By Lan Nguyen
Sixty Northwestern students overcame the 20-degree temperature on Saturday and trekked to Norris to claim their free t-shirts and bagels before heading to various volunteering sites for ASG’s Environmental Day of Service.
The first annual Environmental Day of Service, hosted by the ASG Sustainability Committee, aimed to educate students about environmental issues while engaging them in community service. Weinberg sophomore Miranda Liu co-headed the event and said she was inspired by NU Gives Back, an annual day of service that takes place at numerous sites in the spring.
However, as a member of the sustainability committee, she felt that there was a need to have a day of service specifically geared toward environmental and sustainability concerns.
“We wanted to have an educational aspect in addition to just a service event,” Liu said. “Our campus doesn’t have enough environmental events that involve students volunteering.”
Students registered for the Environmental Day of Service many weeks in advance, during which they could rank their preferences for seven different volunteering sites. These included preparing plants for the approaching winter with Evanston TreeKeepers and The Talking Farm, repurposing materials at the Evanston Rebuilding Warehouse, farming at Endless Greens, cleaning up litter at the Evanston Ecology Center and on campus, and restoring prairies with Prairie Project.
Prairie Project, held at Watersmeet Woods in Northfield, was one of the few sites that has a working relationship with Northwestern student groups. SEED, Students for Ecological and Environmental Development, brings a group of students into the prairie regularly to work on this community project. Weinberg sophomore Rachael Sarette was one of the students who helped remove invasive species there.
“Sometimes when you go on short service trips like this you don’t feel like you made a huge impact,” Sarette said. “But with the Prairie Project, I feel like we cleared a good amount of area and it felt great to see a visible difference.”
McCormick sophomore Kim Clinch also enjoyed her experience with the Day of Service. She volunteered with Endless Greens, an organization that promotes organic farming in urban areas. Clinch said that she was surprised to learn about the agricultural techniques implemented by Endless Greens.
“There was a 20-foot by 10-foot area of ground covered by leaves and twigs that was about five feet high,” she said. “We just added soil to the pile and threw seeds on top and eventually it all just breaks down and contributes to the nutrients. “
During her time volunteering with Endless Greens, Clinch learned that the organization is seeking interns and part time staff members. After a couple of hours at the site, she has a strong interest in staying involved with the organization.
Clinch’s experience is exactly what event coordinators were hoping for. Part of the goal of the day was to get students to remain engaged with the environmental community after they complete their hours of volunteering.
“We’re hoping that through education and awareness, people can take what they learned during their day of service and actually apply it,” Liu said.
The ASG Sustainability Committee plans on continuing to implement the Day of Service in future years. The committee hopes to increase participation by booking a date earlier in the quarter to prevent weather complications and by reaching out to more partner organizations.