Recreation Park was lively and busy with students and community members for an Earth Day Festival. Binghamton University’s student organizations, New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG) and Zero Hour Binghamton, teamed up to celebrate Earth Day with live music, free food, games and more from 4 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. on April 22.

Ciara O’Brien, a junior double-majoring in environmental studies and politics, philosophy and law, is the outreach coordinator and the head of the environmental protection campaign for NYPIRG. O’Brien was encouraged by the turnout at the festival.

“It’s super inspiring seeing all these people out here,” O’Brien said. “There are so many young people who care about our planet today and really want to be able to make a difference for a cleaner and better future.”

The event was kicked off with speaker Eleanore Colton from Network for a Sustainable Tomorrow (NEST), a community organization aiming to create a socially and environmentally just world. After her speech, the first band of the night, The Droogs, set up on the gazebo to perform live music.

The event was sponsored by the city, allowing the clubs to hand out free food and table at Recreation Park. Students and community members kicked soccer balls, played Spikeball and tossed frisbees with a game of Kan Jam. Organizations tabling at the event had free activities, such as origami, sidewalk chalk and painting rocks. The fun did not stop there as the famous antique carousel was up and running for everyone to ride. Food included vegetable and chicken Caesar wraps, cookies, cupcakes and fresh cotton candy.

Kelly Lebohner, a senior majoring in biology, attended the event and enjoyed the rock-painting station. Lebohner and her friends dug rocks out of the dirt to paint on a picnic blanket while listening to the live music.

“I love how the event has activities that involve using aspects of the park, such as the rocks for painting or the sidewalk for chalk,” Lebohner said. “It really emphasized how the Earth provides us with everything we need and we don’t even realize it.”

NYPIRG’s environmental campaign and Zero Hour Binghamton oversaw the hosting of this year’s Earth Day Festival. NYPIRG is a nonprofit group with university chapters working to educate people on public policy, strengthen democracy, protect public health, improve the environment and build communities. Zero Hour Binghamton works toward environmental justice in the area and hosts events such as cleanups. Both BU clubs hope to inspire people to take action against the climate crisis as every small action contributes to a larger impact.

“You can make an impact by reducing the amount of waste you’re generating, cutting back on the amount of meat you are eating, driving with a friend and reducing the amount that you’re shopping,” O’Brien said. “Those small steps make a big change even though a lot of people think that they don’t. You can join a group on campus like NYPIRG, [Team] Sunrise, Zero Hour [Binghamton] or any other organization that is going to bring people together. We’re all working toward political action and demanding that things change in our country.”

Together, the organizations brought in a large crowd of community members and students to celebrate Mother Nature on Earth Day, an important holiday to remind us every year of the climate crisis and how valuable the environment is.

“It’s crucial to have a day where we celebrate our Earth because it sends a message to younger generations how important it is to protect and take care of our planet,” Lebohner said.

The annual event has previously been held on campus and in students’ houses, but NYPIRG hoped to open the event to community members as well this year to bring everyone together to celebrate Earth Day.

“There’s definitely a big divide between the students and the local population, so we really wanted to bring people together,” O’Brien said. “Also, to bring awareness to the organizations working toward environmental change on campus and off campus and the really cool activists and what they have to say.”

Christopher Audette and Amy Liang, ‘21, also delivered speeches to the crowd. Audette is the executive director of the Waterman Conservation Education Center in Binghamton. Liang is a BU alumna and an environmental justice program assistant at New York Power Authority. Liang was formerly the president of NYPIRG and now strives to find environmental solutions through policy, research and community-building. In between the speeches, the band KWK put on an energetic performance.

The Earth Day Festival’s mix of entertainment and powerful speeches highlighted the celebration of progress toward environmental justice as well as the crucial urgency in advocating for political reforms to slow climate change.

“This is such an important time in our history for both raising awareness and activism for the climate crisis,” O’Brien said. “We have to act now. We have such a short window for action. One of the best ways to do that is through grassroots organizations and through community awareness by bringing the community together, inspiring people and telling them every small impact is an impact and everyone can make a difference in things they do in their day-to-day life.”

Diana Fabrizio, a master’s student studying public administration, is the president of NYPIRG. Fabrizio shared methods and tips for limiting climate change and building a more sustainable future.

“We need to follow Indigenous people’s lead as they have a lot of good environmental practices,” Fabrizio said. “They have done sustainable practices for so long and we should be following their lead. You can put pressure on the government and be aware of the big industries that are the key problem and bring light to that, but also do the little steps that we can on our own.”

The event ended with performances by From the Bronx and the headliner, The Plasters. The latter is a student band that won BU’s Battle of the Bands and is the opener for this year’s upcoming Spring Fling. Attendees lounged on blankets in the grass and danced along to the music as the sun set on Recreation Park, bringing an end to a warm and eventful Earth Day in Binghamton.

“There was a huge turnout, everyone is having a great time, people love the food and all the clubs seem to be doing great,” Fabrizio said.