In 2009 almost 30 million tons of plastic were created in the United Sates, but only two million tons were recovered, according to KeepAmericaBeautiful.org. With such alarming statistics, it is comforting to know a group of students on this campus are doing the best they can to get others involved to “go green.” Earth Week is scheduled for April 22-26 this year and is being headed by TCNJ’s Water Watch.
This year, Water Watch is hosting the third annual Earth Week, in which they will have daily activities to inform the campus community about the various ways students impact the world around them. Water Watch will be selling flowers that they have planted in biodegradable pots starting Monday, April 22 in the Brower Student Center. Later in the week, they will be planting flowers around campus in the hope that students will buy a flower and join in planting. Some of the other events include a water taste test, which will promote the use of tap or filtered water over bottled beverages, an organic chocolate covered strawberry giveaway, which will promote organic as well as local produce, a reusable bag giveaway and a campus-wide cleanup. Water Watch will be co-sponsoring with The Bonner Environmental Team, Phi Kappa Psi, Beta Beta Beta, Alpha Kappa Delta, Sigma Kappa, Sigma Sigma Sigma and the College Democrats.
Jessica Serpico hopes to use Earth Week “to raise awareness about environmental issues and educate the campus on everything we, as college students, can do to help alleviate both TCNJ’s and the greater Trenton area’s environmental issues.” Serpico hopes to instill the Water Watch “coined term ‘green consciousness’ within the entire student body.”
Since Earth Week 2011, Water Watch has planted flower seeds in hand-folded cubes made from old Signal newspapers, because they are “biodegradable, therefore, once the flower (and flower owner) is ready to plant the flower, the entire unit, newspaper, soil and plant, can go directly into the ground,” Serpico said. Water Watch plants these flowers in mid-March, allowing time for the seeds to grow into the flowers they use during Earth Week. All of these plants are maintained in the Biology Department’s greenhouse. These flowers will be sold in the student center between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Monday through Thursday of Earth Week.
On Friday, April 26 between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. there is going to be a campus-wide cleanup. As an organization, Water Watch dedicates a few hours every other Sunday to cleaning up areas around the campus. To be able to better measure the progress that the organization is making with the cleanups, they weigh the trash they collect. Up to this point in the semester, Water Watch has collected 64.7 pounds of trash and 24.7 pounds of recycling.
Kristen Batko, treasurer of Water Watch, declares stream walking as her favorite activity the organization offers. Stream walking allows members of Water Watch to travel to local streams, collect aquatic macro-invertebrates, and identify what family the organisms belong to. It is after they collect these samples that they are able to determine the quality of the local stream they just explored, “a non-invasive way to (determine) organic pollution levels of a stream,” Batko added. Through biological and visual assessments, the club is able to gauge the health of the water and then passes the information they collect on to the Department of Environmental Protection.
When Serpico joined as a freshman, Water Watch was very small and consisted of a four-person E-Board and three additional active members. Today, Water Watch has approximately 20 active members. Water Watch meets every Monday night in SSB 225 at 9 p.m. For more information on Water Watch and Earth Week, find them on Facebook at: facebook.com/TCNJWaterWatch.