The Associated Students Environmental Affairs Board hosted its annual Isla Vista Earth Day Festival on April 22 at Anisq’Oyo’ Park, featuring around 30 vendors with their respective merchandise and several activities including painting, gardening, tie-dyeing T-shirts, a clothing swap and games. 

EAB members smile in celebration of Earth Day. Courtesy of Jen Stein

Alongside performances from student bands — including Primarosa and Shark Exhibit — the festival also featured tie-dye activities, free succulent giveaways, potting and more. There were also educational opportunities at the festival for attendees to learn about environmentally sustainable practices like composting. 

Associated Students (A.S.) Environmental Affairs Board Earth Day Chair and third-year environmental science major Jen Stein said the event offered an opportunity for local community celebration and education about Earth Day. 

“I think it mostly spreads awareness, because they come here and they’re like, ‘Wait, the environment is so cool,’ and they can learn a lot from all the orgs,” Stein said. “It reminds them to be more environmentally friendly by celebrating Earth Day.”  

The festival encouraged visitors to learn about various ways to support the Earth, with groups informing guests about sustainability, recycling, conservation, environmental justice and more. 

“[There are] a lot of programs actually around school that I didn’t know about, so I think for me, I’m a first year, so it’s good to learn about what things I can get involved with,” first-year global studies major Brenna Boldt said. 

Environmental Justice Alliance (EJA) campaign chair Asata Spencer, a third-year environmental studies major, and associate campaign chair Jahlia Layton, a third-year sociology and environmental studies double major, said that EJA provides space for students of color to discuss environmental topics and the intersections of identity and climate justice. 

“The main thing about EJA is that we center POC voices, especially as it relates to environmental improvement and intersectional identities within environmental justice, and I feel like a lot of different organizations don’t really focus on that,” Spencer said. 

Spencer spoke about being in environmental studies classes as one of the few Black students in her major, saying that as a white-dominated department, there’s little space for students of color to speak about the disproportionate impacts of environmental issues and general environmental racism. 

“There’s not a lot of Black people in my major …  and in a lot of cases, we don’t get a chance to really talk about [environmental racism] in our classes,” they said. “So EJA’s a space for POC interested in environmental issues to talk about their experiences with their identity and their communities and how their communities have experienced environmental racism and just disproportionate environmental issues.” 

Spencer and Layton looked to incorporate dialogue surrounding the intersections of identity and environmental issues, citing the disproportionate impact of climate change on marginalized communities. 

“I think this space shows that with environmental justice, and especially with Earth Day, we are here and our voices do matter, especially with marginalized communities,” Layton said.

Spencer emphasized that this Earth Day festival provided an opportunity for organizations like EJA to show the local community that these spaces exist for such environmentally oriented conversations to happen.

“It really just puts our face out there,” she said. “A lot of people don’t really know that we exist … and a lot of people don’t really know that EJA was created as a social justice organization centered as a space for BIPOC outside of the fact that environmental organizations on campus were really dominated by white folks.” 

Fourth-year communication major Caroline Bancroft said that the festival allowed those passionate about the environment in Isla Vista to come together in celebration of the Earth. 

“This event is just proof that, even in somewhere as small and local as I.V., we can get so many people out to come and celebrate,” Bancroft said. 

First-year computer engineering major Nikhil Kapasi shared Bancroft’s sentiment. 

“I think that it’s nice that they draw the community out and it’s not just on campus, it’s meant for the community,” Kapasi said. “I think that’s really awesome.” 

Spencer expressed appreciation for the event, saying it encouraged collaborations between the different organizations present and reignited a sense of community within I.V. residents passionate about environmental justice and sustainability.

“A lot of people, they come to these tabling shifts and they sit down and they talk to people all day, but they look forward to getting up and going around and looking at all these other booths,” they said. 

“I just loved seeing so many people come out. I loved seeing so many familiar faces and faces that I haven’t really known before. I loved how a lot of people wanted to [collaborate] with EJA,” Spencer said. “I just really love that it was a really community oriented event.” 

Participants gather for the Earth Day festival’s clothing swap. Courtesy of Jen Stein

A version of this article appeared on p. 5 of the April 27, 2023, print edition of the Daily Nexus.