As May wanders in, April draws to a close, and we all continue to practice social distancing, there is plenty of time to reflect on Earth Month and the Earth Day Ecochallenge. If you’re unfamiliar, the Ecochallenge was a virtual event that took place throughout the entirety of April. The Ecochallenge became a platform for all the UMN campuses to engage with one another and with the Earth itself during Earth Month. Participants, also known as team members, completed daily challenges to earn points, such as researching local climate issues, connecting digitally with others, or spending extra time outside. Point sums showed a brief summary of the overall impact of what team members had accomplished.
As a way to reflect, we reached out to Ecochallenge participants on the University of Minnesota team and a broader group nationally to share their experiences. The response was overwhelming. So many people from all areas of the country replied with a snippet of their story, and why the Ecochallenge meant what it meant to them.
“I have always been passionate about protecting our planet. I have developed a better understanding of climate change as an 8th grader and realizing how much of an impact it's going to have on our lives if we don't do something about it. This winter, I attended the youth empowerment sustainability summit (YESS). I learned so much from the summit and became inspired to do more for my community. My inspiration came from all of the other kids who were speaking out and acting up for what they believed in. The Ecochallenge has given me the opportunity to encourage my friends and family to become more aware of what's happening and to help guide them through ways they can help.” … “My family also contributed to the completion of some challenges like dishwasher efficiency, meal planning, and hosting a cleanup effort.” … “I think that the most helpful way to become more inspired is to just go outside. This really helped me when completing challenges. I got to notice the little things that made me happy and made me so passionate about the environment in the first place. Just taking a quiet moment to become more connected with the earth. the Ecochallenge has made me more connected to my community and to the planet and I can't wait for next year's Ecochallenge!”
Middle School Science Teacher
Stone Ridge, NY
“I'm trying to be a role model for my students (teammates). I also happen to believe strongly in what you all are doing. That's pretty much my motivation in a nutshell.” … “As Dr. Jane Goodall reminds us, ‘You cannot get through a single day without having an impact on the world around you. What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.’”
Student Activities Coordinator
“As the Coordinator for the UMD Office of Sustainability, I think it's important to role model the activities and behavior that I encourage students to partake in. This Earth Month Ecochallenge was perfect for that, particularly because people are able to choose challenges that fit their lifestyle and interests. I also like that it IS a challenge -- if you already had the habit of bringing a reusable water bottle or composting, you could select "I already do this" which definitely pushed me to select challenges that were things I wanted to start doing or had been putting off. It was a good kick in the butt!
Something that the challenge has brought to my life this month is: intentionality. One of the challenges I chose was eating at least 1 meatless or vegan meal per day. In my daily life, I felt like I limited meat intake and ate a lot of plant-based meals, but hadn't been very intentional or evaluated it in the past. The challenge revealed to me that I tend to eat meatless or vegan about two out of three meals a day -- which gives me a baseline. Cooking is a good source of entertainment and creativity during the Stay At Home order, so it's also helped increase my repertoire of meatless meals and my comfort with tofu!
Overall, I feel like the challenge has been a good thing to focus on and it's been really enjoyable to read others' posts and see our U of M team grow!”
These responses give great perspectives on the Ecochallenge, from many more than just University of Minnesota participants. Everyone here at the Office of Sustainability extends our thanks, and is grateful for all we’ve all been able to accomplish together.
If you’d like to see more of the impact that the UMN team had, check out our team page.