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College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Students organize annual campus-wide Sustainability Fair

Sustainability is another one of those buzzwords that has been introduced to the vernacular without much explanation about what it really means. The convoluted answer can be described as a way for the people of the planet to find a way to live more harmoniously with the biotic and abiotic elements of our environment. Unfortunately, it is not a question easily answered.

Sustainability is not just learning how to live with nature, but also about maintaining a healthy middle ground with all aspects of our world. This can mean sustainable economics or population and even sustainable construction. Sustainability is a concept that encompasses every aspect of our lives as humans on this planet and if we want to continue to inhabit this space we need to begin by looking at the world differently.

We can no longer sustain a disposable lifestyle in this country. Why would the products we use for the least amount of time have packages that last thousands of years? Why would we continue to use a energy source that is not renewable? It is questions like these that need solutions, not just answers. (From the Sustainability web site).

What is encouraging is that UCD Sustainability Minor and CoPIRG students have teamed together to hold an annual Sustainability Fair on campus. The fair was first held in Fall 2006 and sponsored by the Student Advisory Committee to the Auraria Board (SACAB). Then, in 2008, CoPIRG became the event coordinator; the rest is history.

Last year, students Virginia Till (Affair Coordinator) and Shirley Bednarski (Business Outreach Coordinator) organized the event. With the goal of the fair being to educate the community about social, economic and environmental aspects of sustainability, Till and Bednarski knew they had to whittle down a complicated topic to something that could be easily understood and welcomed by those unfamiliar with the concept of sustainability. Volunteers worked to find ways to help attendees find a niche for themselves in the overarching field of sustainability, be it environmentalism or socio-economic issues.

This Fair could not have been so well oiled if not for the assistance of Sustainability Minor students. The minor is available to anyone, but encourages students to have a forward-thinking mindset that aids changing their community and lifestyle, both. While the focus of the minor is specific, students also glean information from team-taught professors in the hard sciences, environmental sciences, communications and public policy.

The Sustainability Fair is quite a sight to behold. The last fair touted approximately 2,000 attendees, with 50 exhibitors and six bands. The music stage equipment was run by a solar powered generator, and various related clubs and student groups displayed their latest and greatest sustainable offerings.

This coming fall, Bednarski will head fair operations with co-coordinator Sara Wells. The goal for this year's event is to continue to create continuity and relevance for attendees. Shirley is looking forward for what upcoming fairs will have to offer; "I went into this thinking I'd never be able to do it and then realized I have a passion for it. It's a labor of love."

Till also speaks to the value of the experience, "I have found coming back as a non-traditional student, that the on-campus experience is totally different when you commit to an activity like this. The support of the staff, department and their overall excitement has been really positive."

Both coordinators were pleased that the fair allowed them both to see the humanities that the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences teaches, in real-life. The interdisciplinary coordination and the intensely meaningful time spent created something to be proud of. Last year, just some of the exhibitors included: Compost Club, Eco Products, EPA, Andrew Romanoff, Mile High Business Alliance, among others.

In the words of these women, Sustainability is an ideology that needs to start on the individual level. No man can move a mountain, but he can start by picking up a pebble. Saving the world can be done one individual at a time, we just need to start somewhere.