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The fifth annual Earth Week at The American University in Cairo (AUC) commenced today, to bring awareness to various environmental issues, with a diverse range of activities including a sustainability exhibition and tour, interactive quizzes, campaign for a smoke-free campus and a farmers market featuring organic products from local vendors. “This year's Earth Week has a very diverse program focusing on sustainable water management, carpooling, saving energy and reducing the University's carbon footprint, sustainable eating and organic farming, as well as moving toward a smoke-free campus,” said Tina Jaskolski, research coordinator and project manager at the Research Institute for a Sustainable Environment (RISE).
The week kicked off on Wednesday, April 30 with a four-day trip to the White Desert to pick up garbage. “Ten AUC volunteers were joined by volunteers from the Western Desert oases of Bahariya and Farafra, as well as a team from the White Desert National Park,” Jaskolski explained.
During this week, there will be a Sustainability Exhibition on Bartlett Plaza where various organizations will be talking about their environmental awareness activities, including the American International School, Spirit of Youth nongovernmental organization, Association for the Protection of the Environment and Dandara Cultural Center. "I am very excited that we are hosting a range of organizations from across Cairo and as far as Upper Egypt this year, giving them a platform to show all the wonderful work that they do," said Colleen Devlin, presidential intern at RISE.
In addition, a team of staff members from RISE and AUC's Office of Sustainability will tour 12 University departments for a short, interactive presentation titled “How to Run a Sustainable Office." On Wednesday, there will be a smoke-free booth open on campus and an interactive water quiz.
On the last day of Earth Week, there will be a farmers market that will feature products from local vendors. “Through this market, we are celebrating healthy eating and sustainable food practices,” explained Yumna Kassim, RISE research associate.”We had the idea of hosting a farmers market where the vendors exhibit some environmentally sustainable aspect in their practice, whether in terms of local agriculture, packaging or their general message to the community."
According to Kassim, this farmers market coincides with RISE’s efforts to support organic farming on campus by cultivating an organic vegetable garden next to the Paul B. Hannon Swimming Pool as well as an organic rooftop garden at RISE, in addition to running a pilot project called "Adopt a Plot," where AUC faculty, staff and students can cultivate and look after their own small agricultural plots on campus.
Organized by RISE and the Sustainable Campus Committee, Earth Week began at AUC in 2009 to commemorate Earth Day, an international day of Earth celebrations held on May 22. RISE serves as a multidisciplinary institute dedicated to promoting research in sustainable environments in Egypt, the Middle East and North Africa. The Sustainable Campus Committee is an open committee for faculty, staff and students that examines how AUC can be more sustainable and how to raise awareness of environment and sustainable living on campus.
Miriam Hauser, presidential intern at the Office of Sustainability and a member of the Sustainable Campus Committee affirmed, “I hope that Earth Week will remind AUCians that their actions can have a real positive effect on the environment and that even small steps, like reusing a water bottle or turning the lights off when they leave a room, can have a big impact."