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Earth C.O.R.P.S. offers gifts good for the environment

Students seeking environmentally sustainable alternatives to buying holiday gifts at malls found crafty ideas at the Consumer Free Holiday Silent Art Auction and Craft Extravaganza last Wednesday.

Earth C.O.R.P.S., which denotes Community Organized to Respect, Protect and Sustain the Earth, sponsored the event. Earth C.O.R.P.S. is the revamped version of the former Recycling Club.

Co-President Sophie Leininger, senior, said the Recycling Club redesigned itself to reflect an expanded mission to promote overall sustainability, community efforts toward sustainability and awareness of environmental issues. She said the club’s former emphasis on recycling and composting fell under that rubric, but Earth C.O.R.P.S. wanted to have events that would meet their wider objectives.

Their most recent event, the eco-holiday fair, included a silent auction, marble magnets for sale, recycled paper gift-wrapping and tables where visitors could make cards and jewelry from recycled materials, like paper and aluminum can pull-tabs.

A fundraising bake sale was also held with part of the proceeds benefiting efforts to clean up the Bay Area oil spill that took place on Nov. 7.

Kamyla Davis, a freshwoman, staffed the bake sale table most of the day. “I didn’t have time to do art, so I made cookies,” she said.

The club also gave away a free fluorescent light bulb to everyone who purchased a bake sale item; the items were priced from 50 cents to a couple of dollars. According to the government’s Energy Star program website, fluorescent lights use about 75 percent less energy than halogen light bulbs.

Leininger said Pacific Gas and Electric Company donated a package of 100 fluorescent light bulbs to the club. She said the focus of the event was on “ways to reduce our carbon footprint,” and to offer Mills, “sustainable alternatives to the typical activities that happen around the holidays.”

Cardboard signs displayed figures that illustrated Amer- ican consumers’ environmental impact around the holidays.

One sign read, “From Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day, household waste increases [more than] 25%. Added food, shopping bag[s], packaging and wrapping paper waste = 1 million tons per week added to U.S. landfills.”

The Consumer Free holiday fair lasted from 11 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. and the auction featured artwork, crafts and jewelry by a selection of Mills undergraduate and graduate students, as well as knitted hats and scarves made by members of the Mills Crafters Collective.

Some of the auctioned items included paintings, photography, block prints, necklaces, earrings, Batman note-cards, book art prints, knit leg warmers, ceramics and felt purses.

Contributing artist Hannah Peragine, junior, said, “I enjoy the opportunity to support artists in this community and use the power of my consumer choice to fight waste.”

Auction items were displayed all day in the Student Union and bidding concluded at 8:15 p.m. Bidders had until 8:30 p.m. to return, and if they had placed the top bid, they completed the sale with the artist.

Freshwoman Alysson Raymond who contributed art said that a lot of the artists’ work was sold at the event.

“It’s great. I’m surprised at how many people bought my stuff,” she said.

Leininger said the idea for the eco-friendly holiday fair sprang from an awareness of the negative effects consumerism has on the environment during the holiday season. She cited the excess of resource use and waste due to paper gift wrap, sending cards and packages and packaging of store-bought items. Increased travel also causes the spike in carbon output and environmental degradation during the winter months, she said.

“Large corporations are less kind to the environment than individuals,” Leininger said. “Shopping at malls, from corporations, is less sustainable.”

Sophomore Hannah Forsberg agreed, “This year I’m not going to do anything wasteful, I decided,” she said.

Some of the ideas offered by the club’s signs were community artwork, gift certificates to spas or gyms, memberships to online magazines, food or crafts.