September 17, 2013

‘Big Tuna’ to Aid Sustainability

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This month, Cornellians could see a person dressed in a giant tuna costume hanging around Ho Plaza. The person, or The Big Tuna, might even ask to take a picture with them.

Students involved in the effort say they are donning The Big Tuna costume to promote awareness of the bluefin tuna and to publicize an Ithaca-based kiteboarding competition called The Splash Down. Proceeds from The Splash Down will go toward supporting Sustainable Tompkins, a community-based organization dedicated to promoting sustainability and environmental awareness, according to Christian Shaw ’13, president of the Kiteboarding Club and one of The Splash Down’s leaders.

Shaw said The Splash Down is the first event of its kind in Ithaca.

“The Splash Down is a collaboration between Green Catch, here on campus, the Cornell Kiteboarding Club, Ithaca Kite Riders and Pew Charitable Trusts,” Shaw said. “It’s the first and only kiteboarding event in Ithaca,” he added.

Although the date for the kiteboarding competition has not been set yet,Shaw said it should take place within the month, hopefully on a Saturday. The race course, which will be on Cayuga Lake, will be just under 12 miles long.

As part of its effort to raise awareness about sustainability, students dressed as The Big Tuna are trying to take as many pictures with their peers as possible to send to Pew Charitable Trusts, a non-profit organization. Pew is sponsoring a competition that encourages people to “take as many pictures as they can with either signs that talk about sustainable fishing and the bluefin tuna or [show them] with the tuna suit,” Shaw said.

The person who sends in the most pictures to Pew wins an all-expenses paid trip to Washington, D.C., Shaw said. There, the winner gets to hand-deliver the photos, which will be presented as a mosaic in the shape of a tuna, to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, a federal agency.

Katharine Leigh ’15 — another leader behind The Splash Down and president of Green Catch — said that Cornell Dining is also supporting The Splash Down by only serving sustainable tuna this month. If a student mentions The Splash Down when he or she buys a tuna sandwich, the student should also get a free soda, according to Leigh.

“Student pressure makes the difference,” Leigh said. “It would really be great if they could keep the program going.” Leigh said she could not reveal who is wearing “The Big Tuna” costume. “It’s a mystery,” she said.

Still, according to Shaw, “The Big Tuna” role will be shared among a few of the team’s members.

Although Tompkins Sustainability is the primary beneficiary of The Splash Down, some of the funds will go to Solarize Lansing, which is Sustainable Tompkins’s most recent project.

“Sustainable Tompkins works on extending small grants to local people to implement renewable energy,” Shaw said. “Solarize Lansing is [a project that aims to] help people facilitate solar [energy] in Lansing.”

The ultimate point of The Splash Down, according to Shaw, is not just to raise money. Rather, it is “to bring awareness to all of these issues — get conversation going and get people thinking about solar and sustainable practices as a whole,” he said.

Green Catch is a student organization “dedicated to sustainable seafood education and advocacy” that sends college students to educate middle school students on these issues. The Pew Charitable Trusts is a non-profit organization that “applies a rigorous, analytical approach to improve public policy, inform the public and stimulate civic life.”