April 26, 2022
Students, Office of Sustainability celebrate Earth Day
From rock wall climbing to an Earth Day Bazaar, there were many ways for students to celebrate the environment and learn more about how to get involved.
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The Virginia Commonwealth University Office of Sustainability celebrated Earth Day with a series of events throughout last week, culminating with an Earth Day Bazaar on Friday that drew an enthusiastic crowd to visit with an array of ecological groups and student vendors along the University Student Commons Plaza.
Morgan Winner, a student, had a booth at the bazaar where she was selling secondhand clothing. Winner said she swore to only thrift her clothing after learning how harmful fast fashion can be for the environment. She said some brands produce so much clothing that most of it ends up in landfills.
“So many people buy so many items and then just wear them once or twice and then throw them in the trash,” Winner said. “So, it's very wasteful and … just overconsumption. So by thrifting, I am trying to stop the cycle of waste in the textile industry.”
Another vendor was Chris Bridges, who uses they/she pronouns. Bridges said they started making rugs about a year ago and thought it was a cool way to bring their art to life. While Bridges started out by using acrylic yarn due to cost, they later switched to wool.
“Which not only improved the quality of them and makes them feel even softer, they're a lot better for the environment than acrylic,” Bridges said.
Medical student Bobby Scott was at the bazaar representing Medical Students for a Sustainable Future. His booth highlighted projects around the country that have turned medical waste, such as medication vial caps, into art. These items typically are discarded since they are not made of recyclable material.
“They would otherwise go into the waste unless [they were] diverted into one of these sort of art projects,” Scott said.
Scott is interested in setting up a similar program at VCU to one that exists at the University of Wisconsin's Hospitals and Clinics. He said a local daycare also expressed interest in the project and using alternative materials for art projects.
“I think there's a lot of creative avenues,” Scott said.
The Office of Sustainability was active with events and activities throughout the week. The office had two StudyWell Tabling Events on Monday and Wednesday. StudyWells are events that highlight subjects key to encouraging student’s wellness and success. The first was at Cabell Library on the Monroe Park Campus. At this event, students learned more about the development of the ONE VCU Sustainability Plan.
The plan will create a road map for the university and health system to achieve meaningful and impactful environmental sustainability goals. It will explore existing conditions and opportunities to improve sustainability through university and health system operations, administration, academics and research.
The office released a survey last week to get feedback on how VCU community members think university and health systems should prioritize sustainable action in operations, administration, research and academics.
At Monday’s event, Diana Hall, a student intern with the Office of Sustainability, said visitors asked so frequently about how they could volunteer and help that she created a spreadsheet to collect people’s information.
The Office of Sustainability has several year-round volunteering opportunities, such as the VCU Community Forestry Program, which cares for more than 100 trees planted at the Amelia Street School. Another is the VCU Learning Garden, which has weekly volunteering and learning activities from March through December.
Across campus at the Cary Street Gym, Sustainability, the VCU Outdoor Adventure Program and the Virginia League of Conservation Voters held a rock wall climbing event on Wednesday. Emily Morrow, with the League of Conservation Voters, said the point of being sustainable is to save outdoor spaces and make them accessible to everyone.
“And I think for far too long, it's been a primarily white cis male space and we've started to bleed into [where] white cis women can enjoy these spaces, but it's really still sectioned off from large portions of the community,” she said. “So just making it more accessible, where there are more opportunities to learn and try something new, I think is really important.”
Black Girls Hike RVA, a group that hosts hiking excursions for women of color, was also at the event. Nicole Boyde, a cofounder of the group, said they wanted to help spread the message that outdoor spaces are for everyone.
“Just understanding there are so many different activities that you can do that you can be involved in here in the city, [at] VCU and along the James River,” she said.
Isaac Saneda, a junior at VCU, said he came to the event because he loves climbing and was interested in finding out how the community can make it more inclusive.
“I'm looking forward to having discussion with these people later on during the event,” Sandea said.
While Earth Day has passed, the Office of Sustainability has ways you can get involved all year round. You can find more information about upcoming events and ongoing volunteer opportunities online at sustainability.vcu.edu/get-involved/events-volunteer/.
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