In celebration of Earth Day 2021, Greening Vermillion–an organization dedicated to making Vermillion the greenest town in South Dakota–has begun tentatively planning for Vermillion Earth Days, a week of events which promote sustainability.
Mark Sweeney, a USD professor and board member of Greening Vermillion, said the 2020 Vermillion Earth Days were intended to kick off the organization’s curbside recycling education campaign, but they were cancelled due to the pandemic. The campaign proceeded on social media, but Sweeney said the cancellation of events was a letdown.
“Last year was the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, and it was a dud,” Sweeney said. “I’m looking forward to it this year because we can put in a lot better effort planning-wise to celebrate Earth Days even if we’re still in the middle of a pandemic.”
Some of the planned events this year include an artist’s talk with visiting guest Nina Elders, a book discussion, a fair and a walk-run. Meghann Jarchow, Chair of Greening Vermillion, said the organization is in a much better place to put on Earth Days this year.
“We have some virtual events, some in-person events that are also virtual,” Jarchow said. “In the past there were some bigger gatherings, and we can’t do those types of things, but I think there is a lot that we can do.”
Sweeney said this year’s Earth Days are intended to bring a broader awareness about environmental issues to Vermillion, and that events like the artist’s visit will help connect people to sustainability.
“People might be interested in the science behind what’s going on with climate change or our environment,” Sweeey said. “It’s one thing to be told these things in a keynote address or a lecture… but it’s another thing entirely to then relate to it through an experience like hiking or art.”
Anna Moore, USD Campus Recycling Coordinator and board member of Greening Vermillion, is coordinating an event called the “Re-cook Cafe.”
Moore said the idea is based on the “Repair Cafe” in which specialists teach people how to repair household objects so they don’t get thrown away. Instead of fixing appliances, however, attendees will learn how to cook more resourcefully and sustainably by using leftovers in recipes and composting food scraps.
“So far, we’ve recruited three chefs to be part of our Re-Cook Cafe… and I’m trying to recruit one more,” Moore said. “We’re planning the Re-Cook Cafe to be the evening of Earth Day so that after their dinner, people can just log on (to Zoom) and participate.”
Moore also had the idea to hold a “Sewer Stampede,” a walk/run which would take participants by Vermillion’s waterways to raise awareness about sewers and sanitation. Moore said she got the idea after taking a class with the Vermillion city manager.
“We visited the wastewater treatment plant and I talked with the people who work there, and I just think that the sewer systems are so overlooked,” Moore said.
In addition to reaching groups like USD students and the Vermillion community, Jarchow said Greening Vermillion is working on youth engagement. She said while USD students have lead activities, high school groups haven’t, so the organization is trying to make that happen.
“There’s been a lot of momentum shift in that youth… see themselves as important change agents,” Jarchow said. “In Vermillion, we should see that that is happening and actively seek out youth groups to help engage in things like Earth Days.”
Jarchow said she is particularly excited because Earth Days is a way for people to participate in coordinated events again.
“I’m really looking forward to being able to bring back that sense of community,” Jarchow said.