Friday, 4 Oct 2002

NEW ORLEANS, La.

With a little less than four weeks left to further publicize the Ecolympics, there is a lot of work still to be done. Thanks to brainstorming earlier in the school year, I’m now facing a long list of publicity stunts.

I’ve reserved two more booths in the university’s student center in the hopes of button-holing passersby and telling them about the event. The banner on the booth will be bigger and bolder this time, and as a method of enticement, I will give away Smarties candy. (The connection: Smarties = “Energy Smart.”) I also spoke with managers at the university bookstore, who have agreed to sell compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) at a discounted price at my next booth. They also recently agreed to sell CFLs in the store, which is great, because many students do not have access to cars to go out and buy CFLs elsewhere. And then there are all the students who don’t even know what CFLs are. Hopefully, the current campaign will help educate them.

As I mentioned on Tuesday, I am working with representatives from Red Bull (the popular energy drink) to schedule an event on the quad, where they will provide free beverages and we’ll provide information on the Ecolympics and energy efficiency. At the very end of the month, the university’s main environmental club, the Green Club, is sponsoring an Eco-Awareness Week. The club has planned different programs and events for each day of the week, covering topics ranging from renewable energy to environmental justice.

The renewable energy day dovetails nicely with the message of the Ecolympics. I have planned to have either Toyota or Honda feature its newest hybrid automobile on the university’s main quad, a stunt that should generate a lot of interest from people passing by. Santa Claus (or rather, someone dressed like him) might also make a guest appearance on the quad, reminding people that unsustainable energy use produces emissions that threaten our air quality and increase global temperatures (thereby also threatening Santa’s home due to rising sea levels and melting ice caps). A bit of a stretch, I know, but it’s been done successfully in the past. (I dressed up as Santa at an event staged by climate change activists in Portland, Ore.)

The Tulane student newspaper, The Hullabaloo, has already agreed to write an article on the Ecolympics; meanwhile, I am in the process of designing advertisements for the competition, to be placed on tables in both the freshmen and university center cafeterias. Advertisement through flyers will be restricted to kiosks across campus and on bulletin boards in various buildings where undergraduates might go — anything more than that would just be a waste of paper. Next week, I am going to send an announcement about the Ecolympics to all environmental science professors, who will hopefully pass the message on to their students as well.

So there you have it — the whole story of the Ecolympics, from why its message is important to students and residents of New Orleans to how that message is being spread. It’s a huge project, and it’s taking up much of the time I could be spending on homework or watching movies with friends, but I’m certain that every hour of work that I put into this event will be entirely worth it. A little commotion can make a big difference, and every little thing we do as environmentalists counts. Moreover, I have had the privilege of meeting and working with absolutely amazing people in the environmental field thus far, and look forward to working with even more people with the same passions in the future. Who knows, maybe I’ll run in to some of you Grist readers one day. Until then, all I can do now is continue to specialize in energy and climate change for a university that desperately needs to recognize the significance of the issue.

I cannot even begin to tell you how honored I am to have been given this opportunity to write for Grist, and I thank all of you for taking the time to read my entries. I would be more than happy to see projects like the ones I’ve described here start up in other parts of the country, so please don’t hesitate to get in touch with me for help or ideas. Best wishes to all, and remember to turn off your appliances!