Read about Kate’s environmental Christmas in April:
My older brother was in Fayetteville last weekend. While we had lunch, he asked me how my service was going. Suddenly, he got a big grin on his face and exclaimed, “OH! Earth Day is this week! Isn’t this like environmental Christmas for you?” I laughed and agreed. As someone who serves for an organization that’s tagline is: “Creating sustainable energy solutions through community service,” Earth Day/Week/Month certainly has been about as busy as the holiday season. I’m a firm believer in the fact that change in thinking can start with education. I think that is why I like my position in Fayetteville so much. Some days, I get to go to elementary schools and teach kids about why recycling is important. It’s so exciting to see little (CFL) light bulbs go off as they learn about how they can help the Earth. In preparation to Earth Week, I planned programs so that I could see as many light bulbs go off as possible.
I started my week at a Residence Hall Earth Day Event at Pomfret Hall at the University of Arkansas. My initial goal was to talk to residents about how they can be more energy efficient in their residence hall. Then I thought back about events that I attended in college. The ones I enjoyed the most were the ones with hands on activities or games. So from there, my ideas somehow morphed into Earth Day Trivia. All of the questions linked back to how the students could be more sustainable but they learned in a fun way. After trivia, I gave them a quick rundown of how to go green on a college campus. At the very least, I think I convinced the students to turn lights off when they left the room.
On Earth Day, I tabled an event at the University of Arkansas called the Earth Day Vendor Fair. I was invited by members of their Office of Sustainability. I also brought so many goodies to give away. I had Recycle Something T-shirts, coffee mugs, koozies, water bottles, pencils, stickers, and brochures about any kind of recycling that you could do in city limits. The City of Fayetteville goes all out on recycling swag. Students walked by and eyed the coffee mugs with envy. They would ask me, “What do I have to do to get a t-shirt/mug/water bottle?” All they had to do was answer a recycle question. Most students agreed and got the questions right. Some didn’t and received a koozie consolation prize. My younger brother stopped by and answer a question. After he was leaving he said, “Kate, I learned a lot from the questions that you were asking today!”
On Thursday, I attended an event at the Botanical Gardens of the Ozarks. This event was a Green Team Celebration for local elementary school that had a club focused on making their school greener. For this event, I had a spinning wheel with questions about energy efficiency. Here’s a quick thing that I learned that day: kids love wheels and answering questions, even if they don’t know the answer. They also made light switch covers out of recycled paperboard to remind them to turn off the lights when they left a room.
By the end of Earth Week, I was exhausted. I’m sure that was a shared feeling out of all of the Energy Corps members. However, I think that this week was one of my most rewarding weeks of service to date. It is always really nice to see people who are excited about trying to become more sustainable and protecting the Earth. I hope that the people who I met and interacted with this week remember to take shorter showers, or use their Recycle Something water bottle instead of a plastic bottle, or turn off the lights when they leave a room.
Kate Barnes is a graduate of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville where she studied Sustainability and Environmental Studies. She has put her education into practice with different jobs including UT Office of Sustainability intern and Garden Educator intern at the UT Gardens. Kate is serving with the City of Fayetteville Community Resources Division and Recycling Division administering the Energy Efficiency Kit program and providing information to increase participation in curbside recycling.