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The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Badgers go green

Green is the new Badger red. At least for today.

The University of Wisconsin has a host of events set to celebrate the 38th-annual Earth Day on campus.

The global celebration of Earth Day was started in 1970 by Gaylord Nelson, a U.S. senator from Wisconsin. After trying to push environmental issues in Congress, he planned an environmental teach-in to draw more attention to the issue. He had observed the success of Vietnam War “teach-ins” and wanted to use the same tactic. 


The first Earth Day was celebrated on April 22 and had an estimated 20 million participants nationwide.

“It became probably one of the biggest single grassroots-organized events in the country, if not the biggest,” said Tom Sinclair, public information manager for the Gaylord Nelson Institute of Environmental Studies at UW. 

The Nelson Institute, previously the Institute for Environmental Studies, was named for Gaylord Nelson six years ago after the Wisconsin Legislature and Gov. Jim Doyle signed a bill to honor the Wisconsin native. 

According to Sinclair, Nelson did not originally intend his environmental teach-in, dubbed Earth Day by an advertising agency, to become an annual celebration. He said it “took on a life of its own” after 1970.

To celebrate Earth Day this year, Sinclair said the Nelson Institute held a conference on April 16. It focused on climate change and had almost 400 attendees from environmental organizations, state and local governments and businesses. The Nelson Institute is co-sponsoring several student-run campus activities.

“We don’t try to direct these things. Like Earth Day itself, it doesn’t belong to anyone; it’s different groups organizing things that interest them,” Sinclair said. “I think that’s the way it should be instead of all coming from one place.”

The Wisconsin Student Public Interest Research Group has two environmentally-based campaigns and will be co-sponsoring several events on campus. WISPIRG’S “Big Red Go Green” campaign promotes a more efficient, sustainable campus. The organization’s Conservation and Recycling campaigns promote recycling and composting on campus. Together, the two campaigns are sponsoring a student organization fair on Library Mall today to get students interested in environmental issues.

Jeff Rolling, Madison’s WISPIRG chair, said 35 campus groups will be represented at the fair. He has also been working with the Interfraternity Council and the Panhellenic Association to get the campus Greek community involved with the environmental movement.

“It’s becoming more like a Green Month, which is just really great to see that students are interested in all working on the same issues from different angles. Get the Greek community involved, student organization community, a lot of social justice groups are there as well,” Rolling said. “It’s just a really exciting time right now.”

The theme for this year’s Greek Week is “Greeks Go Green,” according to Samuel Lake, IFC vice president of public relations. 

“[I wanted to] realize the power of the people in our system that have a pretty big impact on the environment,” Lake said. 

After WISPIRG’s fair on Library Mall, the student organizations tabling there are invited to a block party on the 200 block of Langdon Street. The party is the kickoff of Greek Week and will have featured bands and food vendors.

Lake said the event is an opportunity for Greeks “to meet these different organizations face to face and kind of spark some interest in them. … Hopefully after [today] there will be more interest, and Greeks will take a more active role on campus.”

Lake said “Greeks Go Green” is part of a national initiative, and he hopes to continue environmental programming in the Greek system. He’s working to get compact florescent light bulbs installed and a unified recycling system in the 31 Greek houses.

“I know a lot of people get busy with school, busy with work, whatever they’re doing,” Lake said. “Then they kind of forget that, when they’re throwing this can away in the garbage, although they’re only throwing away one can, if everyone did that, that’s 1000 cans.”

Another organization participating in Earth Day events is “We Conserve,” UW’s energy initiative. According to Program Director Faramarz Vakili, We Conserve was started two years ago on Earth Day with support from Chancellor John Wiley. Vakili says one of the program’s goals is to reduce energy consumption on campus by 20 percent by 2010. 

The We Conserve program started a student chapter this semester to get students more involved in reducing energy consumption. 

“Our main goal right now is just to get students more aware of the things that the We Conserve program is doing on campus,” said Lea Zeise, We Conserve student operations manager. 

Zeise said the student chapter is also running an online pledge program, through which students can pledge to turn off lights or shut down computers to save energy. She added they have more than 1,000 pledges so far and hope to have 2,000 by the end of the semester.

We Conserve is also working with WISPIRG to put on an Eco Party May 2. UW’s strides toward energy efficiency won $5,000 from MTV to throw a party on Memorial Union Terrace. There will be live music and information about the environmental organizations on campus.

Sinclair said he hopes these Earth Day activities inspire more people to become involved with the environmental movement.

“The more people participate, the more successful the activities will be,” Sinclair said. “It shows everyone else that this is not just a fad, it’s not just a small little group of people who are interested in taking care of our environment and improving the environment. It’s actually a lot of people.”

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