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Earth Day fair shows ways to be more sustainable consumers

During the Sustainability Fair in the Library Quad on April 20, students and others learned about sustainable clothing practices, electric vehicles, and "green" confetti made from tree leaves. (Sacramento State/Belen Torres)

Sacramento State President Robert S. Nelsen in 2016 planted his first tree on campus, a drought-tolerant California native oak, to commemorate Earth Day.

On Thursday, April 20, as Nelsen prepares for his July retirement, he planted a desert museum palo verde – a tree from his home state of Texas with green bark and gold leaves – to mark his last Earth Day celebration as Sac State’s leader.

“I love this campus. I love the trees,” Nelsen said at the ceremony, thanking the offices of Sustainability and Facilities Management for expanding and caring for the University’s urban forest. “Everyone who comes to campus, what do they talk about? They talk about the trees.

“The difference our Sustainability team has made on our campus really sets a tone and helps us to be able to move forward and set an example for everyone else.”

President Robert S. Nelsen, holding a shovel, and planting a tree
President Robert S. Nelsen helps plant a desert museum palo verde, a tree from his home state of Texas, to which he will return following his retirement in July. (Sacramento State/Rob Neep)

Nelsen’s final tree planting was part of the Earth Day Sustainability Fair in the Library Quad, which featured exhibitors, games, and giveaways as well as food trucks.

Earth Day, celebrated every year on April 22 since 1970, launched the global environmental movement.

Organized by Sustainability, Sac State’s early Earth Day festivities included electric vehicle displays, clothing swaps, a sustainable interior design showcase, and a panel on green careers held in the Carlsen Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

Students in a critical thinking class on fashion sustainability gave away gently used shirts as quiz prizes, and demonstrated how toxic chemicals and dyes pollute rivers and oceans by having participants drop food coloring into a bin of water.

Research shows that most of the clothes people buy are made in developing countries such as China, India, and Bangladesh, which lack the technology to treat the water used in the manufacturing process.

“We want people to be more conscious of what we consume and the effect it has on people,” said first-year student Hark Uppal, who is studying Computer Science. “We are killing people with these chemicals. People bathe and swim and drink this water, and people are getting sick from the toxins and chemicals and dyes in the waterways.”

Students also demonstrated how to sew a button, to encourage people to buy less clothing, said Dong Shen, Fashion Merchandising and Management program coordinator.

“So, the next time a button falls off, we hope you won’t throw away the shirt,” Shen said. “Fashion is one of the most polluting industries today. … Because of fast fashion, people think they need to buy clothes every month, every week, every season. If you don’t like a trend, you donate the clothes, and you think it’s a good practice.”

But most donated clothes end up in landfills, she said.

“And if it’s polyester, or manmade fibers, then it’s still somewhere in the world,” Shen said. “We want to show students different ways to be sustainable. Buying second-hand clothes can be more creative, and it’s more environmentally friendly.”

Elsewhere at the fair, the Associated Students, Inc. Green Team urged students to stop throwing glitter and confetti, which are made of microplastics, as part of graduation celebrations. 

The Environmental Student Organization offered a plastic-free alternative, demonstrating how to punch holes in leaves to make green confetti.

Sacramento Electric Vehicle Association’s George L. Parrot parked his bright yellow Genesis electric car in the quad to show students the benefits of going electric.

“Historically, Sacramento is between the fifth- and seventh-most ozone-polluted city in the U.S.,” said Parrot, a Sac State emeritus professor. “And 60% of that is coming from cars.

“When we take a deep breath here, we don’t realize how polluted that air is until we go up to the mountains or ocean, and people have just gotten used to putting up with a part of our environment that’s killing us.”

Two students, outdoors, looking at a beehive
Students learn about the lives of bees from the Sacramento Area Beekeepers Association at Sac State's Sustainability Fair on April 20. (Sacramento State/Belen Torres)


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About Jennifer K. Morita

Jennifer K. Morita joined Sacramento State in 2022. A former newspaper reporter for the Sacramento Bee, she spent several years juggling freelance writing with being a mom. When she isn’t chauffeuring her two daughters, she enjoys reading mysteries, experimenting with recipes, and Zumba.

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