fourth-year in environmental science and ecology. “And we want to make sure that’s reflected throughout the week.”
Time for Change Week is comprised of nearly 20 events spanning 17 different venues across campus and High Street. Events range from pollinator panels, tree plantings and hiking to a sustainability-themed concert, fashion show, environmental poetry and more.
Students who attend three, five or seven events throughout the week have the chance to win first-come, first-served prize packages, including Klean Kanteen water bottles, The North Face beanies, solar-powered phone chargers and ENO hammocks, to name a few, according to Time For Change’s website.
“(Time for Change Week) is also a call to action,” said Marie McConnell, treasurer of the Sustainability Council and a second-year in environmental policy and decision-making. “It’s a way to encourage people to learn and think about their lives and the impact that they’re having.”
Some impacts are obvious. For example, if each student used a reusable coffee cup, it would reduce the amount of paper cups thrown into landfills by thousands every day. Landfills emit methane — a greenhouse gas that traps heat in Earth’s atmosphere — intensifying global warming much faster than carbon dioxide. By reducing the amount of waste in landfills, students can reduce the amount of methane emitted into the atmosphere.
Even small actions each day add up at a university as large as OSU, but McConnell said the most dangerous action is inaction.
“Environmental issues don’t just affect people who pay attention to them,” she said. “We all benefit or are hurt by environmental issues.”
Reed and Clayton Perry, co-organizer and a fourth-year in applied economics, agreed that having dialogue digging deeper into the relationship between politics and the environment is vital to reducing overall apathy.
“We’re sort of addressing sustainability as a security issue and not just as the hippie green issue it’s been framed as for so long,” Perry said. “(It’s) another one of those challenges I think that can be especially effective to tackle on a college campus where people are here to learn and grow up.”
For Time for Change’s student organizers, part of that growing up included confronting issues that can be perceived as uncomfortable and difficult to address.
Sustainability tends to involve “mostly white” students who study environmental science, Perry and Reed said, noting the lack of minority voice and diverse majors in the movement overall.
“We’re trying to reach out to people who care about minority rights (and) inequality on a class level,” said Perry, who is also president of Buckeye Blackout, the student organization hosting the sustainability concert at Newport Music Hall on Friday night. “And (we want to) demonstrate how they relate to race and the physical place that people live in.”
The Flint, Michigan, water crisis is an issue where the intersection of race, class and environment are at the forefront of discussion. The water crisis disproportionately affects the health of the low-income, minority community of Flint.
Student organizers emphasized that if you’re privileged enough, you don’t have to think about these issues.
“Personally for me, I’m not affected by issues of environmental justice,” Reed said. “I can drink my water when I turn the faucet.”
One way the groups are addressing the intersectional issue is by collaborating with Conversations on Morality, Politics, and Society and the Department of Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies to host the “Below the Surface: Uncovering Environmental Justice” event during Time for Change Week. With a focus on environmental discrimination, such as that in Flint, panelists will discuss environmental justice through political, public health and economic frameworks.
In addition to focusing on social issues and the environment, the groups hope to tackle some of the university’s sustainability goals which were released nearly a year and half ago while helping students understand that they have a role to play in protecting their local environment.
Gina Langen, spokesperson in the Office of Energy and Environment, said the university has a great opportunity to educate the student body and promote environmental awareness when it comes to those goals.
“And part of the success we’ve had in developing those goals was through the students that were on the committees for all the different areas,” Langen said.
Some of those students are now in the organizations hosting events during Time for Change Week, taking the information they learned from creating the sustainability goals and applying it to specific events.
Students for Recycling will host their annual water bottle exchange, where students can turn in 10 plastic bottles in exchange for a reusable water bottle in an effort to help the university meet its goal of achieving “zero waste by 2025.”
As a way to increase the amount of “productive landscape” — plots of green space that are more than just grass. Students for a Sustainable Campus is building a pollinator garden to attract bees, which in turn helps other plants grow, especially those that bear fruit and feed humans.
“A lot of student orgs have one small mission that they do, but all together makes a huge impact on the resources here in Columbus and on campus,” Langen said.
McConnell, Reed and Perry all agreed that because of the university’s reputation for gathering immense support for large events — such as BuckeyeThon and Beat Michigan Week — it has the opportunity to continue Time for Change Week as an annual program.
Not only did the trio say they hope OSU students, faculty and administration are inspired to take action, but other universities, too.
“Time for change OSU,” Perry said. “Time For Change U of M. Time For Change Wisconsin. Time For Change Berkeley. Time For Change Boulder. Time For Change Florida.”