El Dia Del Mundo was the first sustainability community outreach event hosted by UTPA's Department of Community Engagement and sponsored by Shell Oil Company. The conference was created in an effort to discuss the innovative technological processes that can be used to gain environmental awareness, learn about energy efficient efforts and embrace sustainability as a lifestyle rather than a practice. Representatives from local businesses and companies were invited to listen to discussions lead by guest speakers of Corporate America, while elementary students participated in hands-on activities.
Approximately 200 third and fourth graders at the event learned what they can do for the environment by turning trash into treasure, learning about wind power energy and convincing their families to be interested in green initiatives that will help save the planet.
"We learned how to reuse trash to make other things instead of throwing it away," Cisneros said. "I'm going to teach my family what I learned and make creative stuff at home out of our trash."
UTPA President Dr. Robert S. Nelsen said he felt that reaching out to the children was the first step in making a difference toward the future of sustainability and making it a part of everyday life.
"Those kids are our future," Nelsen told an audience of community and business representatives. "That is one of the reasons why we are partnering with Shell Oil Company because they care about the environment and about doing more. Dia Del Mundo is a culmination of what we're doing and what we're going to do in terms of sustainability and making sure that those kids have a future."
He called UTPA "a city within itself" that has already done a lot in the past few years in regards to sustainability. The University has implemented an energy management program, switched to energy efficient light bulbs and is monitoring energy usage throughout campus buildings.
"We're doing everything we can, but it's never going to be enough because we also have to reach out to our community and make sure that energy conservation happens throughout the Valley," Nelsen said.
The seminar featured speakers Luis Pinto, Social Investment Manager/Strategic Partnerships for Shell Oil Company; Humberto Garza, field operations director for Hidalgo County Precinct 4; Tommy Canul, architect at V. A. Architecture; and Atanacio Hinojosa, business development representative for Magic Valley Electric Cooperative, whose companies have already began implementing sustainable practices and energy efficiency at their locations; and keynote speaker Josh Dorfman, author of the book Lazy Environmentalist on a Budget: Save Money, Save Time, Save the Planet; and star of The Lazy Environmentalist, a TV series on the Sundance Channel that follows his quest of saving the planet one couch potato at a time.
Shell representative Pinto shared with the audience the "three hard truths" that Shell Oil Company works by: the need for more energy because population is growing; the need to maximize the energy we have because oil and gas supplies are diminishing and alternative sources such as solar and wind are expensive; and the need to acknowledge climate change is real.
"The whole idea behind these forums is to talk about new ideas and what's working and what's not in terms of sustainability," Pinto said. "We bring people from communities and get them to discuss environmental issues and what they have learned and hopefully we can come up with answers."
Dorfman used his humorous style to inform and encourage green initiatives among the audience. He used personal stories and examples of methods that can be used to participate in environmental efforts. He said the first thing you have to do to create change is get the lazy environmentalist interested in green initiatives. For example he said, we can market organic food as healthy, which can improve athletic performance; or we can use Eddy Vertical Axis Wind Turbines from Urban Green Energy that are highly efficient and pretty to look at.
"Green has to be easy, attractive and affordable," Dorfman said. "We have to find ways to get people excited about going green so we must consider that what's good for the planet is very much good for us also."
For information on UTPA's sustainability efforts, visit the Office for Sustainability's website.