Winona State University held its first Sustainability Fair where students could talk to students, community members and businesses about sustainability.
The fair was February 27 and was held in the East Hall of Kryzsko Commons from 4-7 p.m.
Leah Dechant, a Winona State student and student worker for the sustainability office was one of the main planners of the fair.
“I always notice that students don’t really know much about sustainability,” Dechant said. “Or that we live in such a great area called Winona with all these options, they’re all local, organic, sustainable businesses, or companies that provide environmentally friendly options.”
She said the fair was designed to create a place for community members as well as students, faculty, and staff to get together in one place with a common theme of sustainability.
The fair showcased sustainable practices and ideas in and around Winona State.
There was no fee to attend the event and the booths were set up without a registration fee. Free snacks were also set out for people to enjoy and there was live music.
Jeanne Franz, a sustainability advisor and professor at Winona State said that Dechant reached out to people and businesses, and said, “No fee. If you want to come, please come.”
A banner was on a table being signed by people who came to the fair. One signature meant one pledge to live more sustainable.
Franz said 12 years ago, Winona State signed the president’s climate commitment that by the year 2050, Winona State will be carbon free or carbon neutral.
This means Winona State will not produce carbon more than is being consumed by the university.
Franz said Winona State has begun taking steps toward this goal.
Dechant said that there are other things that she would like to see on campus as well.
“I would love to see more sustainable technologies, buildings and projects on campus,” Dechant said.
Franz said, “A few years back the students voted themselves a green fee which has helped fund the sustainability office including a full-time person, Nathan Engstrom, whose job is completely devoted to sustainability.”
One exhibitor talked about what you can do with certain spices and home remedies for ailments.
He had made his own kombucha that he shared, as well as showed his dried herbs and spices that he had collected and foraged.
Dechant’s table was handing out reusable water bottles and seeds participants could plant.
“It’s not a hobby or lifestyle anymore,” Dechant said. “We need to change our ways.”
by Elizabeth Pulanco, featured photo by Taylor Nyman
With the spring season underway, flowers and outdoor projects are in bloom.
At Winona State University, the process of creating a community garden has taken root with the construction of a raised soil bed on April 15.
The Winona State SEED Garden is located on West 8th Street across from academic buildings on the Winona State Campus.
The SEED (sustainable, edible, educational, discovery) Garden has been in development for several years. Sophomore Jackson Ramsland has been the most recent student to take on the task.
Ramsland said his involvement with the garden began during spring semester of 2016 when friend of his, Allison Bettin asked if he wanted to take over the planning.
“Being very interested in gardening, I said ‘yes’ and took on the project,” Ramsland said.
Ramsland said his interest in gardening is connected to his time spent in the many gardens at his childhood home and summer jobs working at tree nurseries and organic farms.
“When I was growing up, my family had a pretty big plot of land so we had a lot of gardens,” Ramsland said. “We had a flower garden in the front yard and in the backyard, we had a couple of raised bed food gardens and we would always grow tomatoes and zucchinis.”
Ramsland said he had weekly meetings with faculty members, members of the university’s arboretum committee and the health and wellness department.
From the beginning, Ramsland said the creation of the garden has been a group effort.
“I have established some very important relationships with faculty members, student groups that are interested in working outside,” Ramsland said.
Jonathon Mauser, a chemistry professor and member of Winona State’s arboretum committee was also interested in the project and worked with Ramsland to find resources and funds to move the project forward.
Mauser said he had previous experiences working with community gardens and helped build the garden for his alma mater, the University of Portland in Oregon.
“I was an undergrad, so at this point I was on the student side of it and it is kind of fun to be on the other side of it now and kind of come full circle,” Mauser said.
According to Mauser, Winona State’s SEED Garden is being funded by the university’s Green Fee.
“The Green Fee is a payment that every student pays starting this term It is a part of their tuition fees,” Mauser said. “The Green Fee has gone to support this community garden and has also supported the spread of recycling bins on campus, which is going to be happening soon.”
The Green Fee also paid for reusable water bottles given to first-year students when they arrive on campus.
According to Mauser, the mission for this project is an accumulation of different elements and involves different aspects of the university community.
Ramsland said produce from the garden will be donated to the Warrior Cupboard, which is a food shelf that will be located in Winona State’s Integrated Wellness Center. Ramsland said this produce will be used to help combat food inequity and insecurity.
“About 56 percent of Winona State students qualify as being food insecure,” Ramsland said. “One of the biggest things with food insecurity is that most people aren’t getting adequate amounts of fruit and vegetables, so if students start using the garden, we hope that it will become very popular and that students will be getting the food that they need.”
