Kent State Goes Green at Earth Fest

Kent State’s distinctive annual Earth Day program brings life and laughter to Risman Plaza

Birds flew overhead, black squirrels darted around and a cool, calm breeze swept across Risman Plaza on April 22 as dozens of organizations assembled their tables for Earth Fest, an interactive Earth Day event.  

The entire campus was in full bloom, with the sun shining brightly across the lawn as students gathered on The K.

Hosted by the Earth Month Planning Committee and the Office of Sustainability, Earth Fest was one of many distinctive programs held throughout April to celebrate the planet and teach the Kent State University community how to better care for our natural spaces.  

Earth Fest 24 student orgs

Kent State’s Manager of Sustainability Melanie Knowles knows that collaborative events like Earth Fest help propel the sustainability movement forward.  

“One person's actions and decisions can't be the solution for our plan. We need to all be on the same team. When we are, we make amazing strides. It's better for our environment. It's better for our health. It's better for our communities,” Knowles said.  

Some of the event’s activities included live music, giveaways, informational resources, prize giveaways and vendors from Haymaker Farmers' Market.  

Earth Fest 24 Haymaker's Market

Andrew Rome, director of Haymaker Farmers' Market, was excited that the market could join this event to share elements of the community with students.  

“There's something at the market for everyone. We know some students aren't buying lettuce and cooking with it in their dorm rooms, but there are a lot of prepared foods here,” Rome said. “You can buy fresh flowers at the market or plants for your dorm room too. I think there's enough different vendors that there's something for everybody.”

Not only is visiting the market enjoyable, Rome said it can be sustainable too.  

“A few years ago, we heard a lot about “food miles” or the distance food travels before it gets to you. While that is important, it’s also about how direct your connection is to the people making your food,” Rome said.  

Food distribution can be a long process, but Rome believes the market can solve some of these issues.  

“When you buy your food from the grocery store, it's gone through the distributor, and a warehouse and a packer; a lot of hands before it gets to you. You get to have a direct connection to the farmers, the bakers, the vendors making your food when you get it locally,” Rome said.  

Rome said the market is also a great way students can learn more about where their food comes from.  

“There’s also environmental accountability. You get to ask questions like ‘How are you raising your animals?’ or ‘What are you spraying on your fields?’” Rome said. “Having that local connection is better for the economy and better for the environment. And you get better tasting healthier products too!”

Earth Fest 24 student org

This event aimed to increase awareness of on- and off-campus sustainability, engage students in educational activities and inspire them to act in the sustainability movement. Several university departments, local park systems, student groups and local vendors gathered to share this message with attendees.  

While the day’s festivities were filled with joy and high spirits, Knowles knows that living a sustainable lifestyle can sometimes feel overwhelming and shares some advice.  

“I think one thing to remember is that we are all in this together. Anything that you do is still an improvement. When we all add those incremental steps, and we work together to change those systems, that's when we really get transformational change,” Knowles said. “So, you don't have to bear the whole burden. Just do the best that you can, whatever that looks like today.”

This event is just one way community members and the university work together to promote sustainability.  

Earth Fest 24 rain barrels

“Getting together today, with all of these different organizations, working on all these different parts, is just amazing. We get to see what everybody is doing together,” Knowles said.  

Kent State hosts Campus Sustainability Month in October and participates in competitions like Race to Zero Waste throughout the year to continue to inspire and motivate the Kent State community to live sustainably and create change.  

“Obviously we still have Earth Day, but we found there were so many people who wanted to do so many things now that April is Earth Month,” Knowles said. “I think that the longer it's in front of you, the more ingrained it becomes. That’s when the habits form.”  

Learn more about the Office of Sustainability.

POSTED: Wednesday, April 24, 2024 11:47 AM
Updated: Thursday, April 25, 2024 11:21 AM
Maddie Goerl, Flash Communications
Bob Christy & Maddie Goerl