Rhody celebrates sustainability through ‘Earth Day on the Quad’

URI will hold Earth Day on the Quad this spring. PHOTO CREDIT: Lauren Drapeau | Contributing Reporter

The world recognizes April 22 as Earth Day, but the University of Rhode Island is celebrating two days prior on the Quadrangle.

Hosted by Student Action for Sustainability (SAS), this event turns the Quad into a hub for environmentally-conscious student clubs and organizations, according to fourth-year student and SAS President Tori DeJulia.

With a major in general business administration and a minor in sustainability, DeJulia stated that the event is important for both networking and community building. As students walk around the Quadrangle, they can talk about topics they are interested in, as well as learn more about the aspects of sustainability that they are less familiar with.

“It’s great to talk about our environmental problems [and] just have a day where I can focus on my interests,” DeJulia said.

“Earth Day on the Quad” will have displays on how biotoxins affect marine life, ways students can recycle plastic creatively, an explanation of the history of environmental movements and more, according to the event sign-up sheet.

This year will have a big emphasis on #NoRamHungry, a group sponsored by the URI Foundation and Alumni Engagement that collects dining dollar donations for food insecure students, according to DeJulia. #NoRamHungry recently partnered with Grubhub, and hopes to increase awareness of the initiative at the event and “get donations rolling.”

The event will feature educational tables focusing on electric vehicles, microplastics, textiles and the dairy industry, as well as more interactive tables, according to DeJulia.

Students can make their own bags, play “Earth Day Jeopardy,” get free zero-waste soap and get free seeds, according to DeJulia.

By bringing themes of environmental concern to the campus both informationally and interactively, first-year student and future SAS President Dylan Murdock said he believes that people will see the potential of real sustainability at the University. 

“Sustainability will continue to ramp up over the next couple of years on campus,” Murdock said. “Right now, [Earth Day] is more of a symbol of what we strive to be… and showcasing everything that is happening behind the scenes.”

Murdock, who is majoring in sustainable agriculture and food systems, explained that composting is not done on the URI campus, but done by a third party and paid for “by the student dollar.” 

As president of SAS for the Fall 2023 semester, Murdock plans to reorganize all of the sustainability efforts on campus and have a large focus on composting.

SAS hopes to reduce the chemical fertilizer used on URI farms and create a “brand new composting system” for the University. The composting site is able to generate and repurpose 5% of campus waste, and SAS will continue to expand until 100% of the waste is reused.

Another goal of SAS is to begin to merge the student clubs at URI that promote sustainability, according to DeJulia. She believes that forming “one big club” with sub-departments could increase funding and help groups achieve their goals.

In addition to featuring student initiatives such as the Geology Club and the Pharmacology Club, “Earth Day on the Quad” will have local non-profits and student projects, according to the event flier.

Old-Growth Tree Society, a Newport-based nonprofit environmental organization that aims to protect Old-Growth forests, will be present at the event, according to DeJulia.

“All generations can experience biodiversity and the beauty of nature” in native and old-growth forests, according to the Old-Growth Forest Network website. The Society is devoted to preserving these ecosystems, according to DeJulia.

DeJulia said The Narrow River Preservation Association (NRPA) will also be at the event. The Association works to protect and restore the environment and quality of life for all communities within the Narrow (Pettaquamscutt) River Estuary and Watershed, according to the NRPA website.

According to the event sign-up sheet, 22 URI students taking NRS 223: Conservation Biology will have their Earth Day projects displayed at the event. These student projects range from informational, with a demonstration of water filtration in soil, to hands-on, with a game about palm oil and deforestation.

The variety of environmental displays and demonstrations shows the scope of sustainability at URI, according to Murdock.

This Earth Day event has seen the most sign-up and engagement since before the pandemic, and DeJulia is “excited to see the turnout.”

“We want to show people that work is being done on the student level,” Murdock said. “A lot of things are coming, big things, and… you’ll be seeing at every front at URI, between the classes being taught here, the dining halls and new sustainability jobs. And it’s going to be fueled by SAS and our team behind us.”