Community Prepares for First Sustainable Action Week

The events for the week are being put together by the Sustainable Living Collective, a group of activists.
The events for the week are being put together by the Sustainable Living Collective, a group of activists.

Community members will be able to participate in the first Sustainable Action Week from Monday, April 25 to Sunday, May 1.

Spearheaded by second-year student Melanie Glenn, Sustainable Action Week is an event which seeks to educate people about their impact on the environment and the benefits of sustainable living.

The event was put together by the Sustainable Living Collective, a group comprised of various environmental activist and advocacy groups on campus and members of the greater New Paltz community.

Glenn, who is a contract major in environmental studies, was inspired about sustainability after taking an environmental anthropology class. She said she was moved to action after seeing the documentary film, “No Impact Man.”

The film focuses on Manhattan man named Colin Beavan, who takes his family on a year-long experiment in which he eradicates his impact on the environment, giving up electricity, traveling only by foot or bicycle, and eating only local food.

In fall 2010, Glenn began approaching the various activist and advocacy groups on campus proposing a No Impact Week on campus, where students would pledge to reduce or nullify their environmental impact for a week, but as conversation about the week commenced, it began to take a new shape.

“We started out thinking that we were all going to take on living very low impact, but then we decided instead to go in with a fresh start and educate people,” Glenn said. “Really our main focus is educating because we can’t make a change out of something we don’t understand.”

The collective decided to divide Sustainable Action Week among the various participating organizations so that each day would have a particular focus. Monday’s activites will educate on the general idea of sustainability, Tuesday’s will focus on “Food and Compost,” led by Sustainable Agriculture, Wednesday’s on “Water,” led by Students for Fresh Water and Thursday on “Energy,” led by Zeitgeist Movement and Recycling Club.

There are a variety of events scheduled throughout the week, from lectures and documentary screenings to carnivals and performances from local musicians like the Kyle Miller Band, the Dreambats and Godchilla.

The “action” portion of the week is focused on Friday, which culminates in a peaceful march against hydrofracking to the Department of Environmental Conservation, followed by an Earth Day festival at Hasbrouck Park.  Students for Fresh Water President Nick DePalma said that taking action is vital to show students that they can use the knowledge they’ve gained throughout the week to fuel social change.

“We’re going to involve students in some form of action, make it tangible to them so that they realize that they can do something, that they aren’t incapable of doing something with their fellow community,” DePalma said. “Also by having composting and local organic food at a lot of the events, we’re making a statement and leading by example.”

The Green Feminisms Conference on Saturday, though not hosted by the Sustainable Living Collective, fits in with the overarching message of their week-long event.  The conference, which will focus largely on women’s interaction with the planet, is in it’s 29th year and is put on by the Women’s Studies department.

The collective hopes that the Green Feminisms Conference and the lecturers scheduled for Sustainable Action Week will garner attention of people outside of the campus.  Glenn said the three speakers  participating in the event all fall under the label of “local heroes,” a phrase she said is important to the overall mind set of Sustainable Action Week and which will be discussed by keynote speaker Deena Wade.

“Deena Wade is coming on Monday.  She’s very personable and likes doing discussions; it’s not going to be just a lecture,” Glenn said. “She’s going to be talking about local heroes and how important it is to be connected with your community and doing something for your community on a local scale.”

DePalma, who is graduating in May, was happy to see so many of the activist and advocacy groups on campus band together in his last semester at New Paltz.

“At least it’s a current form of group cohesiveness. Mel came out of nowhere with this inspiration and she just linked all the groups together, because we’re all working on one thing,”  DePalma said. “Hopefully in the future this will foster more group support.”

The event concludes on Sunday with the Eco-Sabbath, which encourages people to combine a day of rest and contemplation with a refrain from buying or consuming any resources.  Lana Heintjes, a music therapy major and president of the Yoga Club, has been largely involved with this final day of Sustainable Action Week, when she will lead a yoga class on the quad, (from 4 to 5 p.m.) followed by a guided meditation with Lyla Yastion.

“Personally I think yoga and meditation is a huge part of sustaining human life. In my life it’s kind of necessary for sanity,” Heinjtes said.  “There’s definitely a lot of things other than going green that tie into the sustainability of the Earth and of the human race.”

More information about Sustainable Action Week can be found at