Coal trains and divestment were hot topics at this year’s Green Tie Gala. The evening included a colorful dinner and speeches from representatives of Western Washington University’s environmental clubs. Many attendees wore floral dresses or emerald bow ties.
Representatives from the Students For Renewable Energy, Students for Renewable Food and many others were in attendance. In addition to fundraising for the clubs, the Gala was also a chance to recognize each club’s achievements and attract students who don’t belong to clubs.
“We all do a lot of work here on campus, and it’s a time where we can come together and celebrate everything we do,” said speaker Eddy Ury. “Reinforce the values that we have and share a delicious, sustainably grown meal, cooked by our wonderful Students for Sustainable Food members.”
Although it didn’t sell out like the previous year, the Gala was a success, said Jenny Godwin, president of Students for Renewable Energy. The audience reacted with enthusiasm towards the speakers and the food.
Godwin served as the main organizer for the evening. She said that planning had begun in March. After that, clubs met every Thursday to figure out what each one wanted for event.
Bruce Shepard opened the night with a speech in which he talked about his own education and environmental background, in addition to Western’s achievements in sustainability.
“Across the country I can’t find a university that isn’t claiming to be at the forefront of sustainability,” Shepard said. “But our roots go deep here at Western, and that’s something to be proud of, something to celebrate.”
Shepard said that student energy drove all parts of sustainability at Western. From green cleaning awards to the establishment of the nation’s first environmental college, he gave examples of Western’s position as a leader in green studies.
Two speeches began with a love of skiing. Andrew Eckels and Hunter Hassig described trips into the mountains that sparked their love for the outdoors and desire to protect it.
Kiley Thomas, President of the Wildlife Conservation Corps, talked about loving animals throughout her life, and discovering Western and Huxley College. She read an excerpt from Aldo Leopold’s Sand County Almanac.
Matt Petryni, the campaign manager for Power Past Coal’s, gave the keynote speech. Although his talk centered on blocking the coal terminal, he began by describing his own childhood spent playing in Whatcom Falls Park. He spoke of the gas pipeline explosion of June 10, 1999, describing it as a turning point for Bellingham’s environmental attitudes.
“Bellingham fundamentally changed that day. For many years we were just this skuzzy mill town,” Petryni said. “It altered our consciousness in a way that was irreversible.”
Katrina Poppe, a Huxley graduate student and director of L.E.A.D., or Learning Environment Action Discovery, told the history of the Outback project, following its history from a homestead to a pig farm to the small-scale student farm it is today.
Carolyn Bowie, vice president of Students for Sustainable Water, told her story of moving from the Pacific Northwest to Minnesota, where it rarely rained and people didn’t recycle. She felt grateful after coming back to Washington and encouraged the audience to think about the liquid in their glasses, she said.
“Next time you walk by a plant in the morning, notice the dewdrops,” Bowie said. “Next time you’re near a river, stop and think about the thousands of organisms hidden under the water that call it home.”
Tommy Crisp, an attendee who studies economics and environmental studies, said the Gala inspired him to join a club.
“It made me feel like I need to get my ass off the couch,” he said.