Sustain-a-Bash celebrates campus sustainability community

Field among campus buildings with signs saying "Sustain-a-Bash" and students mingling at tables

On Friday, September 16, on East Campus Mall, a group of students congregated around a bicycle. One pedaled at full speed while the other held down a blender jar to get the smoothie going. A crowd of friends surrounded them, cheering, and enjoyed smoothie shots shortly after. 

The blender bike was a main attraction at the ninth annual Sustain-a-Bash, an annual event hosted by University Housing with support from the Office of Sustainability, student organizations, and students themselves. As riders pedaled through the buzzing afternoon, the bike blended up smoothies, yielding the delicious fruits of hard work. The bike also symbolized sustainable innovation, as it benefited people with the workout while being energized by nothing but leg power.

Young woman in red shirt pedals a red bike with a blender on the rear seat filled with fruitSustain-a-Bash, which was founded in 2013, has been hosted in-person on the Gordon Dining & Event Center lawn with the exception of the virtual session in 2020. Malorie Garbie, the sustainability coordinator for University Housing, called Sustain-a-Bash an “opportunity to meet residents in the beginning of the year and introduce them into all these opportunities that exist in our halls and how we prioritize sustainability.” She noted that learning and having fun at the event positively benefits the living experience in residence halls.

A wide variety of campus partners — including student organizations, housing facilities, and offices — set up tables for this year’s Sustain-a-Bash. More than 200 students attended, toured the tables, signed up for newsletters, and spoke with organizations about how to take everyday actions to reduce our negative impacts on the planet.

Black sign with "Helios" on it with four people behind it in front of a field and campus buildings

University Housing demonstrated its ozone water cleaning technique. The Electric Eats Food Truck, a fully electric food truck sponsored by the Green Fund, sold refreshments, showing that street food culture can be sustainable, too. Student organizations like CLEAN, Slow Food UW, ASM Sustainability, Helios, and the Wisconsin Society for Conservation Biology shared why they do what they do.

CLEAN is committed to trying to convince the university to transition to 100% renewable energy. It conducts outreach programs with other organizations and promotes its goal through the programs and weekly meetings with members. At Sustain-a-Bash, it summarized CLEAN in one sentence: “students passionate about renewable energy.”

Slow Food UW, in the words of Vice President Angelina Mico, “is an established nonprofit organization at the University of Wisconsin–Madison campus and is dedicated to providing good, clean, fair food for all members of the community.”

Four young women laughing and leaning against a large inflated earth

“We do this by supporting local and sustainable food production, cultivating a welcoming community centered around food, and advancing social justice efforts in the Madison area,” Mico said, calling Slow Food her “home away from home.”

As the event came to a close, interns for the Office of Sustainability took pictures with a large, five foot tall inflatable globe. While organizers folded up tables and stacked them onto carts, the interns deflated the globe. They hugged it to get the air out, joking that they were taking the life out of the planet. 

It was clear from Sustain-a-Bash, however, that UW–Madison students are doing precisely the opposite.

By: Narayani Varanasi
Photos by: Bailey Kestner