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Eighth annual Earth Week draws high community involvement

Week features 20 events

<p>Over 300 students attended the Earth Week Expo on April 20, featuring interactive presentations and activities by Earth Week partners.&nbsp;</p>

Over 300 students attended the Earth Week Expo on April 20, featuring interactive presentations and activities by Earth Week partners. 

Last week, students, faculty, staff and community members came together to celebrate the Earth and sustainability during the eighth annual Earth Week. This year’s theme was “Experience Sustainability” and featured more than 20 events throughout the week.

Nina Morris, outreach and engagement program manager in the University Office for Sustainability, said there was something for everyone at this year’s Earth Week.

“This year we tried to come up with events where people could really get their hands dirty and experience sustainability,” Morris said. “We wanted people to walk away with a tangible thing they could do in their community or in their daily lives.”

To start off the week, the Big Spring Thing was held April 17 in the University Community Garden.

“[The Big Spring Thing is] a celebration of spring, and we [had] lots of local food grown by local farmers, we had four acts of live music and we had a container gardening workshop,” fourth-year Architecture student Love Jonson said.

The gardening workshop allowed students to walk away with their own potted plant to remind them about Earth Week beyond the events.

“People could either plant snap peas or sunflower seeds in their little pots and take them home with them, so we [gave] people an opportunity to check off ‘plant in the community garden’ off their list of things to do before they graduate,” Jonson said.

After the kickoff Sunday, there were a number of events planned for each day of the week, including the annual SustainaBanquet, the Earth Week Expo and SustainaPitch Night.

“From talks about climate change to clothing swaps, from free yoga classes to the Earth Week Expo, there was something for everyone,” Morris said.

The Earth Week Expo on April 20 featured diverse community members. Participating organizations presented interactive tabling activities, demonstrations and green projects for those in attendance. Attendance exceeded 300 students.

“The Expo is about 25 different groups hosting various different interactive tables,” Morris said. “We had Black Bear Composting there talking about how to compost, we had Madison House doing vegetable prints, [and] we had EcoGrounds doing fantastic free trade coffee tastings. There was just so much happening.”

With over 20 events and activities, Earth Week required extensive planning.

“Basically, it’s actually pretty cool, we start planning for the next Earth Week literally during Earth Week,” Morris said. “It takes a full year.”

Morris said the planning is a very collaborative process and is a result of coordination between the Student Earth Week Committee, the Outreach Events Task Force and the University Office for Sustainability.

“There are 30 to 40 different partners involved with U.Va.’s Earth Week,” Morris said. “It’s a lot to coordinate, which is why we have to start so early.”

After a full year of planning, Morris said this year’s Earth Week was a success. Drawing students with a diverse array of activities, each event furthered widespread understanding of sustainability.

“Every event thus far has been a super success,” Morris said.

Overall, the planners of this year’s Earth Week wanted to get more people involved and broaden sustainability. With high student turnout, the events of the week proved fun and engaging.

“We’re trying to make it so that everyone can find a home in sustainability,” Morris said.

Focusing on community, Jonson said the week is based on collaboration. At the end of the day, all organizations involved hope to engage the student body in sustainability.

“It was really great to get not only our regular gardeners but also sustainability-related groups and people who had never [been involved] before all together to celebrate,” Jonson said.