Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
June 18, 2024

Organizations celebrate Earth Day through various sustainability initiatives

By AIMEE CHO | April 22, 2023



Students engage in sustainability-related activities at Earth Fest.

To advocate for environmental sustainability on campus, community members held many events in celebration of Earth Day on April 22. 

The Office of Sustainability launched Earth Week from April 16 to 21, which offered a series of opportunities to engage in sustainable practices. The celebration kicked off with a screening of 2040, a documentary on climate solutions, and was followed by an outdoor yoga session and a nature walk around campus.

Earth Week was concluded with Earth Fest, a tabling event co-hosted by the Office of Sustainability and Sustainable Hopkins Innovative Projects (SHIP). The event featured Hopkins student organizations and local Baltimore vendors who shared their efforts in pursuing sustainability.

In an interview with The News-Letter, freshman Srigouri Oruganty, an engagement intern at the Office of Sustainability, stressed the value of collaboration between different sustainability initiatives.

"It's always a challenge trying to get everyone on board, but everybody wanted to be involved in doing something sustainable,” she said. “I'm really happy that people have a chance to learn a little bit more about how they can be sustainable on campus." 

At Earth Fest, SHIP organized a glass bottle upcycling workshop, where participants created room décor with used, glass bottles collected around campus.

Junior Emily Sperring, the president of SHIP, outlined the motivations behind the workshop in an interview with The News-Letter.

“Glass isn't collected in a lot of places on campus. It can be recycled, but it's just going to landfills,” she said. “Especially since a lot of places like Baltimore only have single stream recycling, things that can actually be recycled end up being contaminated and going to landfills.”

SHIP also held a pop-up thrift shop, an event arranged twice a semester. The organization collected gently-used clothes in donation drives and sold them. The funds were donated to local environmental nonprofits, such as Blue Water Baltimore and the Chesapeake Audubon Society.

“Thrifting is becoming more trendy, and students are really happy to participate in it, but they don't always have the resources to go out thrifting in Baltimore,” Sperring said. “When we have these donation drives, they have the opportunity to give their supplies to Goodwill, and get new things as well, without it being a ton of additional effort.”

In an interview with The News-Letter, sophomore Max Carroll, the project manager of the SHIP thrift shop, noted that the organization plans to collect dorm supplies and clothes for future thrift shop events during the move-out period.

To celebrate Earth Day online, SHIP also introduced the Green Week Challenge in which students formed teams to participate in sustainable activities, such as sorting waste, to earn points and win prizes. 

The Sustainability Leadership Council (SLC) organized its fourth annual symposium on April 5 to bring together community members from different schools who are interested in environmental issues. 

In an interview with The News-Letter, Tanvi Gadhia, the program manager at the Office of Sustainability who works closely with the SLC, emphasized the importance of connecting different viewpoints. 

“Oftentimes, there are people working on common issues from different disciplines,” she said. “Because sustainability is such a holistic topic, it requires multidisciplinary perspectives in order to address the problems and come up with solutions that are taking a lot of different topics into account.”

The Ralph O’Connor Sustainable Energy Institute (ROSEI) draws attention to the more specific topic of sustainable energy. On April 21, ROSEI celebrated both Earth Day and the institute’s second anniversary, during which the ROSEI leadership council provided updates on research into their four pillars – carbon, storage, wind and grid.

In an interview with The News-Letter, Susanna Thon, an associate professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and a member of the ROSEI leadership council, acknowledged that ROSEI supports sustainable-energy-related initiatives beyond academic research. For instance, they have facilitated the offering of the new Energy minor program in the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences this school year.

Calling attention to the issue of food system sustainability, Hopkins Dining held the Picnic for the Planet event on April 20 to highlight the use of locally and ethically-sourced ingredients. The team also holds regular sustainability events such as the monthly Local Flavors and the weekly Meatless Monday. 

Graham Browning, the sustainability manager of Hopkins Dining, stated in an email to The News-Letter that Hopkins Dining is partnering with local distributors that source sustainably-grown produce and humanely-raised animal products. The dining team is also trying to establish measures to reduce food waste.

“Our first step as a dining team was to ensure that all of our in-house packaging was compostable and that it stays that way,” Browning wrote. “We also implemented a policy that only allows diners to take two to-go containers, which has drastically cut down on the amount of waste generated by our dining facilities.”

Another program that is working towards reducing food waste is the free food alert. Students can subscribe to their website to receive an email alert or download their app to get notifications of free food available on campus. Any event organizer can post information about leftover free food after verifying a Hopkins email address.

The program was originally an idea developed by a group of Hopkins alumni in 2017 alongside Leana Houser, waste reduction and recycling manager in the Office of Sustainability. The free food alert is now a company unaffiliated with Hopkins.

In an interview with The News-Letter, Houser explained that the project addresses food insecurity issues on campus as well.

“Not only are we reducing food waste and avoiding greenhouse gas emissions, we realize that we can't ignore the fact that there are people experiencing food insecurity on the Homewood campus,” she said.

Houser added that free food alert aims to expand the service to campuses beyond Homewood — such as Peabody, East Baltimore and Washington D.C. — by next semester.

Teressa Healy, communications and engagement specialist in the Office of Sustainability, expressed her enthusiasm for the various Earth Day initiatives happening around campus in an interview with The News-Letter.

“This is the first year post-pandemic that we're hosting all of these in-person events,” she said. “It’s a really great way for students that aren't already involved in sustainability to learn about our efforts and the different facets of sustainability.”

Organizations are also planning events beyond Earth Day.

Students for Environmental Action (SEA) will host Planet Runaway, its annual sustainable fashion show that features recycled old clothes, on May 7. The event aims to challenge the fast fashion industry and inspire creative ideas to upcycle clothes. All clothes are collected from students, and any unused items are donated to local shelters.

Sophomore Christina Fahmy, a SEA officer, highlighted that SEA aspires to partner with other sustainability groups for more environment-friendly initiatives in an interview with The News-Letter.

“We hope to engage with some of the local businesses and sustainable clubs on campus,” she said. “For example, last year we did a giveaway with Taara Projects, which is a Hopkins, student-run, sustainable clothing brand.”

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