Reduce, Reuse and Rock on Earth Day Eve

Lex Treinen/Sun Star Reporter
April 24, 2012

The Office of Sustainability offers bikes to students through their Green Bikes program during the earth day celebration on Saturday April 21, 2012 near the Lola Tilly Commons at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Michelle Strehl/Sun Star

Reduce, Reuse and Rock was the theme of the UAF Earth Day Eve celebration on Saturday, April 21 on top of the Lola Tilly Commons. Add ride, rent and ruminate to the day’s themes, in the form of bike powered music, free bike rentals, and cookies, salads and barbecued burgers. Student organizers took advantage of a sunny Saturday to bring students together to celebrate the eve of International Earth Day.

Danceable bluegrass music gave the breezy day a laid-back feel. Musicians such as Good Daze, The Frosty Bottom Boys, Thought Trade, Young Fangs, and others volunteered for the event. The E.T. Barnette String Band was one of the performers. The band members said that they were there because they love to perform, but they are also supportive of sustainability.

“We recycle glass, plastic and songs,” one band member said.

Many were here because of the free food and music. UAF students Kyle Raese and Ewby Kurfasa were content to sit on the picnic tables as others clapped to the music in front of the band.

“I heard some good music and heard there would be some free food,” Kyle said.

Kurfasa, a petroleum engineering student from Ethiopia, has come to the Earth Day events the last few years for the food and the good time, he said.

Community organizations also set up booths to spread the word about upcoming events. At one table, organizers promoted the Clucking Blossom Concert in May. They use the same kind of bicycle-powered energy for their concerts and their smoothie machine.

Amy Nordrum of the Downtown Association of Fairbanks had the option of attending other Earth Day events. She chose to come to the UAF event because the association likes to connect the students with seemingly far-away downtown Fairbanks, and because it sounded more interesting, she said.

The event built on last year’s success, according to Ben Abbott, a Review of Infrastructure, Sustainability and Energy Board member and UAF student who volunteered to spearhead the event. He increased the number of stationary bikes powering the sound system from one to three bikes. Volunteer riders took turns powering the system, pausing intermittently to remove layers. Abbott encouraged riders to maintain the 14.5 Volts they needed to power the board, fidgeted with technical settings and often took to the bike himself.

The launch of the Green Bikes program also attracted students who were lined up well before the official noon release. Unlike last year, all of the approximately 50 bikes released were before the event was over.

Mark Oldmixon, the Green Bikes program supervisor and Outdoor Adventures employee said that The program has been a huge success, according to Mark Oldmixon, Green Bikes program supervisor and Outdoor Adventures employee. Earth Day offered the opportunity to “summer-ize” the bikes and re-release them.

“It’s generally a safe bet that winter is over by Earth Day,” he said

“It’s a huge expense for students to try winter commuting,” Oldmixon said. Despite the success, Oldmixon is doubtful of program expansion considering the costs. The program is financed by UAF Sustainability through the $20 a semester Student Initiative for Renewable Energy Now fee.

Kristine Deleon, another RISE  board member, said that her goal is to try to spread awareness about the sustainability projects around campus.

“I think something we could improve on is letting students know what’s going on,” she said. Though there are about 45 projects going on through UAF Sustainability according to Deleon, most students aren’t aware of them.

Organizers used renewable human energy to power the band and kept energy use to a minimum, obstacles nonetheless arose to creating a truly sustainable event. Food was one area where organizers acknowledged shortcomings. The food was procured through UAF Dining Services. Dining Services gets food through Sodexo, an international food distribution company, and donations from Sam’s Club. Local food is hard to find in the winter, according to Sustainability Director Michele Hebert.

“I love local meat but it’s expensive,” Hebert said as she flipped hot dogs and burgers on the barbecue.

There were usually more than a few dozen attendees on the deck at a time. Though the event was smaller than last year’s due to organizational changes, Hebert said, attendees danced and rode until 3 p.m. to celebrate Earth Day 2012.

Organizer Ben Abbott took perhaps the longest pulls on the stationary bike, but as the beating sun induced sweat to trickle down his face, his mood was by no means darkened.

“We’re here to celebrate the Earth,” he said.


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2 Responses

  1. Chas Jones says:

    Everybody should know that the student fee (formerly referred to as the SIREN Fee) has been officially renamed the Sustainability Fee. Hopefully, the Sun Star will start to use the new official name, which will hopefully better convey the intention of the fee to the students.

  2. Jonathan says:

    The Office of Sustainability’s website still refers to it as the SIREN fee.

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