Photo by Sal Ingram

The aroma of local organic cuisine and sounds of classic tunes coming from the 11th annual Earth Summit drew many inside.

The Student Environmental Center (SEC) hosted the event on March 3 in UC Santa Cruz’s College Nine and Ten Multipurpose Room. The mission: to educate the UCSC community about sustainability by showcasing student sustainability projects and interactive workshops. The Earth Summit also featured live music and guest speakers including Santa Cruz Mayor Don Lane and Eric Holt-Gimenez, the Food First/Institute for Food and Development Policy executive director.

Fourth-year Eliza Milio, who heads the SEC under the Chancellor’s Undergrad Internship Program (CUIP), played a central role in organizing the Earth Summit.

“We are providing a space for students to learn about sustainability through workshops,” she said. “We want to celebrate sustainability goals and give students a place to hang out, listen to music and learn.”

The summit began with words from Lane and a performance by the North Pacific String Band, before breaking off into the first of two rounds of student-led workshops.

Milio said the workshops, which ranged in topic from “Green Purchasing” to “Take Back the Tap,” were integral to raising awareness about sustainability.

“Workshops give the opportunity to get your hands dirty and to see what other students are doing to work towards sustainability,” Milio said.

A 2011 poll by Sierra Magazine ranked UCSC seventh in sustainability out of a poll of 120 campuses nationwide, citing “The eschewing of dining trays and bottled water, and the Banana Slugs’ fight against trash” as part of the reason behind the high ranking.

Third-year Goldie Mitton led a workshop titled “Five-Step Planning Process,” which focused on providing students with the necessary tools to begin sustainability projects.

“The process can be applied intuitively to anything and is a great foundation for starting sustainability projects,” Mitton said.

Mitton said the the workshop was inspired by the “Blueprint for a Sustainable Campus,” a document that focuses on enacting change in areas including transportation, water usage and environmental justice.

“If you want an effective sustainability project, you are going to need organization and a team, which people sometimes forget because they are so eager to start,” Mitton said.

Fourth-year Carrie McKee, who volunteered at the event, said student awareness and participation is something that will benefit future sustainability projects at UCSC.

“I think we are a leading school in sustainability and that there are really great sustainability organizations on campus that are not only engaging students but achieving goals,” McKee said.

One of the specific goals McKee pointed to is the sustainability plan UCSC plans to implement in the future, which aims to fully integrate sustainability into campus structure, planning and daily life by 2020. McKee also noted that continuing work with the UCSC farm is a result of efforts on behalf of students and the community to make UCSC more sustainable.

“Our sustainability organizations have never settled, and are always pushing the envelope to demand a greener campus,” McKee said.