Celebrating Our Planet
Published: Thursday, April 26, 2012
Updated: Thursday, November 15, 2012 00:11
Last Sunday’s sixth annual Earth Day Festival at the Kenyon Athletic Center (KAC) celebrated and encouraged living sustainably.
Co-hosted by the Brown Family Environmental Center (BFEC), the Knox County Park District, Knox Community Hospital and the Knox County Health Department, the festival attracted around 1,500 visitors with 70 booths, a petting zoo with farm animals, a kids’ zone in the center of the indoor track and live bluegrass music. “A lot of people are overwhelmed by thinking about the environment or health topics … so we wanted it to be fun, and we wanted to make good decisions easy,” Program Manager of the BFEC Heather Doherty said.
While the indoor track hosted the Earth Day Festival, the outdoor track served as both the start and finish line for the 2012 Earth Day Challenge Marathon and Half Marathon. Both races began at 8:00 a.m. and took runners on a scenic path through downtown Gambier before traversing the Kokosing Gap Trail. In total, around 500 runners participated in both races, with a majority opting to run the half marathon. The full marathon counts toward qualifying for the next Boston Marathon.
Patrick Mershon ’14, who finished 16th in the half marathon, described the experience as “a fun way to run 13 miles.” Mershon attributes his success to both the support of the Kenyon community and his running partner Graham Sorenson ’12. “We ran the entire race together, and having someone to run it with was really helpful and made the whole thing a lot more enjoyable,” Mershon said.
The BFEC planned the event using a $4,000 grant from the Community Foundation of Mount Vernon and Knox County and an additional $5,000 in donations for better advertisements. Much of the event’s success was also due to Kenyon involvement, according to Doherty.
“It’s great to have so many Kenyon folks involved,” she said. “I think that speaks to how sustainability takes efforts on every level.”
Environmental Campus Organization (ECO), Land Lords, AVI, the Gund Gallery, Philander Chase Corporation and the Rural Life Center also participated. “Compared to when I went here, there’s generally much more interest in the student population. … Students of today are much better volunteers,” Managing Director of Philander Chase Corporation Lisa Schott ’80 said.
“Because of things like Earth Day, and all the effort different groups put in, I think that raises awareness. … Even if each person took away one new idea, that’s a big ripple effect.”
Along with raising environmental awareness, Doherty also said Earth Day encourages simple ways to live sustainably that do not take a big effort, like shopping. “A lot of local artisans are making things from recycled and green content. Some of us like to shop more than others, but it’s an inevitable part of our culture and the way we live,” Doherty said. “Why not support people who are doing it in a green fashion?”
Because Kenyon’s student body particularly values its campus’ natural aesthetics, Schott said it is especially important to recognize Earth Day every year. “We’re lucky to be at a beautiful place. To celebrate that, and the educational piece of [Earth Day], is a good thing,” she said. “Your age group cares about [the environment] and is more mindful of it, and is more willing to take action.”
Doherty plans to continue hosting the festival and would like to see more environmental awareness in daily life. “I really enjoy being able to tie the environment into things that are relevant for people, and in a practical sense I don’t expect everyone to be into making environmental decisions because it’s good for fish,” Doherty said. “But I do think if we can say, ‘This is good for you, and this is about reducing the pollution in the air that you breathe’ … then it means a lot more to people, and it’s a lot more relevant.”