By Elliott Davis
For The Diamondback

Hundreds of University of Maryland community members gathered for the seventh annual GreenFest at the Denton Community Quad on Thursday to learn about the importance of wellness and sustainability on the campus.

Attendees, exhibitors and university staff enjoyed the warm spring day with locally sourced food, activities and environmentally conscious prizes.

Lisa Alexander, the Department of Resident Life sustainability coordinator, co-founded GreenFest seven years ago. The event, which falls in April each year for Earth Month, aims to provide educational experiences for students on the topic of sustainability — from wellness to social and economic sustainability.

[Read more: UMD cut carbon emissions but increased water use and trash in 2017]

Students often tell Alexander about GreenFest’s impact on their lives, saying it exposed them to new ideas and helped them start paying attention to their consumption habits. One student told her that buying a sunflower at the event taught them the importance of harvesting seeds.

“It surprises me every time,” Alexander said. “It really shouldn’t because that’s the purpose of the event. But I’m always like, ‘Yes, I’m winning!’”

GreenFest’s exhibitor booths — many of which are student-run — offer interactive, educational activities, and attendees collect stamps at each booth. When they get 10 stamps, they can spin a prize wheel to win an eco-friendly item such as a reusable grocery bag, a spork or a glass straw.

This year, there were more than 20 exhibitors, including Dining Services, the Maryland Food Co-op, the Sustainable Ocean Alliance and the Office of Sustainability.

[Read more: 9th annual Good Neighbor Day draws 900 volunteers to College Park]

Alexander added that the GreenFest organizers made an effort to be “zero-waste” this year by purchasing a TerraCycle bin, which she said recycles “commonly used items that cannot be recycled” normally. For example, the bin can recycle the many snack wrappers that would otherwise go into a regular trash can.

The booth for the Sustainable Ocean Alliance, a student group focused on ocean conservation, had trivia questions on topics related to the ocean. If attendees answered correctly, they earned a stamp.

Maya Zambrano-Lee, the group’s president, said the event was a way to engage students who might not attend the event voluntarily.

“GreenFest is a really cool event that allows residents, who don’t necessarily go out of their way to go to sustainability-oriented events, to just kind of walk by while they’re on their way to the diner, on their way home, and see all of these really cool environmental hubs that we’ve got,” the junior environmental science and policy major said, “and learn a little bit more about sustainability on campus and how they can get involved and learn about environmental issues.”

At another booth, the Dining Services team taught attendees about sustainability through a cooking demo.

Semira Said, a sophomore nutritional science major, worked the Dining Services’ booth for the Campus Pantry, an on-campus organization that works to relieve food insecurity at this university.

“To see how everyone is trying to meet the same goal, but in different ways of sustainability, and how we’re all interconnected in that way,” Said said. “And just seeing that visually out like this, I think it’s pretty cool.”

Poornima Krishnamoorthi, a sophomore finance major, said she heard about GreenFest from a friend who was working at one of the booths. Krishnamoorthi said she already tries to live a sustainable life.

“Sustainability to me is just like, a lifestyle that can lead to the least carbon footprint and not be harmful to the planet,” she said.