Kadence Keys performing “Between the Trees” as entertainment for Eco Fest. Photos by Maria Cordova

A spirited ambition to reenvision and revolutionize environmental justice fueled the planning and participation of this year’s Rachel Carson College Eco  Fest. 

The annual Earth Day event centered on interdisciplinary environmental lessons hosted by 19 local environmental organizations. 

“[Eco Fest] brings environmental organizations who are focused on all different areas of the environment together,” said second-year student and Earth Week intern Elizabeth Leece. “It really brings sustainable solutions in a place not just focused on biodiversity, or food security or food justice. It involves a lot of different efforts.”

The Earth Week Team arranged booths for organizations in a semicircle around UC Santa Cruz’s West Field and set up a stage for two on-campus bands, Kadence Keys and Quadroon and the Goons.

Eat for the Earth, a Santa Cruz-based organization focused on altering people’s diets to ensure sustainability on Earth, tabled at Eco Fest to share eco-friendly food and information to the crowd. Committee to Bridge the Gap, a local nonprofit group focusing on nuclear policy and waste prevention, promoted environmental awareness.

“Our events are centered around different kinds of people so we can hopefully encourage different groups to participate in Earth Week,” said third-year student and Earth Week intern Margarita Diaz. 

Eat for the Earth provided plant-based food samples and a photo booth.

Eco Fest, previously catered to students interested in customary definitions of environmentalism, hasn’t always drawn large crowds. Rachel Carson and Oakes College affiliates are typically the main audiences, as they live on the west side of campus and traditionally are more interested in environmentalism, said intern and Eco Fest coordinator Lisette Jones.

With Earth Week’s 2019 theme, “Reclaim, Redefine, Reimagine,” the Earth Week interns brought the environmental awareness movement to a larger audience at UCSC. The interns intended for Eco Fest to be a fun gateway into environmentalism for students disinterested in environmental justice or intimidated by its grand scale.

“We really want to make sure that we are […] opening up opportunities for people to learn more and decide for themselves how they would like to assume a role within the environment,” said Earth Week intern Elizabeth Leece.

Leece said people often see environmental movements as inaccessible or reserved for individuals who can buy their way to sustainability. Being locked out of the climate change conversation makes it difficult to demonstrate the importance of environmentalism.

Eco Fest showcased environmentalism as an attainable goal for people of all backgrounds, and the interns were pleased with the turnout.

Organizations tabling at Eco Fest included the California Public Interest Research Group (CALPIRG), Eat For the Earth, UC Natural Reserves and others. 

“Eco-friendly habits and sustainability shouldn’t be a privilege. It’s for everyone,” said first-year student and Earth Week intern Claire Ivey. “That’s how we’re going to make the world a better place, by inviting everyone from all backgrounds. That’s how you get innovative ideas. That’s how you get one another to build a sense of community, and that’s what we want to do here.”

The new theme comes a month after the United Nations’ most recent climate change report stated there are 11 years left until the Earth is irreversibly damaged from climate change. U.N. leaders said this is the last generation to prevent irreparable damage to the planet. Climate change will threaten years of inclusive sustainable development plans,  U.N. officials said.

The interns encourage events like Eco Fest and its community-building approach to climate change.

“Making sure [environmental awareness] is fun and accessible is important,” Ivey said. “That’s the thing that is going to make people come and get them interested.” 

Eco Fest is not the Earth Week Team’s  final promotion of environmentalism.  Its Talent Show, College Night and hike through upper campus are part of the team’s efforts to redefine how people would normally think of environmental justice.

“[Eco Fest] is really about opening up the conversation around climate change and our pathways forward for the future,” intern Elizabeth Leece said. “This is just the beginning of opening up this conversation and inviting people into this talk.”