Hanging, twinkling lights mark the entrance to the Aula. On a monitor deeper into the room, the greeting “Welcome to Green Fest” is scrawled in swirly green, as the audience eagerly waits. As promised, plants sit in the corner of the room, waiting to be adopted by Vassar students. Huge bins labeled “compost” make a prominent appearance in the intimate space.
Around a center table, a green poster in all caps boldly asks students: “How will you address the climate crisis?” Representatives from various environmental student organizations bustle around, putting last-minute touches on their booths, eager to inform Vassar students about how they can get involved with sustainability on campus.
Green Fest made its grand debut this year on Friday, Sept. 6. The event was conceived by Melissa Hoffmann ’21 and Jack Oliver ’22, who are involved with Vassar Students for Equitable Environmental Decisions (SEED), and Cole Palatini ’21. “We thought a comprehensive, collective sense of sustainability at Vassar was lacking, especially for first-years,” Hoffmann explained.
Through Green Fest, a united green front could form by centralizing environmental organizations to one convenient location. Other green groups represented at the event included various orgs, such as Vassar Greens, as well as institutional entities like the Vassar Farm and Ecological Preserve, Environmental Studies program and the Earth Science and Geography department. Sponsors included the Grand Challenges Initiative, the Office of Sustainability, the Environmental Studies Program, the Associate Dean of the College, the Environmental Research Institute and the Environmental Cooperative. Additionally, the Creative Arts Across Disciplines (CAAD) encouraged students to brainstorm ideas for a mural centered around the theme of sustainability.
According to Vassar Greens Co-Presidents Lisa Smart ’22 and Lucy Brown ’22, Green Fest was a success. “It’s the first piece to cohesion within all the environmental groups on campus, which is something that we’ve repeatedly been missing the mark on,” Smart said. Brown added, “I hope Vassar students come away knowing that there are so many ways to get involved with sustainability-related and environmental causes at Vassar. We’re all on the same team. We all try to support each other.”
Between learning about various environmental organizations on campus, attendees at Green Fest were serenaded by their peers. A capella groups Vastards and Axies sang a few of their signature tunes. “We thought performing would be a great opportunity because the cause is important and it’s nice to see a lot of the environmental orgs getting involved together,” President of Vastards Larissa Archondo ’20 commented. Ben Schwartz ’23 also entertained the crowd through singing and strumming his guitar. Students sprawled on the floor listening to music while indulging in free (non-Deece) ice cream. The food and music added a sense of shared, convivial community to the event.
Director of the Office of Sustainability Micah Kenfield was impressed by the initiative and involvement coming from the organizers of Green Fest, as well as its attendees. The director’s role involves working across campus and with student groups to promote sustainability at Vassar. Kenfield commented, “Everybody told me when I was coming here about how Vassar is different and about how there’s a lot more spark and energy and electricity. It’s all really true.”
Not only returning students, but incoming ones take environmental issues seriously. SEED and Vassar Greens leaders expressed their excitement at the amount of engagement from the Class of 2023. Club meetings have filled up and first-years are eagerly proposing their own green initiatives.
While the fair is a starting point for raising the visibility of environmental issues on campus, student environmental activists are utilizing other methods to make their voice heard. Outside the Aula, posters were painted red with the words “Divest” and “Tell the Truth.” These banners will be waved at a Vassar climate strike on Sept. 20 as part of a global walkout demanding forms of alternative energy. Excitement about the march was buzzing among the environmental leaders at Green Fest.
The future of our planet in the depths of climate change is unknown, but the hearts of Vassar students when it comes to the issues are not.