Array of Activities Planned for Earth Week at U.Va.

April 16, 2009 — This year, Earth Day will be expanded to a week at the University of Virginia.

Running from Monday through April 26, Earth Week will feature a variety of events, including forums, a farmer's market, symposiums, activities, displays, a bike rally and a green living workshop.

"We thought that making the celebrations of Earth Day last an entire week would encourage students, faculty and community members to integrate sustainable living into their everyday lives, rather than just on April 22," said Bukky Awosogba, one of the student organizers of the activities. "This is an issue which directly effects each and every discipline, from business to architecture to medicine."

Awosogba said she wants Earth Week events to bring the University community, especially students, to a greener way of living and learning.

"The University is rapidly becoming among the most environmentally friendly universities in the country and students are beginning to take action and get involved," she said. "We hope to facilitate that process even further."

Organizers hope to involve students, faculty, staff and community members in a wide spectrum of events and activities.

The Miller Center for Public Affairs will sponsor a forum Monday at 11 a.m. on "Driving Toward Sustainability," with transportation policy analyst Deborah Gordon, who has consulted on fiscal and transportation matters for the National Commission on Energy Policy, the California Energy Commission, the Hewlett Foundation and the Chinese government. Also Monday, the U.Va. schools of Medicine and Architecture will sponsor a climate change and health symposium at 1 p.m. in Alumni Hall.

On Tuesday, the East Lawn pavilions and gardens, two student rooms, the Rotunda, President John T. Casteen III's official residence at Carr's Hill and several other locations will be open to the public free of charge for Historic Garden Week. The movie "King Corn" will be screened in Minor Hall at 7 p.m. The film, which traces corn through the market from field to table, will be followed by a panel discussion with environmental science professor Stephen A. Macko.

On Wednesday – Earth Day –  faculty and students will unveil to the public the new U.Va. Bay game, a computer simulation that models the complex and interdependent nature of the Chesapeake Bay system, including its watersheds. The game was developed under the sponsorship of the Office of the Vice President for Research as an educational tool to allow participants to take on the roles of various stakeholders — watermen, farmers, developers, local policymakers — to see the effects of various actions on the entire Bay system. The demonstration will be held at 4 p.m. at the Harrison Institute Auditorium.

Also on Wednesday, a collection of exhibitions, displays and activities will be set up between Minor and Garrett halls, near the amphitheater, with the Minor Hall lobby as the rain site. Discarded recyclables from classrooms and hallways of New Cabell Hall and the contents of a trash bin at a first-year residence house will be displayed to show how much could still be recycled.

"We want to make the students understand that they are personally responsible," said Lindsey L. Daniels, sustainability outreach coordinator for Facilities Management and organizer of the Earth Day extravaganza.

Daniels has also arranged a water challenge, in which contestants drink bottled water, filtered water and tap water and try to determine which is which.

"We did this last year and about seven people out of 70 were able to match the water with its source," Daniels said. "They get to realize there is not a huge taste difference," thus suggesting that bottled water is a waste of plastic.

Displays will feature many University and community groups, including Students for Environmental Action, the Student Councils Environmental Sustainability Committee, U.Va. Parking & Transportation, U.Va. Environmental Health & Safety, the Habitat Store, Charlottesville Tomorrow, Rivanna Solid Waste Authority and Better World Betty.

Also on Wednesday, a farmer's market will be held on Newcomb Plaza from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. with products and produce from local farmers. The market is sponsored by the Student Council.

On April 24, several University professors will participate in a McIntire School of Commerce-sponsored symposium on global commerce from 9 to 11 a.m. at Old Cabell Hall. Participants include James Childress, Hollingsworth Professor of Ethics and a medical education professor; William R. Morrish, the Elwood R. Quesada Professor of Architecture; Gowher Rizvi, vice provost for international programs; and Saras Sarasvathy, associate professor of business administration.

Jeffrey D. Sachs, director of the Earth Institute, the Columbia University Quetelet Professor of Sustainable Development and a professor of health policy and management, will also be on the panel.

Also on April 24 from noon to 3 p.m in the Rotunda Dome Room, student research projects promoting responsible use of environmental resources, equitable social communities and economic efficiency will compete. The top three proposals will receive awards sponsored by the offices of the Vice President for Research, Vice President for Student Affairs, the University Architect and Facilities Management.

On April 25, Students for Environmental Action will offer workshops for students on green living and environmental activism. They're planned for 2 p.m. at the Tuttle Lounge.

Earth Week ends April 26 with a "critical mass" bicycle ride, starting at 12:30 p.m. from the arch near the front of the Old Medical School riding to Tonsler Park at the intersection of Cherry Avenue and 5th Street, where a local group, Food Not Bombs, will offer free meals at 1 p.m. A free flea market will be open.

Information on Earth Week activities is available on the Facilities Management Web site.

— By Matt Kelly