Four student groups came out in support of Sustainable September at the Spokane River Clean-Up this week. On Saturday, Sept. 25, students from the Gonzaga Environmental Organization (GEO) along with the Science Club, Gonzaga Outdoors and Marian Hall joined forces to represent Gonzaga.
The groups met at the U-District area of the clean up at Avista Headquarters at 9:30 a.m. While Gonzaga had the biggest showing of volunteers, there was also a group of Boy Scouts, members of the Spokane Youth Sustainability Council, Japanese exchange students from Eastern Washington University and AmeriCorps members.
Volunteers collected trash and recyclable materials as well as planted trees. The Spokane Lands Council provided the 500 trees planted.
Senior Matt Neilson, vice president of GEO, came to the clean-up after breaking his right hand at the beginning of the week. His enthusiasm was not be dampened as he believes it is a great cause.
"I'm just going to put the trash bag around my broken hand and I can pick up trash with the other," Neilson said.
Gonzaga has been part of the annual Spokane River Clean-Up for five years now, explained senior Kristin Maple, president of the Science Club.
"In the past we've always met at the High Bridge Park," Maple said. "This year we're doing it together, building community and creating a greater work force."
"There's a lot more GU people here than last year," senior Carmelina Heydrich, community service coordinator for science club, said. "The clubs did a lot better job of organizing and coming together this year."
Senior club members at Gonzaga were particularly excited about freshman members in attendance at the Clean-Up.
"It creates a long tradition of GU students coming to the Clean-Up," senior Elena Eckland, GEO social events coordinator, said.
"When the freshmen join, it means the club will continue and the students will keep coming," senior Jennifer Hahn, secretary of GEO, said.
Hahn said that last year when seniors graduated, GEO had to revamp itself. The members created a different way of organizing the club, encouraging student involvement by creating committees dedicated to specific projects.
"We weren't satisfied with what the club was, so we're taking more action, getting things done to make the campus greener,"senior Thomas Whitney, president of GEO, said.
The GEO club has a lot planned this year, including introducing outdoor recycling bins emptied by students, a bike sharing project, and a community garden.
Allison Jost, a graduate student at EWU and long time Clean-Up participant, said she learned early on how important it is to keep the environment clean.
"The Spokane River is a big part of this community. Oftentimes people don't consider the natural environment part of this community," Jost said. "The river is a focal point for the ecosystem of Spokane. You keep the river clean, you keep Spokane clean."
"Spokane is really coming a long way. People are trying to preserve the environment and be mindful," Lands Council Volunteer and Restoration Coordinator Kate Cornwall said.
Through grants, the Lands Council bought 3,000 trees from the conservation district this year. Volunteers helped plant 1,000 trees in April and May, although fall is the ideal time to plant, because the rainy season follows.
"We want to protect the riverside and keep it from eroding," Cornwall said. "We are increasing biodiversity by planting native species of trees. It's beautifying it and it's healthy for the environment."
The Clean-Up is the third restoration program in one week for Cornwall. Sustainable September activities will continue into the first week of October and on Oct. 8 Gonzaga's own Earthbound will help the Lands Council to plant more trees.
"We love working with schools, elementary through college," Cornwall said.
According to the Sustainable September website, "Sustainable September is a Spokane annual month-long series of events dedicated to promoting sustainability in the Spokane community."
Sophomore Adriana Stagnaro attended multiple Sustainable September events. She enjoyed the fact that they were "completely free." She attended an event promoting awareness and sustainability on Main Street.
"They had a fashion show with altered and used fabrics and clothes," Stagnaro said. "The event was going all day."
Sustainable September includes Spokane River Clean-Up and many other events to increase awareness of environmental concerns in the community. An event calendar can be found on sustainableseptemberspokane.org.