FORT KENT, Maine — When Heather Decotes graduates from the University of Maine at Fort Kent next fall, she wants to leave the campus a little better than she found it.
For the environmental studies major from Albany, N.Y., that has meant efforts to organize and mobilize fellow students into the UMFK Ecology Committee.
Decotes, fellow committee members, students, faculty and others participated in an environmental trade show as part of the campus’ Earth Day celebrations Wednesday.
“I’ve noticed in the past year an increasing trend of students being interested in the environment,” Decotes said. “Last year no one really noticed Earth Day. This year people seem genuinely concerned.”
Describing herself as “passionate” about helping the environment, Decotes said she began the campus ecology club earlier in her college career at UMFK and is working to ensure the group keeps going long after she has moved on.
At the group’s trade show table Decotes showed off a poster documenting four weeks worth of compost and waste from UMFK’s Nowland Dining Hall, in addition to a variety of earth-friendly products and a computer model which calculated an individual person’s carbon footprint.
One table down, environmental studies student Julie Trudel, coordinator of a food co-op in Fort Kent, was describing the benefits of buying local and organic products grown using sustainable practices.
“Our co-op buys a lot of products from smaller New England producers,” Trudel said. “People seem to be catching on to this.”
Purchasing through the co-op instead of “big-box” retail chains, Trudel said, promotes small farms that produce value-added foods.
Bringing it one step closer to home were members of UMFK’s curriculum and instruction arts lab who are developing a community flower garden on campus as part of an in-class small group project.
Seedlings will sprout in the campus greenhouse and in mid-May the students plan to transplant a variety of flowers and bulbs into planters outside Cyr Hall.
“This is our gift to the campus,” student Tiffany Curry said. “It’s good for the environment, creates oxygen and is pretty.”
Other exhibits included composting demonstrations, displays on alternative energy, recycling, safe food practices and animal welfare.
“This is one of the most successful Earth Days ever at UMFK,” Kim Borges, associate professor of environmental studies, said. “I like to think it’s because people are more aware of the issues.”
Elsewhere on campus the dining hall featured a special meal using locally grown and organic foods, environmentally oriented books were on display in Blake Library and environment-theme movies were shown with follow-up discussions.
“People really need to ask themselves what they can do to conserve as consumers,” Decotes said. “Do you really need to buy something or can you re-use something instead because it all makes a difference.”