Earth Week takes hold at Parkland

Zach Trueblood

Staff Writer

 

Earth Day was celebrated on April 22 this year. Parkland expanded the Earth Day celebration to span the whole week of April 21-24. Informative activities were held to highlight sustainability here on Parkland’s campus and to educate anyone about the green initiative at the college.

Tuesday, April 21 was a Prairie and Pond Work Day. Wednesday April 22, was another Prairie Work Day. Free Pandamonium Doughnuts were also given away in the college center. These doughnuts were glazed with berries from one of the invasive species being removed. Thursday April 23, there was a table set up in the Student Union with facts and samples of how students can eat organic foods on a budget.

Hilary Valentine coordinated the events of the week. Valentine works in the Marketing and Public Relations Department here at Parkland. She’s been involved ever since Parkland started celebrating Earth Day/ Week events back in 2009. She explained some of the events of Earth Week and the reason for them here at Parkland.

“This week we hosted two prairie/ pond workdays, which involves removing invasive species – primarily honeysuckle, which is growing like wildfire around our pond and choking out more desirable woodland plants, and making it difficult to access the pond,” Valentine explained. “Parkland has a prairie restoration area which has many native plants like rattlesnake master, coneflower, prairie dock, compass plants, and prairie grasses. An additional acre was planted with prairie seed last fall directly across from the Union. Watch for these prairie areas to turn into beautiful flowering fields that provide habitat for wildlife and support pollinators like bees and butterflies.”

Valentine also explained a few events that were coordinated by Activity Manager, Chaya Sandler. One such event was held in the college center and was the free giveaway of Autumn Berry glazed Pandamonium Doughnuts. The event was a success and the doughnuts were gone quickly. The Autumn Berry glaze provided a sweet but tangy flavor on top of the doughnut.

The other event was an informative display table on how to eat organically on a budget. Sandler had samples of organic apples, peppers, chocolate, carrots, dressing and applesauce. All the items were from Champaign’s Common Ground Food Co-op. Fliers were available and Sandler explained how easy it is to eat healthily and organically for not all that much money.

Earth Week also offered a few additional recycling opportunities in addition to Parkland’s regular recycling program. Boxes were placed throughout the college for anyone to recycle old batteries. The Dental Hygiene students also offered recycling for dental hygiene products like toothpaste and toothbrushes.

Valentine is very passionate about sustainability here on campus and gave insight into just a few of the many ways Parkland tries to remain environmentally friendly.

“We continue to offer these events in spring and fall because we feel it is so important to remind everyone that we are citizens and stewards of the earth. At Parkland, we are a public community college and I think have a true obligation to manage our natural and built resources with a minimal environmental impact. How well we do that I’m not sure, but I know we are always striving to improve it,” Valentine stated. “We installed solar panels to generate some of our electrical needs at the Tony Noel Building. We teach environmental biology and plant biology classes and those students have often participated in our prairie workdays. We want Parkland students and staff to know that these concepts are important, and that sustainable principles are valued at Parkland.”

One of the biggest hits of Earth Week this year was undoubtedly the Pandamonium Doughnut giveaway in the College Center. These doughnuts featured an Autumn Berry glaze and the Forager and Founder of Autumn Berry Inspired, LLC, Dustin Kelly was there to help pass them out.

Most people have actually never heard of the Autumn Berry and would be curious to know its origins. It is technically an invasive species but Kelly has worked diligently at providing uses for the berries and changing the public mindset on invasive species.

“Autumn Berries are the fruit of the autumn olive tree (Elaeagnus umbellata), a bushy shrub native to Asia that was propagated in the U.S. for over half a century, and then was declared invasive,” Kelly said. “Autumn Berry may be the single most productive and nutritious wild source of fruit in our part of the world and yet it is entirely absent from our commercial food system.  The sweet-tart flesh surrounds a single soft, fibrous hull containing a seed kernel which can be pressed to produce a quality, edible oil.   The berry has been found to have an exceptional amount of the antioxidant phytonutrient, Lycopene, containing 17 times as much of this valuable cancer fighting nutrient as tomatoes.”

Kelly has been working with Pandamonium Doughnuts over the past year and offering the Autumn Berry doughnuts. He is also a vendor at the Urbana Market on the Square. His company also wants to help any landowners that are affected by the presence of the Autumn Olive.

“Municipalities across the U.S. work to control the spread of the species at great expense.  Land owners lose access to their land when this tree establishes itself.  That is where my company, Autumn Berry Inspired, seeks to empower both public land management and private land owners with a new process to pay for the removal of the tree with profits from the sale of this high-quality super-berry,” Kelly said.

The values that are at the core of events such as Earth Week, also strongly affect many students here on campus. One such student, Nursing Major Alexis Kriska, was able to give some of her own feedback. She explained some of the ways she herself is environmentally conscious.

“I recycle at home, I try to buy used clothes when possible unless there is an event where I need something specific, I don’t leave water running especially while brushing my teeth, we open our blinds every morning to let the light in and don’t turn lights on until it gets darker out, keep the thermostat at a reasonable temperature, I try to take short showers when I can, I do not use a dishwasher as you have to rinse them first might as well just wash them, we hang things to dry in our basement if wrinkles don’t matter,” Kriska said.

Kriska also believes that, as a college, Parkland has a duty to be environmentally conscious. She believes the college is making an effort in recycling and energy and water saving but there is still more that can be done.

“Add to the different types of items that can be recycled instead of just paper and plastic. Add glass, electronics to that list. Solar panels, is it possible to put in bikes that generate power and allow students to ride on them for fun between classes as a double initiative to improve student health and decrease energy cost? There are a lot of possibilities these are just naming a few,” Kriska added.

There are many ways for us to lessen our impact on the environment. Learning is generally the first step. Parkland offers various classes in agriculture and environmental sciences. Simply ask your counselor/ advisor about them. For more information on a sustainable campus, email sustainablecampus@parkland.edu.