By Timothy Chipp
— LEWISTON — Though Earth Day is officially a couple days away, the students at Niagara University got a jump on festivities Wednesday with a plethora of planetary awareness-building activities.
This year, Earth Day — created April 22, 1970 to raise awareness of environmental issues of the day — falls on a Sunday this year. So the university held a special program in the middle of the week to get the students thinking.
"Earth Day is definitely an educational thing," David Ederer, manager of engineering services, said. "We pride ourselves on being a hands-on school. It's not just sitting in the classroom, it's being out in the community. And this is a good way to get (involved)."
Ederer serves as chairman of the university's sustainable task force, a group of 40 staff members, faculty and administration who promote environmentally-conscious ideas on campus. They planned Wednesday's celebration, bringing several vendors to the Gallagher Center for students and faculty to enjoy and learn a bit about the world around them.
They even got a bit dirty, planting two red oak trees on the campus grounds.
"The red oak trees grow fast, they're hearty and they're native to the area," Ederer said. "And they're beautiful to look at. We have an assortment of trees on campus, and the red oaks are some of the nicest trees."
Despite adding only two this year, the campus has planted approximately 350 throughout the last three years, Ederer added.
Like the tree plantings, the vendors the task force brought in furthered the university's mission to educate. They hosted beekeeper Geri Hens from Hens Honey Bee Farm in North Tonawanda, Messinger Woods wildlife rehabilitation center of Orchard Park, Modern Disposal and the Cornell Cooperative Extension, among others.
Students also watched a demonstration as students sorted garbage from the Gallagher Center and explained what could be recycled and how much landfill space would be saved by doing so. They also had the opportunity to take home a Venus Fly Trap.
Events like this recently helped the campus get recognition as one of the country's most environmentally responsible colleges by The Princeton Review.
"We are very proud to be considered one of the greenest colleges in the nation,” Ederer said. “While we strive to increase our sustainability on a continuous basis, Earth Day gives us another opportunity to bring attention to environmentally-friendly living and working."