Campus & Community / News

Students rally for sustainability, action

Speakers at the Earth Day Summit keynote panel, from left, Brianna Borin, Hillary Dobos, Shannon Spurlock, and Jamie “Jonny 5” Laurie. Photo: Chase Squires

More than 170 students, faculty and staff at the University of Denver took part April 22 in an Earth Day celebration of sustainability as students presented the DU’s second annual Earth Day Summit.

Summit co-founders Megan Marshall and Mariah Shell said they were pleased with the turnout as scores of students engaged in discussions with community leaders and activists including former Colorado Gov. Richard Lamm, hip-hop emcee and youth activist Adrian Molina, nationally known photographer John Fielder, DU’s energy engineer Tom McGee and arboretum director Martin Quigley.

“I think one of the things that we tried to do today was to bring in some of the students who haven’t been as involved in sustainability efforts on campus, and I think we did that. I saw a lot of new people,” said Marshall, a sophomore majoring in public policy and urban studies. “Whether we changed any minds, I don’t know, but at least we’ve seen some new people and got them thinking.”

Marshall and Shell, a sophomore international relations and Spanish major with a minor in sustainability, came up with the idea of an Earth Day Summit in January of 2010. Shell said the idea grew quickly and the event got even stronger this year.

Stu Galvis, founder of Boulder Green Properties and certified Climate Project presenter, started the day off by sharing his own environmental awakening. He said he had an idea that he wanted to change the world for the better, but it wasn’t until Hurricane Katrina roared through his hometown of New Orleans that he began putting the pieces together. Seeing how climate change was reshaping the planet first-hand, Galvis was energized to get involved, get educated and then do the thing he does best: share his experiences and his passion.

“You have to decide what it is that you can do and what you want to do,” he told the crowd. “Find a solution, find a way, whether that’s talking to people about sustainability or engineering something that helps us solve a problem.”

In addition to the “three Rs” — reduce, reuse, recycle — Galvis encouraged students to add two more: “Refuse” to buy things that don’t exemplify best environmental practices, and “repair” broken things rather than replacing them.

“The best thing you can do to reduce waste is find something that’s broken and fix it,” he said.

An afternoon panel featured Brianna Borin (BSBA ’09) of Denver’s popular Snooze restaurant, Hillary Dobos of the Governor’s Energy Office, Jamie “Jonny 5” Laurie of the activist rock band The Flobots, and Shannon Spurlock, community initiatives coordinator for Denver Urban Gardens.

Each explained how sustainability fit into their lives, whether it was ensuring that all waste is composted and appliances are energy-rated at a restaurant or helping people grow organic food in their own neighborhood that fed those in need and cut back on the need for commercial agriculture and shipping.

Dobos said something as simple as voting and lobbying government representatives to think sustainably makes a difference.

Laurie said his band mates try to examine their actions and how the music business fits into a changing planet.

“I love local music stores, but do we need all those millions of plastic cases or is online music the answer?” he said. “I like touring overseas and touring in a bus, but is that the best thing? I don’t have the answers.”

But the band does harness the optimism and energy they encourage in their fans by directing it to their activism organization,

“Riding a bus or a bike is people power,” Borin said. “It doesn’t have to be about being in the governor’s office or running all of Denver’s urban gardens. It can be as simple as riding a bus or your bike. That creates demand. It adds buses to the routes or adds bike lanes.”

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