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Earth Talks Webinar Celebrates 50th Anniversary of Earth Day

Written by Allison Nitch

April 21, 2020

Infographic displaying Seattle U's sustainability efforts

A leader in sustainability, Seattle University takes part in global event by encouraging action and participation in initiatives that focus on the urgent need for environmental protection and climate solutions.

In association with the Earth Day Network (EDN), the global organizer of Earth Day, Seattle University will mark the 50th anniversary by participating in the first digital Earth Day due to the COVID-19 global pandemic.

With support from Information Technology Services, the digital content will be presented as a Seattle U Earth Talks Zoom webinar on April 22 by students, faculty and community partners, including a special kick-off interview with Denis Hayes, president of the Bullitt Foundation who organized the very first Earth Day in 1970.

Presenters will offer five-minute-long talks about environmental justice and sustainability research, service and activism over the course of two sessions.

“We are really excited about Earth Talks as they will highlight the voices from our campus and surrounding neighborhoods,” says Phil Thompson, director of the Center for Environmental Justice and Sustainability (CEJS) and professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering. “I’m also thrilled to share our interview with Denis Hayes.”

The theme of Earth Day 2020 centers on climate action. “Each year we align our SU Earth Month theme and actions around the EDN’s theme in a spirit of collaboration with the broader global actions that happen every April, all month long,” says Yolanda Cieters, campus sustainability manager.

“It’s a good reminder that we all need to work together for climate action before we have irreversible impacts on ecosystems around the world,” says Thompson.

With individuals practicing social distancing and sheltering in place, an important contribution everyone can make at this time is taking what we eat into consideration. “Research has shown that the type of food purchased and the methods used to produce it are hugely impactful on climate change,” says Cieters. Changes include minimizing or avoiding red meat, reducing dairy intake and minimizing food waste.

“Participating in this year's Earth Talks is important to me as both a student and environmental justice activist because it demonstrates the power of collective action—each speaker is bringing their expertise and sharing it with our school community,” says Taylor McKenzie, co-founder and volunteer coordinator for Seattle U’s chapter of the Food Recovery Program and a double major in Environmental Studies and Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies.

As part of Faith Climate Action Week, attendees are welcome to join the Nationwide Climate Prayer at noon (immediately following the end of the first Earth Talks session) on April 22, which serves as an opportunity to join voices with individuals of all faiths across the nation in prayer for action on climate change. Rev. Victoria Carr-Ware of Campus Ministry will lead the prayer for Seattle U.

Additionally, the on-campus “Make a Commitment” initiative will be substituted with a Seattle U team participating in the Earth Day EcoChallenge, where participants choose actions “and commit to making our common home a healthier, more equitable and more sustainable place,” says Cieters.

Concluding Earth Month, the Indigenous Student Association and Indigenous Peoples Institute will present an online event for the third annual Earth Month Student Film Competition on April 29. Details and requirements are listed here. Submissions must be received by April 25.

Also taking place on April 29, CEJS will be co-organizing “Taking Action for Climate Solutions” a webinar for the Washington Higher Education in Sustainability Coalition that is open to all campus members.

“This Earth Day is perhaps the most important one in the anniversary’s 50-year history,” says McKenzie. “By sharing our knowledge, we are starting new conversations about how to live sustainably and what our next steps should be. We are moving from being individuals to being a part of a larger movement.” 

Seattle U is the first Jesuit Institution in the United States to commit to fully divest from fossil fuel companies—and is leading the way in sustainability among higher education institutions. The university’s dedication to global action on climate change drives its Climate Action Plan and advances the multitude of sustainability practices on campus, from LEED-certified buildings, urban gardens, waste diversion and emissions reduction to academic offerings and community engagement. Seattle U is committed to keeping campus as sustainable as possible by working with CEJS to promote sustainability in academics and co-curricular activities.

 The university continues as a leader in sustainable practices and environmental justice across campus through academics, co-curricular programs and university operations as a whole. Since establishing the Climate Action Plan in 2010, collective efforts including the President’s Committee on Sustainability have earned Seattle U more than 20 environmental awards from a range of organizations.

Earth Day 2020 events that cannot translate to an online format have been postponed. For more information about CEJS, visit To view the digital earth month initiatives at Seattle U, visit

Seattle U Sustainability Facts Infographic:

  • Seattle University is a pesticide-free campus and all gardens are 100% organically maintained.
  • Seattle U’s onsite facility generated 100,000 pounds of compost.
  • The Princeton Review’s Guide to Green Colleges: 2019 edition ranks Seattle U #21 in the U.S. in its latest publication of the nation’s most environmentally responsible colleges and universities. 
  • 20 sustainability based clubs
  • 71% of SU community members walk, bike or use transit.
  • Seattle University does not purchase or sell any single-use plastic water bottles.
  • 4 L.E.E.D gold buildings
  • In 2019, Seattle University was ranked #2 in the nation for the integration of sustainability in the curriculum by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE).
  • By 2020, the goal is to divert 80 percent of waste from landfills.