Beautiful U Day focuses on campus, world environment

Emily Banks

It’s no coincidence the University’s spring cleanup activities take place two days before Earth Day.

Today’s Beautiful U Day includes events that not only spruce up the campus, but also make people more aware of the natural environment and the role they can play in the future of the campus and the Earth.

Coordinator Lori-Anne Williams called the day a “celebration” to highlight the physical and natural resources on campus. It gives students and faculty members a chance to step back and notice the landscape, the river and the buildings, she said.

Today’s activities provide a simple way for students to get involved and improve environmental awareness by picking up trash and sprucing entryways, Williams said.

“People will ask themselves, Did I drop that piece of trash? And we start taking care of each other,” she said.

Minnesota Public Interest Research Group decided to tie two of its issues – fair trade and sustainability – to Beautiful U Day, said MPIRG program coordinator Kate Suchomel.

“Fair trade is important, because we believe that you should be supporting the farmer who’s producing the coffee beans when you drink a cup of coffee,” she said.

To promote fair trade and sustainability, the group will hand out reusable coffee cups at Coffman Union.

“We really encourage people to think about the environment beyond the years that we’re going to enjoy it,” Suchomel said. “To think about what we’re going to leave for our children and our children’s children.”

Williams said she can’t say every student should stop driving and take the bus, or never eat food with disposable wrapping because that would be impractical.

“But there are little things we can do every day, and they’ll add up,” she said.

Williams recommended drinking coffee from a reusable cup, paying attention to the number of napkins needed at a restaurant and recycling.

Williams estimated 3,000 to 4,000 people attended or participated in Beautiful U Day events last year and that about a dozen student groups currently are involved in environmental causes.

“There are lots of students who really care, I think there’s a lot more awareness now,” she said.

Every year she goes through the list of student organizations to find the ones with ties to sustainability and environmental awareness. The student organic farm in St. Paul, Cornercopia, will provide an information table today and plant trees Friday, she said.

Fisheries and wildlife professor Jim Perry said students who are concerned about the environment could become involved in environmental groups on campus or help out on Beautiful U Day.

“You can actually make a change,” he said. “There are a lot of people in these clubs who are doing a heck of a lot of work and making a big contribution to making this a better campus and reducing our off-site impact.”

The campus itself has a lower impact on surrounding areas because of the work of students on campus, he said. And when the water quality improves on campus, it improves elsewhere, too.

The “spring rejuvenation” this year expanded to include University campuses across the state, Williams said. The dates already have been set for the next 10 Beautiful U days.

“The more we talk about these things,” Williams said, “the more people are going to understand what the issues are and how easy it is to live a more sustainable life.”