Sustainable Roots Are Taking Hold

Annual Sustunes event: Roots, Sun, Water, Wind

Art by Ellen Schmidt

Art by Ellen Schmidt

Sustunes, hosted by the University of Minnesota Sustainability Education through the Institute on the Environment, brought together a myriad of sustainability-focused groups for its second annual event on Dec. 2.

This year’s theme was “Roots, Sun, Water, and Wind.” The event intended to inspire attendees to think about the connection between these life-providing elements and their perceptions of them and to start a dialogue to encourage sustainability.

Sustunes started as a school project last year by Andreas Fenner, who led the event, but it has since grown beyond that.

Environmental, sustainability, and art student groups had tables at the event and discussed current projects and their groups’ goals and aspirations.

The Sustainable Systems Management Club wants to be a catalyst for the campus to move from nonrenewable to renewable forms of energy, according to Spencer Gressen, an officer of the club. The group has been working on increasing the presence of plastic bag recycling bins on campus and notebook recycling.

The Ecology Club wishes to connect people who are interested in ecology, evolution, and behavior. They are in the midst of making the club a chapter in the Ecological Society of America’s Strategies for Ecology Education, Diversity and Sustainability (SEEDS) program. The SEEDS program would give students mentorship opportunities with graduate students, faculty members, and other experts.

While not a student group, Pack & Give Back is an initiative that was started by the University of Minnesota ReUse Program that aims to reduce waste made by students during move out. Items collected become a part of the free store, and, there, students can pick whatever they want. The warehouse takes drop-offs during the summer, and then the store is open just during the beginning of the school year.

Art for Birds tabled there, as one of several art groups, whose goal is to place window art installations around campus to prevent bird deaths.

Student-run literary magazine Ivory Tower was also at Sustunes. Sammy Brown, one of the co-editors for the magazine, said, “There is an importance in creative work. … [It] creates a sense of community.” The theme for this year’s publication is momentum. They accept submissions through the beginning of December each year in fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and visual art.

Several artists attended the event, with various nature-focused art pieces. One of the artists, Louie, was inspired to show “people’s communion with nature.” He experimented with binaries in his art: sunrise, sunset, heartbeat, breath. Another artist displayed, Madeline, found herself drawn to how nature is constantly in motion, never at a standstill. She wanted to “catch the movement of nature” in her pieces. Their art, along with others, was displayed on a wall in the atrium. Musical performances were played throughout.

Some of the tunes at Sustunes were put on by the Music Therapy Student Association, which led a collaborative activity that anyone could join in on to create music. It was a symphony of people being people, expressing themselves in ways that words could not. It was a wordless reminder to those with ears open that amalgamation is how positive change occurs. It all starts with the roots. The performance was meant to remind people that collaboration is how change occurs, and people are the roots of that change. Three other music acts performed, each interpreting one of the other themes: City Love played sun-inspired pieces, Willows had water, and Balloon Lagoon interpreted wind. Their music created a soulful, haunting atmosphere.

A senior this year, Fenner hopes that the tradition of Sustunes will continue even after he graduates. This year, Sustunes grew in conversation and interaction. While this was only its second year, its roots seem to be taking hold.