Casey Marley - News Editor

EarthFest 3TreeCampus RGBUAB sustainability efforts was named Tree Campus USA (Photo by Casey Marley). On April 9, students lined up on the Campus Green to meet vendors from eco-friendly area businesses that discussed their initiatives while serving food to UAB Earth Month Festival attendees.

The Festival, sponsored by Julie Price, UAB’s Coordinator of Sustainability and the student organization Green Initiative, included booths from local businesses like Redemptive Cycles and East Lake Farmer’s Market, and organizations like Alabama Environmental Council and the Keep Birmingham Beautiful Commission. Students also got to sit inside eco friendly cars ranging from the Chevy Volt to the Tesla Model S.

“I love seeing the fact that we’ve come so far from the industrial age,” said freshman Eli Foree, who attended.

While students enjoyed the free ice-cream from Alabama Power and coveting $70,000 electric cars, the story behind the Festival was the real purpose of the campus celebration: preparation for Earth Day 2015.

Beginning on April 22, 1970, Earth Day was created by the Earth Day Network as a means to launch the environmental movement in America, leading to legislation like the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act. While Earth Day may seem like a trite nod to hugging trees, its inception in 1970 was a call to action in addressing ignorance to problems that over 100 years of industrialization had caused: heavily polluted rivers, smog laden cities and rapid disappearance of wildlife, according to the EDN website.

According to a 1968 report of air pollution from Public Health Reports, the Jefferson County Department of Health measured the city’s visibility, which at times was restricted from less than six miles to even less than one mile due to air pollution. The report continued to say that in 1968, Birmingham had double the particle emissions of Chattanooga, Tenn.’s 204 million pounds per year, a city that in 1969 was named America’s most polluted city by the EPA.

Today, Birmingham’s air quality has improved thanks to Earth Conscious legislation created in the 1970’s, like the Clean Air Act, which has set air quality standards that cities must meet.

Since UAB’s founding in 1969, the university has also aided in cleaning Birmingham’s air through an “incredible partnership with the city in sustainability,” according to Price.
As the major contributor to the city’s economy and the state’s largest employer, UAB’s sustainable operations and initiatives has “ripple effects throughout the city and state as [the] students, faculty, staff and business/non-profit partners take what they see here back to their homes and communities,” she said.

While UAB’s steps to sustainability have improved Birmingham as Price noted, the University and the city can still use its resources in a more efficient way to help future generations by “giving people better ways to reduce energy and water use, recycle and get things fixed instead of buying new,” she said.

Rachel Thompson, the president of UAB’s Green Initiative, echoes Price’s sentiment. “In recent years, UAB has made some notable advancements in becoming more sustainable. As a campus, we are generating less waste, recycling more, and saving more energy than we ever have before, which is fantastic,” she said. “There is still room for us to grow in that aspect, though, which is why UAB students need to know –and care about– what sustainability means; the more we know, the more we can encourage UAB administration to continue making UAB ‘greener.’”

According to Thompson, the Green Initiative is moving “beyond advocacy to implementation,” and with help from UAB’s Sustainability Fund will be placing recycling bins on every floor of UAB’s dormitories in fall 2015.