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Celebrating green


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Over the past four decades, April has become the “greenest” month of the year.

Today marks the 40th anniversary of Earth Day, and the entire month has seen its share of environmentally conscious activities all around campus. From sorting waste to planting trees, some are making a great effort to give the University of Iowa its own eco-friendly face-lift.

The Pentacrest will be the site of yet another popular activity in sustainability. A Bike to Class/Work event will be held from 1-4 p.m. today, coordinated by the UI Environmental Coalition and Engineers for a Sustainable World.

On Earth Day 2008, UI President Sally Mason challenged the community to improve its environmental performance, committing to achieving great gains in academics, energy conservation, green building, responsible purchasing, and other issues.

The Office of Sustainability was created as a part of that mission, and the group has taken steps since in assisting several organizations around campus in their environmental endeavors. Director Liz Christiansen said that many of the events organized are primarily student-driven, with the Office of Sustainability doing anything it can to support the projects.

“We try to put the emphasis on encouraging students to organize events — that’s how you build leadership among students and help them pursue their own interests in the areas of sustainability,” she said. “I’m very proud of the work we’ve done with student groups and mentoring individual students.”

Mike Loots, who helped organize Bike to Class/Work, joined the Environmental Coalition during his first year at the UI. Though there was only a handful of members at the time, the heightened sense of environmental responsibility that spread throughout campus helped give the group its focus.

“It’s given us a place to gather and talk about what needs to happen in the future and what we can do right now to be more sustainable on campus,” he said. “It is also a great link between students and administration.”

This year’s Bike to Class/Work is a solid improvement upon last year’s festivities, he said. Because the response to past programs was positive, the group took extra steps to ensure a better event. The program will include several local businesses offering bike tune-ups and tips — 30th Century Bicycle, World of Bikes, and the Broken Spoke are among the main businesses in attendance. Free smoothies will also be provided.

“These stores were thrilled by the opportunity to come to campus and chat with prospective bicyclists, those who already bike, and the folks in between,” Loots said.

While the event is centered on riding a bike as the environmentally friendly alternative to driving a car, there are other incentives to becoming more enthusiastic about biking. Loots said the biking community is one of great diversity, and because every bike shop in Iowa City has its own personality, bikers of all skill level and style are sure to find a fit.

“My hope is for people just to have fun,” Loots said. “Combining that with smoothies and the element of the outdoors, we can highlight what a good time it is and to be sustainable as well.”

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