By Rachel Cromidas, second-year in College
Photos by Lloyd DeGrane

It’s our one opportunity to make people who normally wouldn’t be interested in environmental initiatives take notice.”
—Claire Feinberg
College Student

Claire Feinberg’s unofficial job as an intern for the University of Chicago’s Sustainability Council is to turn off the lights and encourage other students to do the same.

“My biggest pet peeve is when people leave [my dorm’s] laundry room lights on all the time,” she says. “It seems so absurd to me to have the lights shining on your laundry while no one’s there, so I always turn that off.”

Feinberg, a first-year in the College, is already well versed in the discipline of green living. Besides hitting the lights when she leaves a room, Feinberg air-dries clothes in her dorm room and carries her food without a tray at the dining hall. These may be only baby steps down the long road of conservation, but fostering simple habits like these in students is a goal of the Sustainability Council.

The council shared its message on green living through a week of campus activities during the University’s annual observation of Earth Day. This year, the University hosted a series of eco-conscious activities that began Saturday, April 18 with volunteer work in community gardens and area parks sponsored by the University Community Service Center.

Highlighting greener choices

Earth Week 2009 culminated Friday, April 24 on the Main Quadrangle with “EarthFest”—an outdoor party with music, organic food, and information about what students and community members are doing to “green up” their lives.

Registered Student Organizations and community groups set up tables with information and freebies to raise awareness about sustainability practices, and to spark conversation and new ideas.

In April, the Office of Sustainability launched Sustainable Actions for a Greener Environment, a new campus-wide initiative to offer “SAGE advice” for how to be both green and smart in making everyday choices. Students manned a table for the office and shared some of their ideas.

Earth Week 2009 offered workshops and lectures on raising worms for composting, growing culinary herbs, issues in urban agriculture, the environment in United States law, and sustainable urbanism and green buildings. Speakers included Sadhu Johnston, Chief Environmental Officer for the City of Chicago; Doug Farr of Farr Associates, which specializes in construction of LEED-certified buildings; Esther Bowen, a graduate student in Geophysical Sciences and teaching assistant for the course “Feeding the City;” and Cecelia Ungari, Director of Education and Outreach at Healthy Green Goods.

A collaborative effort among the Office of Sustainability, the University Sustainability Council, the University Medical Center, the Green Campus Initiative, the Program on the Global Environment, the College, the Civic Knowledge Project, and several student organizations, Earth Week 2009 helped students think about their role in promoting sustainability.

“It’s our one opportunity to make people who normally wouldn’t be interested in environmental initiatives take notice,” says Feinberg.

Originally published on May 6, 2009.