Arlene Robinson has always been drawn to trash. Whether she is picking it up in parking lots, creating art with it, or recycling, garbage has always been a big part of her life. It is this green lifestyle that has her collecting empty toilet-paper rolls for the third annual Festival of International Books and Arts (FESTIBA).
FESTIBA is aimed at encouraging literacy and broadening cultural awareness. It is spear-headed by Dr. Dahlia Guerra, dean of the College of Arts and Humanities at the University of Texas – Pan American.
The weeklong event begins March 22 and will be filled with guest speakers, art exhibits, workshops, and various presentations throughout the week. It ends with Community Day on March 28, and among one of the events planned for that day is the Lifestyle Pavilion.
The Pavilion will be held under a 90-by-60-foot tent at UTPA’s Quadrangle located between the Student Union and the Health buildings. Those in attendance will be able to walk through and learn of different ways to contribute to the Green Movement.Robinson, who specializes in business and marketing development and is overseeing the event, says it’s an effort to foster environmental awareness.
“We want to introduce a different way of looking at life to the people of the Valley,” Robinson said. “Our goal is to show people how a small change in our lifestyle can make a big difference; even if it’s just a small one, like bringing your own canvas bags to the grocery store.”
Television/film major Aaron Stidwell needs no convincing; he already owns his H-E-B green bags.
“I’ve been using them for a while. I recycle all of my cans. I’m a big fan of re-using things. I do all of the little things you can do without donning a poncho and sleeping under a tree,” Stidwell said jokingly. “Everything that anyone can do, even a little thing, can help.”
The 27-year-old says the Lifestyle Pavilion is a great idea and hopes that more people will contribute to the effort.
To create this awareness, FESTIBA has partnered with four different groups, the World Birding Center, South Texas Renewable Energy, Cool Cities, and Sodexho. Through these participants, Robinson was able to set up attractions for the tent, including a solar-powered water fountain, a wind turbine, and organic meals cooked by a chef from Sodexho, UTPA’s food service company.
“I just want people to see these things in action and know that they’re here in the Valley. That they are doable,” added Robinson. “We envision the tent as being an almost completely different environment.”
Robinson, who makes art out of objects she picks up from parking lots, will decorate the tent with natural and artificial greenery.
As a symbolic gesture, Robinson plans to make palm trees out of empty toilet-paper rolls. She wants to show how art can be created with everyday materials that too often are considered waste.
“The toilet-paper idea is to illustrate how much we throw away,” she explained. “There’s always someone that can use something that we think is trash.”
She is collecting empty rolls through various sources including the office of Marianella Franklin, UTPA’s new sustainability coordinator. Until Friday, Franklin was the university’s construction special project coordinator and was in charge of making sure construction on campus was environmentally friendly. Now, she is to oversee not just the construction aspect of the university, but its overall sustainability.
She says the university is already doing its part, but is getting prepared to do more. Roxie the Recyclesaurus Rex, a recycling program provided by the Edinburg Recycling Center, was put in place last semester. She says the new position will make it easier for her to develop programs that will make the campus more sustainable.
“It’s been called many different things – sustainability, Green Movement, healthy living – but it’s all the same thing,” Franklin said. “It doesn’t matter what you call it. It’s whatever small contribution you make that matters.”
And it’s the sort of small contribution Robinson is asking students for. From now until March 13, empty toilet-paper rolls can be dropped off in Room 140 of the Administration Building.
“When you think about sustainability, you’re thinking of everything that is interconnected, and we are connected with our environment, and with each other,” Robinson added.
“It is that interconnectivity, that mutual respect of the environment and of each other that gives us this tremendous power to move forward and make things happen that we thought we never could.”