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Main Quad goes green: Student groups advocate for climate protection

To celebrate Earth Day, the Student Sustainability Leadership Council hosted Green Quad Day on Friday, where sustainability-focused RSOs and community groups gathered at Anniversary Plaza and interacted with students in a manner similar to the Quad Day.

Organizations ranged from the Beekeeping Club, an RSO dedicated to maintaining a healthy environment for pollinators in the community, to the Institute for Sustainability, Energy and the Environment. In addition to celebrating Earth Day, the organizations showed students the many ways they can keep the environment clean.

Maddie Burke, a senior at LAS and president of the Beekeeping Club, said the club taught students about the importance of bees.

“We want to create a fun outlet for people to not only see how cool bees are, but also educate people on the importance of pollinators to the environment,” Burke said.

The Beekeeping Club was founded in 2017 and has had three beehives around campus that members check out. During the tapings, members participated in hands-on beekeeping activities where they collected honey, some of which was distributed on Green Quad Day.

“There’s an incredible amount of things that bees do for us, and they provide so many necessities for the environment,” Burke said. “So it’s really cool to be able to house bees and educate people about the importance of pollinators.”

On Green Quad Day, students could sign up to participate in environmental research with iSEE. iSEE has been a hub for sustainability on campus and has hosted a variety of different programs, courses and research with the goal of becoming a global model for sustainability.

One initiative that iSEE helped create was the Illinois Climate Action Plan, also known as iCAP. The main objective of iCAP has been to follow the University’s plan to be carbon neutral by 2050.

April Wendling, communications specialist at iSEE, said the institute tries to make environmental information accessible to all students.

“We’re running a series of classes for students to put the data we get from the environment into writing that people want to read,” Wendling said. “A lot of people read about the environment, and sometimes it’s too depressing or too dense to read. So we publish our students’ work in our magazine every semester to make reading about climate change more digestible.

Some organizations have also used Green Quad Day to remind the University of what they can do for the environment.

The University’s Young Democratic Socialist America Chapter is an organization dedicated to advocating for the needs of workers and students through sweeping changes in the political system. This semester, YDSA has focused on pushing the University to divest from fossil fuel companies.

Diego Lopez, a freshman at LAS and a member of the YDSA, said the club wants to help raise awareness of the importance of moving away from fossil fuels.

“We’re asking the University to stop investing in fossil fuels and start investing in students,” Lopez said. “Especially with Earth Day, it’s a really important time to spread the word.”

Earth Day was also honored by Students for environmental concerns. On Friday, the organization organized a climate strike in which protesters marched from Alma Mater to Foellinger Auditorium.

In addition to celebrating the Earth, the organization wanted to remind University officials of past demands made to address climate change. Over the past decade, the organization has worked to hold the University accountable for Illinois’ climate action plan. They also facilitated the University’s divestment from fossil fuel companies.

Shallon Malfeo, LAS Senior and President of SECS, spoke about the many accomplishments the organization has made so far. One such achievement was their collaboration with other student organizations to write a detailed letter to the University administration that demanded divestment from fossil fuel companies.

They also participated in the creation of Solidarity Gardens CU, a collaborative project aimed at reducing food insecurity in the community.

As for future projects, SECS is working on building a green roof on campus. They continued to raise awareness about climate change.

“I’m proud to be here to celebrate our hard work, and it gives me hope that this movement will grow,” Malfeo said. “Whatever your passions for the environment, your efforts matter, whether it’s art, music, poetry, agriculture, engineering, urban planning and design, passion and hope are which keeps us going.”

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