FDU goes green with festival and river cleanup

Students canoe on the Hackensack River during last year's Earth Day celebration and river cleanup on the Metropolitan Campus. (Photo by Kent Fairfield)

By Kenna Caprio

Six years ago at the College at Florham and five years ago at the Metropolitan Campus, Fairleigh Dickinson University students, faculty and staff first came together for Green Fest and Earth Day, respectively. This year, by chance, both events will be linked by water: conservation and cleanup.

“The theme this year (for Green Fest) is conserving water, which is a hugely global problem,” says Dr. Amber Charlebois, associate professor of chemistry.

When Charlebois realized just how much waste she and her students were creating during lab six years ago, she decided to give her class an assignment, challenging them to find a way to reduce the waste. She thought that if the experiment was successful, maybe she could add it to the curriculum. And then she got ambitious, wondering if other departments would benefit from going green too.

“Society in general has this disposable mentality where it’s easier to buy things that you can just use once and just throw away,” says Charlebois. “It’s difficult to imagine that kind of disposable society without having so much garbage and landfills covering the earth.”

What is now Green Fest — a week-long series of events — began as Green Day. Events start on Monday, April 23, 2012 at noon and continue all week through Thursday, April 26, 2012.

“We have four days of activities, events, movies and lectures planned that involve being green, environmental awareness and water,” says Brianna Hill, a junior and chemistry major, who is working on the Green Fest kick-off event that will take place in the dining hall.

Some of this year’s events will include: screenings of “The Last Mountain,” a documentary about mining and burning coal, and “The Agony of the Ganges,” on the sacred Indian river; a Hot Topics panel discussion, “To Frack or Not to Frack;” student presentations, performances by the theater department and student art exhibits.

“Because it’s a week-long event, we can make each event special itself instead of cramming it all into one day,” says Charlebois, who is hoping to reach a larger audience with the spread out schedule.

Keeping with the water theme, the Green Fest coordinators are forgoing giving out the standard T-shirt in favor of handing out reusable water bottles.

“(They) will be given out with the hope of a reduction in the number of plastic water bottles produced,” says Brianna.

On the Metropolitan Campus, water continues to be a main component of Earth Day festivities with the annual Hackensack river cleanup efforts.

“Earth Day is really meant to be a day to raise awareness. You can send out whatever information you want or lecture, but it doesn’t really sink in unless you make it relevant or interesting and make people feel like they have a role in the process,” says Dr. Jamie Zibulsky, assistant professor of psychology, who is handling the publicity for the Metropolitan Campus’ Earth Day celebration.

The annual river cleanup, vendor tables, a plant sale, free lunch and live music will go a long way to getting the FDU community involved in the message and action of Earth Day on Wednesday, April 25, 2012.

“For many students, this is the first they’ve ever been in a boat,” says Dr. Kent Fairfield, associate professor of management, of the river cleanup. Fairfield's students are coordinating the cleanup in partnership with Hackensack Riverkeeper, the nonprofit that advocates for the river and polices its cleanliness. The nonprofit provides the necessary equipment for the cleanup: canoes, plastic bags, boots, paddles and lifejackets.

“Care for our natural world is really important,” says Fairfield. “This is part of our educational mission — awareness and concern for the natural environment.” And to realize, a “broader view of what it takes for our world to sustain itself.”

Earth Day, contends Zibulsky, is also a day to just come together to be outside and enjoy one another’s company. Zibulsky is expecting a good group to gather this year, in no small part because of the extra efforts the Green Campus Committee and student-led Green Team have put into publicizing the event. Noelle Jansen, a senior and management major, created a Facebook page for the river cleanup, Be Part of the “Solution to Water Pollution!” Fairfield’s class, “Managing Self and Others” of which Jansen is a part, used Facebook to recruit volunteers, advertise raffles and online donation links, and provide information on Hackensack Riverkeeper, says Jansen.

“Because we’re focusing so much on student engagement this year — we are going to have a poster board set up where people can write why they stopped by and what it means to them,” says Zibulsky.

Fairfield is looking forward to introducing students to “learning what it’s like to be on a body of water” and to doing the actual litter removal.  

The craziest piece of “trash” ever found during the river cleanup might just be a 15-inch high metal pedestal with a Don Quixote statue on it, according to Fairfield. The statue also featured Don Quixote’s horse and spear.

Interesting finds in the river aside, one sentiment runs through Earth Day, the river cleanup and Green Fest: get out and do something positive for the environment.

“It’s incumbent upon all of us to be stewards of the environment, even if it’s in our own little way,” says Matthew Krayton, FDU alumni officer, who has taken an active role in Green Fest this year, working to bring the community onto campus to show them what FDU is doing. 

Charlebois agrees with Krayton, explaining that people "don't have to become activists for the environment." Just do a little. "Don't leave the water running while you brush your teeth, reuse a plastic bag, take the extra steps and recycle that water bottle," she says. "Make little changes, and changes very slowly across time."

Students Danielle Odom (left) and Dana Patterson take a break from painting the rock at Green Day 2009.

Feature Story from the FDU Newsroom

FDU Office of Public Relations

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