The University of Michigan-Flint will host a dynamic mix of Earth Day events Saturday, designed for the entire community and for all ages to enjoy and celebrate.
The university is holding numerous environmentally-themed activities in partnership with Mott Community College and Kettering University. All of this year's Earth Day events take place on the UM-Flint campus.
There will be a recycled art competition, bike tours, live animal presentations, and important discussions on eating healthy, public infrastructure, sustainable living practices, and more.
The day is designed to celebrate and discuss the environment, and the wide range of ways people can live in harmony with the Earth, organizers said.
"It brings awareness to learning more ways of living, whether it's healthy lifestyles or buying local or anything that helps you become more mindful of how you are impacting yourself and the planet," said Lora Rometsch, a health and safety coordinator within the university's Environment, Health and Safety department.
The university will also host a Water Ceremony and Unity Gathering along the Flint River. The ceremony is organized and run by numerous indigenous tribes, organizations, and individuals from Michigan and Canada. It is meant to celebrate unity and healing for the Flint community, said Theresa Cojo-Chingwa, a cultural specialist with the education department of the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians.
"I think people should expect a beautiful ceremony, meeting new people and seeing old friends," Cojo-Chingwa said about the Water Ceremony and Unity Gathering. It starts at 11 a.m., outside of the William S. White Building, along the river. Cojo-Chingwa was born and raised in Flint and helped organize the event, which includes a ceremony, drums, prayer, meal, pipe ceremony, and speakers.
Water ceremonies show "respect and acknowledge the element" as a living thing.
The groups are also donating water to local churches due to the water crisis, and making it available to those who attend the ceremony and gathering. Cojo-Chingwa thanked UM-Flint for hosting the event and said it works well that the ceremony and Earth Day events are on the same day, being that both emphasize the environment and community unity. The gathering will take place for several hours, with some aspects taking place inside the William S. White Building.
"During the ceremony itself, there will be times the organizers will ask that no photographs and videos be taken, but it will be communicated when this is okay to do now, too," she said.
The Earth Day events, with support and participation from various community groups, draws people from around the region, Rometsch said.
The day includes numerous presentations within the Kiva, located on the first floor of the University Center. UM-Flint Earth and Resource Science faculty member Marty Kaufman will discuss the broader national challenges to clean water. Erin Caudell, of The Local Grocer, will discuss how growing your own food and supporting farmers helps the community. Rebecca Fedewa, of the Flint Watershed Coalition, will talk about the health of the Flint River and proposed future recreational development.
There will be live animal presentations in the Loving Lounge on the 2nd floor of the University Center. This includes bats, native Michigan amphibian and reptiles, and birds of prey.
Native American dancers will perform a Blessing of the Earth on campus as part of the tri-university day of events.
More than 50 exhibitors and presenters will be on campus Saturday, along with live music, short environmental talks, and bicycle tours to UM-Flint's Urban Alternatives House, The Local Grocer, the Flint Farmers' Market, and other spots. The Recreation Center is providing free bikes for the tour.
For all Earth Day events, a full list of times and locations is available at https://www.umflint.edu/earthday.
In addition to the Earth Day events and the Water Ceremony, the U.S Environmental Protection Agency is hosting an open house for residents within the University Center from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. It will include numerous federal, state and local agencies, and will feature blood lead level testing, what you can do to keep your family safe, and other topics. This is not connected to the Earth Day events but is held on campus at the same time.
"If you come out, you can enjoy more than one event, that's what's so great about it," Rometsch said about the day at UM-Flint.