Sustainability Festival Brings Breath of Fresh Air to Pomona

Merritt Graves, Skylar Funk, and Patrick Griffen of Trapdoor Social perform at the Pomona sustainability solar powered concert Sept. 24.

The air was fresher in Pomona this past week with the Sustainability Integration Office's (SIO) first Sustainability Fair from Sept. 20-24. The fair's events, ranging from a solar-powered concert to volunteering on a farm, demonstrated the various ways students at the 5Cs can become involved with sustainable practices on campus.

The coordinators of the event, full-time SIO staffer Alexis Reyes and Sustainability Assistant Abby Lewis PO ’19, emphasized that they didn’t just want the fair to be a way to get people involved on campus, but to, as Abby stated, “celebrate what was already happening” in terms of sustainable practices. SIO coordinated with a large number of student groups, including the Pomona Student Union and Art After Hours, to emphasize how one can “go green” in all aspects of life.

The fair kicked off with a solar powered concert featuring the Pomona alum band Trapdoor Social, located in the Sontag Greek Theater. The student group Divest Pomona, which calls for Pomona to divest its endowment from fossil fuel companies, hosted the event. It was one of several events that was aimed toward 5C students thinking about institutional environmental action while providing live music, snacks, and an overall fun evening for all.

The fair also gave 5C students the opportunity to see how the Claremont community engages with sustainable practices, with community several community organizations in attendance. Students also had the opportunity to attend a Chat and Chew with Professor Heather Williams on Wednesday night, in an event hosted by the Pomona Student Union. Titled “Grow the economy, Save the Planet: How a Carbon Tax Creates Jobs and Justice,” Professor Williams talked about the importance of advocating for environmental justice on a larger scale.

 “I think sometimes people get caught up in this ideology where I can control my own world, and so that’s how I’m going to make change," Lewis commented about the event. "For example, there was a politics student that went off to live in the woods and made all of his own clothes, and Professor Williams was arguing that that’s great, but if you want to make a bigger and more lasting change, you have to advocate for things like carbon taxes, and get away from the ideology of only controlling your own world," she said.

The importance of making sustainable changes on an individual level was not discounted at the fair, though. The fair also featured a snack event hosted by Pomona’s Ecoreps, a program unique to Pomona. Ecoreps are located in every Pomona residence hall and seek to encourage sustainable practices within dorm life. SIO's office  assists with this message, offering drying racks, power cords, and even compost bins available for checkout by students. 

SIO's office also provides re-coop program to collect unwanted dorm items at the end of each year and sell them in the fall. Some of this year's unwanted items were used in Art After Hours programs at the Pomona College Museum of Art. As part of the fair, Art After Hours upcycled old magazines and event banners into decorative mobiles and paper bowls. One of the students running the program, Emilia Hagan SC '19, praised the upcycling program. 

 “It encourages people to view things differently. An old book isn’t just something that you leave on a shelf, it can be something you proudly display, as a work of art that’s totally different," Hagan commented.

This theme of upcycling would continue throughout the night, with a Hive workshop that repurposed old books that were left unsold from re-coop.

Overall, the events throughout the week demonstrated the various ways in which sustainability can be applied not just on Pomona’s campus but throughout the 5Cs as a whole. The festival ended with an opportunity for students to volunteer at Pomona’s farm, which contributed organic, seasonal strawberries to the crepe bar held at Art After Hours just the night before.

 “I like sustainability because it is so interconnected," Reyes said. "You can apply sustainability to pretty much every aspect on campus and in your life … with the crepe bar at Art After Hours, you’re combining food and art and sustainability. To see that come together and come to fruition is really cool.”