Picnic raises student awareness of Sustainability Office

Students played games, received promotional items and made smoothies by cycling among other activities.
The MU Office of Sustainability organizes a Tiger Tailgate Recycling where volunteers can promote recycling at game day tailgates. Courtesy of Mizzou Office of Sustainability Facebook

The MU Sustainability Office threw its first Sustainability Picnic outside its office on the west side of the Virginia Avenue Parking Structure on Thursday.

In an attempt to raise awareness and garner student participation for the Sustainability Office’s various programs, the picnic offered food, different activities and information about sustainability.

“We thought this would be a great place for incoming students to come in, find out about sustainability at Mizzou and also mingle with other like-minded students,” MU Sustainability Manager Raghu Raghavan said. “So that's mainly building connections, that's the primary goal. But the main features are food, conservation and awareness.”

Arianna Plaza, a freshman nutrition and exercise physiology major, said that such connections and interactions were a highlight of the event.

“I've been doing homework all week, so I wanted to get out,” Plaza said. “It was really close to the dorm, and I love the people that are in it and I love what it stands for too.”

Since much of the MU community may not be aware of the Sustainability Office, the central aim of the picnic was to familiarize students with the existence of the office as well as its mission.

“Our number one goal is we really just want to let students to know that we’re here,” Brock Andreasen, junior environmental sciences major and MU Sustainability Office Intern, said. “We want everyone to know that we have a presence on campus, and we want students to feel comfortable to come and talk to us with any questions about sustainability.”

Since the office is located in a parking garage, Andreasen said that it might not be the most comfortable setting for students to come in. The picnic offered a more inviting setting to introduce students to the Sustainability Office.

Many of the picnic’s activities tied into the broader cause of the Sustainability Office. For example, attendees could pedal on a stationary bike to make themselves smoothies while learning about the Mizzou Bike Share program. The event had a Plinko game where students could win prizes like key chains and t-shirts with information about the Sustainability Office. Also, rather than offering water in disposable cups, the event gave out free, reusable water bottles that went unclaimed in the lost and found and that were professionally cleaned at Sabai.

“One of the main things we do is we're trying to promote sustainability anyway we can,” Andreasen said. “By doing events like these where students are coming to our office- we're all interacting, we’re talking about sustainability, we’re talking about our programs, what we do- that's just a great forward momentum project so we get people coming here.”

The programs that the Sustainability Office currently offers include the Mizzou Bike Share, where students can rent bikes for free; the Bike Resource Center, where mechanics will provide free service to anyone who brings his or her bike to Speakers Circle during their operating hours; Tiger Tailgate Recycling, where volunteers can help promote recycling at tailgating lots; and a Farmers’ Market, where local vendors sell goods on Lowry Mall during certain fall and spring months. The next Farmers’ Market is scheduled for Sept. 20.

For these programs and the various other events the Sustainability Office is involved with, student volunteers are needed. Raghavan emphasized the necessity of student involvement in sustainability.

“We like to think in this office that sustainability is something that the students cannot avoid anymore,” Raghavan said. “We're here to support the students as they look for solutions to addressing the sustainability issues, not just on campus, but in the broader community as a whole.”

For Tyler Reeder, a sophomore nutrition and exercise physiology major, his attendance to the picnic was largely based around his interest in the cause. Though the picnic was the first experience with the Sustainability Office for both Reeder and Plaza, the two said they would be interested in being further involved with the office.

“I love the environment,” Reeder said. “I think it's super important to take care of it and to think about the people who are coming after us. I feel like now is a time more than ever when we really need people to help conserve the environment and do our best to make sure our carbon print is the lowest it can be. I think this is more of a first step to doing that.”

Edited by Morgan Smith | mosmith@themaneater.com

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