Celebrating Earth Week at Penn

Organized by Penn Sustainability, Earth Week runs April 17-23 and will include dozens of events centered on the themes of environmental justice, climate, and nature-based solutions.

People dig in the soil along a sidewalk in preparation for planting a tree
Members of the Penn community participate in a tree planting event during Earth Week 2022. This year, groups from around campus are organizing nearly 40 different events to celebrate the planet, from litter cleanups to discussion panels. (Image: Kylie Cooper)

Earth Week has a long tradition at Penn, from a grassroots initiative spearheaded by students in 1970, to 2023, when another week-long round-up of events will offer chances for Penn students, staff, faculty, and the broader public to engage in learning, activities, and service related to the Earth and its environment.

“It’s truly a pan-University series of events,” says Noah Swistak, sustainability manager in Penn’s Office of Sustainability, part of the Division of Facilities and Real Estate Services. Penn Sustainability is the hub for Earth Week activities, maintaining the central calendar for nearly 40 events hosted by various Schools, Centers, clubs, and other entities.

Aiming to keep the offerings multifaceted and inclusive but also synergistic, this year’s event organizers were invited to develop programs that fit into one or more of three central themes: environmental justice, climate, and nature-based solutions.

People participate in a painting activity at a table on Penn's campus
GreenFest, a tabling festival on College Green, will be hosted by the Penn Environmental Group on Friday, April 21. (Image: Kylie Cooper)

“For this year we wanted to make the week particularly big tent and welcoming,” Swistak says. “It’s really designed for anybody who is looking to connect with something meaningful during Earth Week.”

Among some of the week’s highlights:

  • Monday, April 17, kicks off a weeklong, campus-wide BioBlitz hosted by the School of Veterinary Medicine and School of Arts & Sciences’ Department of Biology. Participants are invited to use iNaturalist to document wildlife they spot around the University during Earth Week.
  • On Wednesday, April 19, a lecture by Penn landscape historian Jared Farmer will detail his multiyear look at the history of the University from the 1860s to the present with regard to fossil fuel, environmental teaching, and sustainability. Penn, Fossil Fuel, and the History of the Future, based on Farmer’s research in the University Archives, will be held on from 5:15 to 6:15 p.m. at Irvine Auditorium’s Amado Recital Hall. Farmer studies the histories of built and unbuilt environments, from the hyperlocal to the planetary.
  • Penn Sustainability, in partnership with the Office of Alumni Relations, the Environmental Innovations Initiative, Office of Social Equity and Community, and Greenfield Intercultural Center, has invited alumnus Talon Bazille to offer a rap performance and lead a conversation about the role of music and indigenous knowledge in inspiring climate action. That event will take place Thursday, April 20, at 5 p.m. in the ARCH Auditorium.
  • A long-running Penn tradition, GreenFest will be held on College Green the afternoon of Friday, April 21. Hosted by Penn Environmental Group, this tabling festival will highlight ways to get involved in local environmental activities on campus and around Philadelphia. Consultants from energy company AES as well as student groups will be present to discuss the solar power purchase agreement that Penn is engaging in to provide campus with clean energy.

Other events include registration for the Creating Canopy tree giveaway, outdoor yoga at Penn Park Farm, hands-on workshops to create art from recycled goods, community cleanups, and more.

“We have some of those classic Earth Week events like litter pick-ups and recycling drives, but we’re equally excited about some of the events that are brand new this year,” Swistak says. “So much of what I’ve seen and the people I’ve talked to have said this is the first time they’re putting together an event like this. And welcoming as many people as we can and having them come together, across disciplines and areas of interest, is exactly what we’re aiming for.”

For a full calendar of Earth Week events, including registration information, visit the newly redesigned Earth Week webpage on the Penn Sustainability website.

Purple blooms on the verge of opening, backlit by the sun
While many Earth Week events are intended to inspire or teach, others are available for participants to simply enjoy being in nature. (Image: Kylie Cooper)