To celebrate Earth Week at Mississippi State University, the Office of Sustainability partnered with the Student Association to host multiple virtual and in-person events emphasizing the importance of making MSU a more sustainable and eco-friendly campus.
On March 16, MSU's sustainability clubs held an organizational fair on the Drill Field. That evening, students involved in the sustainability organizations hosted a student climate talk via Zoom.
On March 17, faculty members from Loyola University Chicago, University of Maine, Cornell University and the Mississippi Service Commission spoke in a panel about implementing sustainable changes at their workplaces and respective universities.
Additionally, Aramark partnered with the Office of Sustainability at MSU to offer a plant-based menu at Fresh Food Company and Perry Cafeteria on March 15 and 16.
Due to the weather, the Office of Sustainability postponed yoga and watching "Wall-E" on the Drill Field. The virtual events were successful though, and MSU students, faculty and representatives from other universities shared sustainability and climate action messages.
The student climate talk on Tuesday featured leadership from the student sustainability clubs, Students for a Sustainable Campus, MSU Climate Reality Project and interns from the Office of Sustainability. Panelists discussed the South's climate crisis issues and how to get positive responses from students on campus.
The speakers highlighted the importance of environmental education and making sustainability easily accessible for college students.
Kristen Killgore, an intern for the Office of Sustainability at MSU, moderated the climate talk on Wednesday that featured non-MSU speakers. Her questions focused on how to make positive changes on campus and get faculty, staff and students involved in making campus greener.
The panelists said to use creativity in discussing climate change and green initiatives and find out what matters to students. They advocated for finding supportive faculty so projects on campus have longevity and do not die out when the students graduate.
Aaron Durnbaugh, director of sustainability at Loyola University Chicago, said it was essential to make sustainability as inclusive as possible by inviting everyone to participate in the conversation.
"We can find really amazing dialogues when we're all willing to kind of come to the table," Durnbaugh said.
Daniel Dixon, the sustainability director at the University of Maine, expressed his goals for his campus.
"So, I'm excited to get U Maine to zero emissions. That's probably my primary goal and, then, just to teach everyone about climate change and how important sustainability is," Dixon said. "Every decision we make in our lives has an effect on the world around us. I think the more people understand that, the more they're willing to make sacrifices and change in their daily lives."
Offering a familiar perspective, Alicia Brown, a solar innovation fellow at the Mississippi Service Commission, explained her struggles and successes while advocating for sustainability in Mississippi's government.
"Mississippi is ripe with opportunity, but we are drastically far behind. So trying to find creative solutions that work within in, like, a really challenging economic and political framework (is what motivates me)."
Killgore agreed with Brown and voiced some of her concerns for Mississippi. She said it is frustrating at times to get students engaged with sustainability programs on campus.
Although the weather impacted the in-person events, Killgore said she was pleased with the turnout to the virtual events. She said the goal of Earth Week was to help people realize minor changes they can make every day that positively impact the earth.
"I'm trying to just make them aware of their daily impact and how little efforts can go a long way," Killgore said.