By Nick Schleh, Staff Writer
The Office of Sustainability teamed up with USM eco-reps, Sodexo and the Student Activities Committee for the first ever Sustainability Fair last Friday in Brooks Dining Hall. Students, faculty and alumni, gathered together for the collective goal of creating a more sustainable campus.
The event is the beginning to the university’s long-term goal of having a carbon-neutral campus by the year 2040 said Chelsea Malacara, head of the Office of Sustainability.
Tadd Stone, general manager of Sodexo, said that Sodexo is using this event to launch their “Green Wave” initiative, which includes the release of their reusable food storage containers for students who cannot always make scheduled meal times. Stone added that if a student uses a Green Wave tray, they will receive a discount on their meal as packaging charges are removed.
The Sustainability Fair had activity tables for students to make eco-friendly laundry detergent and homemade air fresheners curated by university eco-reps. Eco-Maine had representatives engaged with students discussing recycling practices and providing general information. The Department of Environmental Science had tables set up to educate students on how an individual can make a difference by being more environmentally conscious. Students crunched for time could get some cardio in while eating healthy, thanks to the bicycle powered smoothie bar. Demonstrations and multiple vendors were also present.
Sodexo, who catered the event, has a global goal of purchasing 20 percent of their products from local sources near the universities they serve. As of this fall, Stone announced that the Maine branch of Sodexo has slightly surpassed their goal and has 22 percent of their products sourced within 175 miles of campus, including the delicious Bixby bars made in Rockland. The fair was an example of the stated ambition of Sodexo and the university to provide local options for consumers.
Both the Office of Sustainability and Sodexo are hoping to make this an annual event as they believe it to be a catalyst for change. Malacara is hoping that the fair and future events will help raise awareness in new students, and to ensure them that every individual can help make a difference in making USM an environmentally conscious institution. “Working in sustainability can be a little depressing at times,” Malacara said, “its events like these that get you jazzed up, knowing a difference was made” while students were learning of the harmful effects of rain runoff.
As students poured into Brooks during the lunch rush, they were greeted by friendly and passionate eco-reps providing information and offering samples of locally sourced food. Students learned how to be more conscious of their waste and habits. It was an event that did not educate in the standard lecture form you find on college campuses, but by direct conversation. Individuals could be seen locked into discussion at each table, with curiosity being the driving force. A popular table at the fair was Metro’s, who were explaining the positive effects of public transportation along with handing out free swag.
If you wish to keep up to date with future events hosted by the Office of Sustainability, including the Portland Sustainability Fair being held in the Woodbury campus center September 12, the donation-based “Free Store” for clothing and the pop-up electronic repair shop, you can follow them on various social media platforms under Sustainability_USM.