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EarthFest 2023: Shining a Brighter Light on Sustainability

EarthFest: Shining a Brighter Light on SustainabilityThe environmentally minded event raises awareness, importance of protecting our Earth

An annual staple at CSU since 2015, EarthFest is one of the more popular events on campus. Chock full of giveaways, demonstrations and opportunities to learn how to protect the Earth, it’s the driving force behind raising awareness regarding campus and community sustainability initiatives and organizations.

This year’s edition, which takes place Thursday, April 20 from 10 a.m. - 1 p.m., is no different.

Organizations from across Northeast Ohio will be on hand to promote and practice sustainability in their work, alongside University departments including Recycling and Environmental Health and Safety.  
Other groups, including the City of Cleveland’s Office of Sustainability and the Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency (NOACA), will showcase their regional efforts—all to celebrate Earth Day.

“Our mission is to celebrate by engaging students, faculty, and staff to create a truly vibrant and green campus and community,” said Brooke Meznarich, CSU Office of Sustainability Intern. “We hope students see that sustainability work is achieved and should be implemented across multiple fields of work.”

Earth Day and the Cleveland Connection

While many agree on Earth Day’s humble beginnings on April 22, 1970, one needs only look to our own Cuyahoga River and the city’s industrial history for the inspiration behind it.

At least 13 fires were reported on the river beginning in 1868. The largest river fire in 1952 resulted in over $1 million in damage to boats, bridges, and a riverfront office building.

(That’s $11.5 million adjusted for 2023 inflation, in case you were curious).

Believe it or not, that wasn’t the end of our burning river.

After the last major fire in 1969, the city was rife with protests over hazardous conditions and massive ecological damage to the river and adjacent Lake Erie, one of the world’s largest freshwater resources.

The fires and protests were a flashpoint (pun fully intended) that resulted in EarthFest, but they also spurned our government into action—founding the modern-day Environmental Protection Agency (1970) and passing the Clean Water Act, landmark legislation Congress gave a “green” light to in 1972.

By then, an estimated 20 million people nationwide had already attended inaugural EarthFest events across the country. That momentum continues to build. Elementary- and secondary schools, universities and communities from coast-to-coast continue to show support for protecting the only home we know.

Learning and Living Sustainability on Campus

One of U.S. history’s more important lessons might bring students, faculty and staff to EarthFest every year, but facts and valuable fun are what keep them there. Among this year’s value-adds, Ohio City Bicycle will be on-site conducting free safety checks on bikes for students.

“This is a great addition to the event, especially with the new bike lane being implemented on Superior Avenue,” said Meznarich. “The bike lanes will be called the Superior Midway, [and] the city is adding over four miles of lanes.”

EarthFest also trains a lens on last year’s dining initiative that implemented reusable takeaway containers that allowed for the exchange of a used one for a fresh one. The goal was to minimize the university’s plastic waste footprint and it’s working: there are currently 500 active participants using the OZZI system and that number continues to grow.

“[CSU started using] OZZI reusable containers,” said Meznarich. “These containers reduce waste by replacing disposal products with reusable products.”

An electric car display and other exhibits, a DJ, and (everyone’s favorite) free food round out the event—though if you ask students what the most popular attraction is at EarthFest, it’s the Earth Dome. It allows for a fantastic selfie photo op for those who venture inside.

“EarthFest is not just a great opportunity to learn about sustainability on campus and in Northeast Ohio, but also students can connect with the organizations coming for internships and job opportunities,” said Meznarich. “There will also be some fun prizes, including campus merch, an Ohio City Bike Co-op gift card for classes or a new bike, a rainwater collection barrel, and more!”

Urban Roots and Branches

CSU’s commitment to the environment extends far beyond Earth Day and EarthFest. But as you’re walking to your car, to your next class, or back to your dorm, also consider this: The Arbor Day Foundation has acknowledged the University for its commitment to effective urban forest management and engagement with staff and students in its conservation goals. The organization designated CSU as the recipient of the 2022 Tree Campus Higher Education recognition.

To achieve that status, CSU had to meet Tree Campus Higher Education’s five standards:

  • Sustaining a campus tree-care plan
  • Maintaining a tree advisory committee
  • Dedicating annual expenditures for its campus tree program
  • Having an Arbor Day observance
  • A student service-learning project

The University shares this distinction with 410 other campuses nationwide and is one of 25 in Ohio. Outside of providing beauty in urban surroundings, the hydrology of the many tree canopies and green spaces mitigate particulate matter and runoff typically found in urban (read: concrete) environments.

It’s just one more of many steps CSU takes to rally us around a healthier, cleaner planet.

About the Office of Sustainability
The Office of Sustainability aims to unite all Cleveland State University students, faculty, and staff to work towards a greener campus with a more sustainable future. From operations to curriculum and research, plenty of opportunities exist to engage in sustainability initiatives on campus. For more information about the Office of Sustainability, please visit