U.Va. to Honor Earth Week April 15-23

April 12, 2010 — The University of Virginia is expanding Earth Day, celebrated nationally April 22, into a weeklong series of events, activities and contests.

The week, which will be celebrated across Grounds, will open with a poetry reading on April 15 and conclude with an educational panel on water on April 23.

Activities during the period will include a transportation fair, a bicycle day festival, an eco-market, energy day, a canoe trip, an eco-fair, Earth Day cookout, a mock Copenhagen climate conference, an activism resource fair, a green initiative funding information session, a student sustainability project competition, panel discussions and a concert.

"We are excited with the array of topics and events for this year's Earth Week," said Armando J. deLeon, sustainability programs manager for Facilities Management's energy and utilities department. "During the last few years we have been doing many activities that center around Earth Day, but this year, the students have been able to coordinate these into a spectacular weeklong celebration."

Among the many highlights of the week will be the release of the U.Va. Chesapeake Bay Game. Azure Worldwide, co-founded by Philippe Cousteau, has partnered with the University on an interactive game that simulates the conditions of the Chesapeake Bay watershed, with players taking the roles of people who live in the watershed and make their livelihoods from the resources of the bay.

Also for Earth Week, the University will launch a revamped sustainability Web site today around noon. This site will feature services available to assist people with sustainable practices, including sustainable partners, a sustainability team and a speakers pool.

Sustainability Partners brings together employees who want to create and promote a Groundswide commitment to sustainability. These volunteers meet at least twice a semester to learn about new and ongoing initiatives, share ideas and best practices, encourage and support sustainable workplaces, promote awareness of sustainability events and work within their departments/units to foster sustainable practices, such as recycling, waste reduction and energy conservation.

The sustainability speakers are individuals from U.Va., the City of Charlottesville and the County of Albemarle who are willing to volunteer their time to meet with departments or groups to talk about environmentally related topics. Speaker expertise ranges from energy conservation and alternative transportation to sustainable food systems and urban stormwater management. 

The sustainability team can provide a more in-depth evaluation, meeting individually or as a group with departments for a consultation on ways to reduce environmental impact.  Contact information and areas of expertise for the sustainability team can be found on the sustainability speakers list. 

The University will also be launching a new sustainability icon. It will become an element of all of U.Va.'s environmental initiatives.

"The information being posted on the redesigned sustainability Web site will accomplish two purposes," said Ida Lee Wootten, director of the Office of Community Relations.  "The first is to help community members know about the breadth of events that make up Earth Week 2010 at U.Va., and the second is to provide resources to individuals who want to learn more about embracing sustainable practices in the workplace or at home.

"The Web site will be a work in progress as additional information is incorporated and as other approaches that encourage environmentally responsible behaviors, such as a Sustainability Partnership Pledge, are fully developed," Wootten said.

Each day of Earth Week will carry a theme, including giving back, outdoor activities, energy, academics, travel and transportation, and food, with some of that day's activities geared to the theme. To celebrate outdoor activities, as an example, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation will be offering a canoe trip on the Rivanna River.

The many educational opportunities will feature panel discussions, films, demonstrations and competitions, such as the Student Sustainability Project, in which students offer their plans for a greener future.

Earth Week activities are being organized by U.Va. students, faculty and staff and are open to the public. For a complete schedule of events, visit here.

— By Matt Kelly