Sustainability at UVa: Beyond Earth Week

Last week, UVa and the greater Charlottesville community sponsored a series of events with various on-grounds organizations to celebrate Earth Week, leading up to Earth Day on Friday, April 22. With events ranging from  a night of food, activities, and awards at SustainaBanquet to Bike to Class Day to promote sustainable commuting, UVa was brimming with an eco-friendly attitude. The week was culminated by Sunday’s Charlottesville EcoFair, a free celebration of earth-friendly living in the community and beyond.
The EcoFair, which took place at the Downtown Mall, combined a variety of elements, from live music to delicious food trucks to raffles for prizes like bikes and summer pool passes, in an effort to promote healthy and environmentally-conscious living. There were also workshops — such as a clothes mending seminar and free yoga sessions — and a speaker series, where different authors and community business members gave insight into their experience with and viewpoints on environmentalism. For people of all ages, the fair provided the opportunity to connect with environmental organizations and green businesses to gain knowledge about how human beings can impact and change the earth.

Following the EcoFair and a week abundant with green living, locally sourced foods, and sustainable workshops, it may be difficult to figure out how to continue living with an eco-friendly mindset without the constant reminders and opportunities. This Earth Day, UVa helped to address this challenge. During the Earth Week Expo in Newcomb Hall last Wednesday, the University highlighted a comprehensive new Sustainability Plan to be implemented this year.
The plan consists of three key elements: engagement, stewardship, and discovery. Some of the long-term goals of the plan include lowering greenhouse gas emissions, reducing energy use in university buildings, and significantly diminishing the total tonnage of waste generated each year at UVa, with focuses on food, energy, and water usage.

“From the classroom to the laboratory, our students, faculty and staff are leading a dialogue about sustainability and developing solutions that will change the way we interact with the environment,” President Teresa Sullivan stated in the plan.
Beyond university measures, students also have concrete opportunities to do their part to improve the environment and work to combat the threat of increasing climate change at an individual level. Some of the major opportunities outlined by Sustainability at UVa are recycling in dorms or university buildings, reducing energy use, and getting involved in sustainability-minded CIOs on grounds, such as EcoReps, Green Grounds, and Madison House Community Garden.
This interaction by students with their opportunities for environmental involvement can fall under the “engagement” category of the new Sustainability Plan. By not only engaging in the different organizations and working hands-on, students are also becoming teachers—spreading their knowledge about environmental impact with their peers and the community.

“We want to develop innovative solutions that will have a beneficial impact on the University and the global community,” said President Sullivan. “UVA is fortunate to have faculty, staff, students, and alumni who share this commitment.”


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