Campus Community

Partners for the Planet

Written by Tina Potterf

April 3, 2023

A graphic featuring Earth Month at SU with trees.

This Earth Month, the campus comes together to amplify, through events and initiatives, issues around climate change and environmental action and policies, while moving closer to its full divestment from fossil fuels. 

As we celebrate Earth Month, Seattle University is just weeks from achieving a significant milestone that speaks to our commitment to sustainability and environmental justice—100% divestment from fossil fuels. 

By June, the university will be fully divested, a move spearheaded first by students in 2012 and then approved by the Board of Trustees in 2018, leading SU to be the first Jesuit college or university to commit to fully divest its endowment from fossil fuels.

“When the Board of Trustees decided to commit to divestment of our endowment from companies that own fossil fuel reserves, SU truly led the way,” says Sustainability Manager Yolanda Cieters. “Not many American universities had made this bold investment-related, climate action-focused decision and it no doubt inspired other universities to consider their path to divestment.”

This is just one example of how SU is part of the national conversation when it comes to putting real action behind practices and programs that align with our mission while demonstrating care for the planet, from sustainability-focused academic programs and coursework to energy-efficient operations, waste diversion practices and organic landscaping. The amplification of our efforts carries throughout the year, with additional attention focused during the month of April leading up to Earth Day.

“As a higher education institution, we may be small but are mighty when it comes to sustainability action. The recognition by STARS (the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System) and the ratings and rankings we have received over the past years for our sustainable campus practices have undoubtedly lifted us up and placed SU in the mix of high-performing, exemplary institutions,” says Cieters. “But it truly is about commitment and following through—living out your values and teaching by example.”

A graphic featuring key call outs of our data points.

The Earth Day.Org organization—growing out of the first Earth Day in 1970—is calling on everyone “to act (boldly), innovate (broadly) and implement (equitably). Businesses, governments and citizens—everyone accounted for and everyone accountable.”

Seattle University marks Earth Month by featuring events and programming not led by a single group or center but rather in collaboration with cross-campus partners. For example, several student groups, such as the RedHawk Experience, Bannan Scholars Experience Project, Environmental Law Society and Engineers for a Sustainable World, among others, will volunteer at work parties on campus to support the organically and pesticide-free maintained urban gardening efforts lead by the SU Grounds team.

The groups will participate in tree and shrub planting, cleaning the pollinator garden, plantings in the new rain garden and more. Campus partners have teamed up with the Center for Environmental Justice and Sustainability (CEJS) on a slew of events leading up to and through Earth Day (all events for the month can be found at Here are a few highlights:

Earth Talks 2023: Care for Our Common Home |
Friday, April 21, noon–1:45 p.m., LeRoux Conference Center (Student Center 160)

Earth Talks is the annual showcase of short, 5-minute sustainability-focused presentations by students, faculty, staff and a community partner. This year’s keynote speaker is alumna Patience Malaba, ’20, executive director of the Housing Development Consortium and 2020 Bullitt Foundation Environmental Fellowship awardee. All speakers will attend in person, but audience members can participate virtually. Light lunch will be served. Hosted by CEJS and co-sponsored by Center for Ecumenical and Interreligious Engagement and the Institute for Catholic Thought and Culture. Learn more at

Breaking Bread: Food Justice Summit |
Friday, April 21 and Saturday, April 22 (in-person), Wyckoff Auditorium

In partnership with the Foundation for Environmental Stewardship and sponsored by the Community Foundation for Snohomish County, the Center for Social Transformation and Leadership (CSTL) is bringing together students, faculty, community leaders and state officials for learning and action at Breaking Bread: Food Justice Summit. This three-part interdisciplinary event is centered on the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and will aid attendees in developing the skills and training necessary to mobilize action for food justice. Upon completion of the interactive program, participants will receive a certificate and badge to add to their resume and professional development journey. Learn more at

Turning the Tide for Ecology—Catholic Earth Day Summit |
Saturday, April 22, 9 a.m.–4 p.m., LeRoux Conference Center (Student Center 160)

All are welcome to join the Creation Care Network for its annual environmental justice summit. The day will provide space to ground the community’s collective work spiritually, discern how the Spirit is calling all to build reciprocity with the earth and take action together for climate justice. The day will include Mass by Archbishop Paul D. Etienne, keynotes on integral ecology and salmon restoration, a panel on climate action and more. Co-sponsored by the Institute for Catholic Thought and Culture. Learn more and register here.

This year, Earth Month will also be celebrated within the context of the university’s participation in Pope Francis’ “Seven-Year Journey to Integral Ecology” through the Laudato Si’ Action Platform, which will set priorities and goals for SU over the next seven years.

“Sustainability and environmental justice are central to who we are called to be as a Jesuit and Catholic university,” says President Eduardo Peñalver. “We should all take pride in the significant progress we have made as an institution. At the same time, we have before us a climate crisis that is urgently demanding even more from us. That’s why we have made Pope Francis’ ‘Seven-Year Journey toward Integral Ecology’ through the Laudato Si' Action Platform foundational to Reigniting our Strategic Directions (2022–2027) and strive to embed this commitment into everything we do.”

“As a Jesuit and Catholic university committed to educating and preparing our students to be ethical professionals and leaders for a more just and humane world, Laudato Si’ can provide direction, insight, a framework and is the soil from which this ecological conversion emerges,” says Professor Jeanette Rodriguez, PhD, who co-chairs the Laudato Si’ Action Platform with Cieters.

“What I find most rewarding is to see this endeavor being responded to by the whole community, faculty, staff, students and external partners. There are individuals and offices that have been doing this work for years and now we get to coordinate, work together and live out our mission as a university in this beautiful and crucial way.”

And, as Cieters notes, the important work that SU does can serve as a model to be good environmental stewards each and every day, not just one month out of a year.

“As we approach Earth Day, the increased attention from around the world provides an opportunity to re-energize and re-engage individuals and organizations to deepen their commitment and work toward change in the months beyond April.”

Learn more about all the Earth Month events and programming.

Artful Earth Month 

Each year a student designs the official logo for Earth Month (see the winning art below). This year’s art was created by Rida Naz, ’23. For Naz, the work symbolizes “taking care of Earth as two people are giving it a hug. There are other living creatures, not just humans, for whom we have to save it.”

“My hopes for Earth Month and beyond is that we all can become more mindful of our individual actions and try to become more sustainable. No action is too small when it comes to change. It all makes a difference.”

a graphic for Earth Month created by a student