By Kristina Michel
More than 250 guests turned out at the 2015 Sustainability Fest, held Tuesday, Nov. 17, at the Rockwell Pavilion at M.D. Anderson Library and hosted by the Office of Sustainability.
Guests were treated to a variety of demonstrations and activities aimed at showcasing the benefits of a sustainable lifestyle. More than 20 exhibitors, including Facilities Services, Parking and Transportation, ZipCar, Bike Houston, Texas Parks and Wildlife and the Houston Zoo, presented sustainability and environmental initiatives going on at UH, Houston and throughout the state of Texas. The exhibition area was divided into five zones to demonstrate the many facets of sustainability: Health and Wellness, Community, The Built Environment and Economy, Sustainable Transportation and The Natural Environment.
Attendees also had the opportunity to win prizes in random drawings and by participating in social media contests during the event.
“There’s a nice variety of exhibitors,” said Brooke Gowl, a research officer liaison with the Division of Research who attended the festival. “I can see there’s a lot of support for sustainability efforts on campus and throughout the city.”
Many of the attendees were impressed to learn from organizations like Bike Houston, Toxic Shocks, an all-women’s cycling group, and ZipCar about alternative transportation initiatives underway at UH and the city of Houston.
“I really like the tables that talked about Houston’s bike plan,” said Marcela Acosta, an earth science major who attended the festival. “I didn’t know we had so many biking programs in Houston.”
“I went to ZipCar, and I thought it was pretty interesting how they let you get a car and drive it around for a flat rate,” said Ciara McKenzie, a biology major. “I don’t have a car, so it’s a great program for me.”
Other organizations, such as the Houston Zoo and Texas Parks and Wildlife, raised awareness of environmental and conservation efforts to reduce pollution and protect wildlife. Houston Zoo, for example, had a table explaining the importance of pollinator species to our food supply.
“Pollinators are a main source of a lot of our food,” said Elyse Mauk, sustainability coordinator for the Houston Zoo. “Everything from ice cream to tequila wouldn’t come about without animals like bats, hummingbirds, several types of insects and even lemurs.”
The winners of the Creative Expressions Contest were also announced at the event. The contest invited UH students, faculty and staff to submit original written works and visual art pieces that addressed an aspect of sustainability. The winners of the written works category were Laura Lee (first place), April Lim (second place) and Sabrina Mendiola (third place), and the winners of the visual art category were Taylor Chan (first place), Katherine Michael (second place) and Iman Balagam (third place). The first prize winners each received a $100 gift card while the second and third prize winners received $50 and $25 gift cards respectively.
Laura Lee, who won first place in the written category for her short story “Green Beans,” said her entry was inspired by her volunteer work with the Houston Food Bank and studying food deserts and hunger issues while pursuing her sociology degree.
“We are always wasting food, and it’s just like little kids to say, ‘I don’t like that’ and throw it away,” Lee said. “Then, when something bad happens, you kind of wish you had those green beans.”
Visitors were also treated to an exciting acro-yoga demonstration.
“I thought it was really intense,” said UH student Faith Santos about the demonstration.
Sustainability Fest was designed as a zero-waste event. The goal was to save the majority of waste materials from being disposed in a landfill by having them composted, re-used or recycled. By the end of the event, only one small bag of trash was disposed of.