Along with giving food to the Warrior Cupboard, Ramsland said hewould like to find a mobile way to distribute the produce from the garden around campus.
“I would love to set up a farm cart or something and drive around campus and give students produce. I think that it could be something that could become a very cool staple of Winona State,” Ramsland said. “I can’t think of a lot of campuses that I have visited that have had a garden of this size for this purpose.”
At the moment, volunteers for the garden are working on the raised soil bed which will hold most of the produce. Ramsland said the plan is to have the soil bed finished by the week of April 24 and start putting plants into the ground by May 1.
For many locals in Winona, creating a sustainable environment plays an important role in combating climate change.
Members of Winona Women for Healthy Communities have been active in addressing this contemporary concern.
On Saturday, April 15, members of the group held an art workshop at the Winona Arts Center, where attendees made art for a local version of the national People’s Climate March.
The march will occur Saturday, April 29, in downtown Winona and will bring attention to changes in climate.
Organizer of Arts Day and Winona Women for Healthy Communities member Mary Kaye Perrin said sustainability was the main theme of the art workshop.
Paint, brushes and watercolors were available for attendees to make posters, and decorate umbrellas as a way to show the abundance of rain that has occurred this year.
“People need to pay attention to the recent downpours of rain and flooding,” Perrin said.
According to Perrin, the march aims to make people more aware of the effects of global warming and reflect people’s concerns on the current regulations. This issue, she said, affects a community like Winona with flooding, loss of apple crops and loss of natural resources.
Through the march, the group will also support the Minnesota renewable energy goals and the progress being done toward them, Winona Women for Healthy Communities member Emilie Falc said.
In Winona, Falc said the group is trying to help locals continue to work on issues related to clean air, clean water and offer good jobs to encourage healthier communities.
“We don’t want to lose momentum toward those sustainability goals and legislation that would reduce them,” Falc said. “ We would like for people in the community to come forward and to talk about what their needs are.”
The event at the Winona Arts Center gave attendees, both children and adults, a chance to show sustainable efforts while expressing their creativity.
Attendee Julian Kohner was painting a butterfly with yellow and green colors, and his mom was holding the brush with him.
The canvas, paints and umbrellas were supplied from donations, and most of them were recycled items, Falc said. The art center contributed to the initiative by providing the space for the workshop.
Falc said the expenses for the march are low and volunteers will provide the music and PA system.
Nancy Bachler, one of the art workshop attendees, was outlining the red and yellow paint for the poster “Sustainable Future Now” with Lynette Powers, another organizer and member of Winona Women for Healthy Communities.
Bachler said about 98 percent of all scientists agree climate change is a real threat to the world, and that is why people need to be concerned about such issues.
Sometimes people can show individual efforts by simply recycling and being aware of the changes in the environment that affect health, Bachler said. Water is being polluted, she said, and the air quality is not as clean as it used to be.
“There really is an important connection to health, wellbeing, and the earth,” Bachler said. “We are trying to help people make their own part, while having fun.”
Besides sustainability, Falc said another important theme is local effort.
“We want to celebrate what we are already doing in Winona,” Falc said.
According to Falc, Winona is involved in making sustainable choices and Winona County has recently shown its contribution by purchasing energy from the solar garden, a solar power plant whose electricity is shared by more than one household.
She added people will come together at the march to support not only solar energy and solar gardens, but also geothermal, and wind energy in the community as sustainable energy sources.
In terms of sustaining local foods, Falc said the group is involved with supporting community gardens, local and organic family farms, orchards and farmworkers.
“We want to make it easier for local growers to sell their foods,” Falc said.
Because the march will start next to the Mississippi River, participants were making fish kites to symbolize the creatures people share the river with. Other posters displayed pollinators and apple trees that are under threat because they cannot evolve quickly to adapt to changes in climate.
“We need to use our creative energies to come together as a community,” Falc said. “And inspire people to choose the resources we already have.”
Another attendee, Marv Camp, was bending over a table and coloring the letters for an “Earth Day” poster in red and green. Camp said he hopes to be part of the April 29 march.
“Seeing our current political scene, it’s great that we can make an impact in our small community and hopefully on a bigger level, too,” Camp said.
With a vision for a better and sustainable future in mind, Perrin said she encourages making better choices every day by choosing to bike, and walking for clearer air instead of driving.
To promote walking, she added the group will work to make safer streets and crossings and improve public transportation including evening and weekend busing and more routes.
On Saturday, April 29, Perrin said she hopes for a great attendance from the community and invites people to bring giant apples or suns, and decorate umbrellas, skateboards, bikes and posters to express their commitment to climate justice.
Perrin said, “This is our vision for a better future and a better world for our children, our grandchildren, and ourselves.”