The California Natural Resources Agency and the California Association of Museums has selected the Earl Burns Miller Japanese Garden to receive the prestigious Secretary’s Award for Excellence in Sustainability. Any California museum, zoo, aquarium, science center, botanical garden, or historical society with an exemplary public education or operational sustainability program was eligible to apply. Only four California-based museums were recognized this year for making strides to promote sustainability in their communities.
The Japanese Garden was recognized for its role in putting on CSULB’s Green Generation Mixer and Sustainability Project Showcase, an annual event that brings together the campus and Long Beach community for an evening of networking, music, food, and sustainability-focused student and faculty projects. The event is put on by a collaboration between the Japanese Garden, the campus Office of Sustainability and the Sustainability Task Force. The Japanese Garden has co-hosted the event for the past 7 years.
This event highlights the Japanese Garden’s long-standing support for sustainability on campus, by providing a space for sustainability-centered discussion, celebrating the academic achievements of students and faculty, and allowing attendees to make connections with environmental organizations on and off campus. Most importantly, the event helps foster a culture of sustainability and climate resilience throughout the greater campus community and beyond.
Japanese Garden Director Jeanette Schelin’s leadership has been central to the mixer’s success and growth over the years. As a member of the Sustainability Task Force, she has been a steadfast supporter of the university’s sustainability goals and a vocal advocate for the garden’s continued involvement with the annual event.
“As a rich, multi-dimensional social learning environment, [the Green Generation Mixer and Sustainability Showcase] offers educational opportunities, a venue for highlighting student achievement, a way to engage with campus and community groups and is a catalyst for partnerships while providing visibility for the university’s programs, commitments and achievements. We strive to make it relevant, memorable and yes, fun!” Schelin said.
The Japanese Garden is open to all attendees during the mixer, where they can explore the beautiful zen garden, visit participating vendors, and browse through student and faculty-led projects in the Project Showcase. Each year, more than 50 diverse and innovative projects are displayed at the garden, highlighting sustainability-related research and ideas from a wide variety of disciplines. As the number of projects displayed continues to increase each year, so do the number of attendees. There were more than 300 attendees at last year’s mixer and more than 500 people attended the most recent event in April 2018!
“I was blown away by the attendance and the obvious excitement of the participants,” said CSULB President Jane Close Conoley, who has spoken at the event for the past three years.
The event is meant to give the greater campus community an opportunity to network and learn, but the experience is also lively and upbeat.
When attendees arrive, they are greeted with music, art displays and vegetarian hors-d'oeuvres. The atmosphere of the event is warm and welcoming and the ambience of the Japanese Garden adds to the mood. The mixer and project showcase are meant to create a memorable and enjoyable experience for everyone involved.
Assistant Professor of Geography, Lily House-Peters, is an enthusiastic supporter of the event, and even plans her curriculum around the project showcase.
House-Peters said, “Beyond significantly increasing student literacy in sustainability, a number of students who attended the Mixer and participated in the Showcase became motivated to pursue an internship or job in the environmental field, and some students have even changed their majors to environmentally-focused disciplines!”
Since the first mixer and project showcase was held in 2011, the event has grown from a small student-sponsored event to the highlight of the annual Earth Week celebrations on campus.
On August 13, the Japanese Garden will be presented the Secretary’s Award for Excellence in Sustainability at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco. Representatives from the award-winning museums will have to the opportunity to discuss the role museums play in the field of sustainability as public institutions. Director of the Japanese Garden, Jeanette Schelin, and Sustainability Coordinator, Holli Fajack plan to attend the award ceremony to share best practices with colleagues from a wide variety of California museums.
Planning for the 2019 Green Generation Mixer begins well before the April event takes place. Faculty or students interested in participating by joining the planning committee, incorporating a sustainability project requirement into their fall or spring courses, or submitting a project are encouraged to contact the Office of Sustainability for more information.