University of Virginia Sets Earth Week Observances

April 13, 2011 — Earth Week 2011 will be the liveliest observance yet at the University of Virginia, with presentations, exhibits, classes, food and music from April 18 to 22.

"Earth Week is a collaborative effort between students and U.Va. to provide an opportunity for education and celebration around sustainability," said Nina Morris, sustainability outreach coordinator in Facilities Management. "It also provides learning opportunities centered around sustainability and celebrates our world through art and music."

Earth Week also highlights the University's sustainability initiatives during the past year.

"The breadth of sustainability initiatives has been remarkable this academic year," said Ida Lee Wootten, director of the University's Office of Community Relations. "Among the most notable are the creation of an interdisciplinary Global Sustainability Minor; the launch of Sustainability Partners, a volunteer network of employees interested in promoting environmentally friendly workplace practices; and the assembly of events in Earth Week, which highlights initiatives among student groups and units." 

One of those initiatives has been a sustainability pledge, launched last fall. Available on the University's sustainability website, it reads, "I pledge to consider the social, economic and environmental impacts of my habits and to explore ways to foster a sustainable environment during my time here at U.Va. and beyond."

Booths will be set up on Monday, during an art reception at Newcomb Hall, and Friday, at a concert at the McIntire Amphitheatre, for people to have their photographs taken as they commit to the pledge.

"About 324 more individuals are needed to take the Sustainability Pledge to meet the 1,000-person goal by Earth Day on April 22," Wootten said. "I encourage individuals to visit the sustainability website to take the pledge and to learn about Earth Week events."

The pledge is only one step in U.Va.'s aggressive sustainability campaign, which has seen a decrease in normalized electric use (per gross square feet) and total water usage over the past 10 years, an increase in use of transportation alternatives, more awareness of local food and more environmentally responsible construction.

The University has launched projects such as Delta Force, an interdisciplinary team that reduces energy and water usage by modifying existing buildings.

The University has also expanded its recycling program, which handles more than 43 percent of its annual solid waste, as well as introduced a food composting program that is turning nearly five tons of food waste a week into a useful soil additive at Panorama Farms, a local composting business.

At the same time, Dining Services reduced the amount of food waste in the dining halls by about 25 percent and cut its water consumption by about one-third by removing trays from the dining halls. It also has instituted a "buy local" initiative, working closely with local and regional farmers to offer organic foods daily and increase the availability of vegetarian entrees. Dining Services takes students on tours of local farms that supply ingredients to the dining halls as part of its educational mission.

Dining Services and the Office of Housing have each received the state's Environmental Excellence Program's E-3 designation, meaning they have fully implemented environmental management systems and pollution prevention programs, as well as demonstrated performance.

On the transportation side, the University subsidizes faculty, staff and student rides on Charlottesville Area Transit buses. U.Va. ridership on city buses has nearly tripled since 2007. Parking and Transportation has increased incentives for employees to carpool.

Parking and Transportation has also introduced Zipcar, whose members can rent a car by the hour, and NuRide, a ride-sharing website  that offers rewards for biking, walking, carpooling, working a compressed work week and teleworking. P&T also operates its bus fleet on biodiesel.

The University is being environmentally responsible with its construction. In 2007, the Board of Visitors adopted the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design – or LEED – certification standards for all new construction. U.Va. has developed drought-resistant landscaping with an emphasis on native plantings and has received awards for its innovative stormwater management systems.

Students have been deeply involved in green initiatives, Morris said.

"This Earth Week, many of these groups are participating in events such as the Eco-Fair or putting on their own events, such as Green Grounds' Green Career Fair," she said. "Earth Week is a great opportunity for everyone in the U.Va. and Charlottesville community to learn about what our community is doing, both locally and globally, to improve the environment and also learn ways to make our lives greener."

A closer look at the week's events:


• Earth Week will kick off with a sustainability art exhibit, including paintings and sculptures. There will be a reception from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. at the Student Activities Center in Newcomb Hall, where the exhibit will be featured. The art will be displayed all week.


• The President's Committee on Sustainability will sponsor the third annual U.Va. Student Sustainability Project Competition, showcasing student-proposed efforts to achieve a sustainable future. The selected projects will be displayed in the Dome Room of the Rotunda, from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. (More information.)

• An information session on the new global sustainability minor will immediately follow the competition.


• A Green Career Fair will present students with sustainable internship, volunteer and career opportunities. The fair, to be held from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the Clark Hall mural room, is sponsored by the Green Grounds Group. (More information.)

• A Green Reception, to be held in the Pavilion V Garden from 4 to 6 p.m., will be sponsored by Student Council Environmental Sustainability Committee.


• The day will start with the Eco-Fair in the McIntire Amphitheatre, with approximately 45 vendors sharing information on sustainable projects, groups, products and more from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

• Later, author Janisse Ray will speak on "Lessons from the Lost Glaciers: Technology, Capitalism, and Nature," at Jefferson Hall on the West Range starting at 5:30 p.m.  Ray is the third and final speaker in the 2010-11 Visiting Environmental Writers and Scholars Series (ViEWS) sponsored by Brown Residential College. (More information.)

• The U.Va. Community Garden Potluck will be held from 5 to 6 p.m. at the Community Garden at the corner of McCormick and Alderman roads. Participants are asked to bring a dish to share.

• A Traffic Skills 101 cycling course, to be held Thursday and Saturday, will include classroom instruction, closed-course skill drills and a group ride to help cyclists ride safely and legally in traffic and on trails. The class, taught by League of American Bicyclists-certified instructors, will meet at the Parking and Transportation Office at 1101 Millmont St. Certificates will be awarded to those who successfully complete both sessions. For information and to register, click here.

Friday (Earth Day)

• A Farm-to-Fork Luncheon is scheduled from noon to 2 p.m. in the Pavilion V Garden.

• Outdoors at U.Va. will hold a Ragged Mountain hike from 3 to 5 p.m. Participants should meet in the Bonnycastle Circle.

• There will be a reception from 5 to 6:30 p.m. marking the launch of the interdisciplinary Minor in Global Sustainability at the Shure Terrace at the School of Architecture's Campbell Hall.

• A group of U.Va. students will play the U.Va. Bay Game with six other regional institutions, each representing a different watershed in the Chesapeake Bay region. The participating universities are U.Va., Hampton University, Old Dominion University, George Mason University, the U.S. Naval Academy, the College of William & Mary and Virginia Tech. The interactive game, sponsored by the Office of the Vice President for Research, allows players to take on roles, such as farmer, policymaker, land developer and waterman, and to learn how their individual decisions affect the future outcome of the health of the bay.

• Earth Week at U.Va. will conclude with a "No Impact" concert, using no amplified sound and no electricity, featuring the No BS Brass Band from 6:30 to 8 p.m. in the McIntire Amphitheatre.

— By Matt Kelly

Media Contact

Matt Kelly

University News Associate Office of University Communications