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SustaInnovation event emphasizes sustainability

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Activists and experts from across southern Colorado, speeches covering everything from home-grown food to eco-friendly rovers and smoothies poured from a bicycle-powered blender were part of the unique scene at the first ever SustaInnovation: Eco-Engagement and Sustainability Fair that took place at Colorado State University-Pueblo Jan. 28.

Organized by the Leaders in Ethical Action for the Future, the fair’s intention was to connect students, staff members and anyone interested in the sustainability and betterment of society.

The event ran from noon to 6:30 p.m. and was set up on the first floor of the Library and Academic Resources Center. There were speakers throughout the day, giving varied speeches inside Room 109, all while a bicycle-powered blender made smoothies for people in the main lobby outside of the room.

LEAF co-founder and adjunct English professor Kelly Gehlhoff said the fair was a great opportunity for people to understand and get active in the sustainability of the planet and resources.

“It’s about awareness building and thinking ‘what can we do’ with sustainability,” Gehlhoff said.

The fair was a project that LEAF had been organizing for quite some time, she said, and she hopes it can become a more regular event on campus, potentially every few months or so.

“We wanted to attract people who want to change the world, starting here in Pueblo,” said fellow LEAF co-founder and graduate student Meral Sarper.

She said it was crucial to find all the other sustainability groups around Colorado and connect them with students.

The fair was just one of many LEAF-initiated events and projects that will happen in Pueblo. Gehlhoff spoke about their Hero’s Garden Project, which will go to high schools, middle schools and elementary schools around Pueblo this year with the hope of reaching more in years to come.

Sarper detailed the club’s Green Action Fund, which sought ideas from people around campus, and when Earth Day rolls around at the end of April, the club intends to host an “Earth Week.”

LEAF member Summer Reyes, a sophomore attending CSU-Pueblo, said she wants the event to open people’s eyes to how society can make the world a better place.

“We can bring light to the small changes in our lives that can have a global impact,” she said.

Further than offering a chance to learn about the environment, the event also prominently featured the theme of sustainability, an idea that is much more than just recycling every now and then, according to speaker Kevin Gilford, assistant director at the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs Office of Sustainability.

“Sustainability is a perspective on the world,” Gilford said. “It’s being aware of our impact and everything we do.”

He said this perspective should make you question how your action will impact the world at large.

Reyes also talked about what LEAF called the “three pillars of sustainability,” which include “people care, Earth care and fair share.” This idea focused on the sustainability of society, economy and the Earth, instead of limiting it to “green” aspects alone.

Speaker Tim Roush, who helps run the 3-D printing lab on campus, said sustainability is found in savvy use of technology, and emphasized pursuing self-made products. Roush explained how the “maker movement,” a campaign that preaches a staunch “do it yourself” mentality, practices sustainability with use of technology such as a 3-D printer.

Many participants said, overall, raising awareness about sustainability and further action was the ultimate goal of the event.

“It’s a great opportunity to learn what’s going on in the world of sustainability, as well as take action,” said speaker Allison Plute, Fountain Creek Watershed Project Manager.

Gilford agreed, saying that everybody would need to get involved and active if true sustainability was to be achieved.

Sarper and Gehlhoff said getting involved and inspired was the key takeaway wanted people to get from the event.

With multiple club events and projects planned throughout the year, this LEAF will only continue to grow, and hopes this event will start this university, and by extension Pueblo, on the path toward ideal sustainability in the community.