Celebrating Earth Day: Virtually

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VWU honors the 50th Earth Day and campus commitment to sustainability


University News | April 22, 2020

Though the on-campus plans for this week’s 50th anniversary celebration of Earth Week have been disrupted by COVID-19, the tribute has been adapted to include virtual acknowledgement of this important milestone. It’s a time to celebrate the environment and Virginia Wesleyan’s commitment to sustainability—past, present, and future.

Marlins Go Green

Virginia Wesleyan’s student organization devoted to the environment, Marlins Go Green, had been working with Director of Campus Sustainability and Professor of Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences Elizabeth Malcolm and the VWU Facilities Management staff to plan this year’s tribute and recognize the advancements that VWU has made toward a sustainable future. The theme they’d decided on was, “Back and Into the Future: The Sustainable Progression of VWU.”

Marlins Go Green created a website, thanks to Skyler Lattuca, that shares some of Virginia Wesleyan’s history with sustainability. VWU students have been environmental advocates since their early days on campus. Even before the club was established, the students of Virginia Wesleyan demonstrated deep concern for the environment. Fifty years ago, on April 22, 1970, during the very first Earth Day celebration, Marlins gathered on campus to support the environment. And, in a well-known, often-referenced demonstration in 1992, students stood in solidarity to protect the Beech Wood Forest on VWU’s campus.

Virginia Wesleyan has been recognized locally, regionally and nationally for its sustainability practices. The University's beautiful 300-acre park-like campus is an oasis of trees, open fields and flowers that also happens to be a designated bird sanctuary, in addition to the home of the old-growth beech forest. VWU has received numerous accolades for environmental advocacy and best practices throughout the years.

This year, Marlins Go Green is also partnering with VWU’s Office of Student Activities to promote a sustainability theme during each day of Earth Week via social media. Ashley Roehrman ‘21, President of Marlins Go Green, has posted tips on the site about being sustainable in our everyday lives and is encouraging Marlins to share photos of their outdoor adventures while enjoying nature on special days such as “Take it Outside Tuesday.”

“It is important now more than ever to have a reason to be happy, and in what better way than to celebrate Earth Day!” said Roehrman. “We are using the Marlins Go Green website, also created by Skyler Lattuca, as the go-to for Earth Day festivities. We encourage students, faculty, and staff to engage with the content from home.”

Roehrman says that plans are also in the works for the Marlin Meadows Community Garden, a department-inclusive garden, that will showcase interconnections between students and faculty in various disciplines by providing a space where their work can be displayed in a common space. The garden will be an extension of the native plant gardens surrounding the Greer Environmental Sciences Center.

The Gardens of the Greer Environmental Sciences Center

The spectacular Gardens of the Greer have been captured in photos taken by Marisa Cousin, horticulturist for Norfolk Botanical Garden and VWU. Cousin has photographed the beauty of the living landscapes and gardens surrounding the environmental sciences center and provided a detailed description for each photo that includes botanical and common names, locations and information about each native plant.

“I try to capture what is happening in the landscape during the various seasons as well as give information regarding the native plants that are growing at the Greer,” said Cousin. “I also post the photos on the Brock School of Mathematics and Natural Sciences Facebook page and on my personal social media site to educate others. I hope to create more environmental awareness for the public who are unable to have access to the Greer landscape.”

Cousin says that it’s important to share this unique concept.

“Picture a 2.5 acre landscape on a college campus that creates this beautiful wildlife sanctuary for various animals while also acting as a learning landscape for all of the natural science students. They're able to apply what they are learning in the classroom to a natural area right outside their lecture hall.”

VWU Sustainabilty Leaders Program

The VWU Sustainability Leaders program is a new initiative that will “green” bachelor degrees at Virginia Wesleyan. The program will recognize students who have completed volunteer service and coursework focused on real-world issus of sustainability and the environment. At VWU’s December commencement ceremonies, each student who has applied for this distinction and met the requirements, will receive a green graduation cord.

“To complete the Sustainability Leaders Program and receive a green graduation cord, students must earn at least 10 points of sustainability achievements and submit the required application,” explained Professor Malcolm. “Points can be earned throughout all undergraduate years of study at Virginia Wesleyan University and are awarded on a scale. We are excited to offer this important distinction to our graduates.”

RecycleMania Results

Dr. Malcolm reported that VWU’s RecycleMania results are in. Virginia Wesleyan is one of several schools who had to end competition early due to the coronavirus, so the participation period was adjusted accordingly. Virginia Wesleyan ranked 77th in the nation, and placed second in the Old Dominion Athletic Conference (ODAC) and second in Virginia. For pounds recycled per person, VWU ranked 31 in the nation, first out of Virginia schools, and second in the ODAC.

“Thanks to all the students and housekeeping staff who helped out and especially junior Skyler Latuca who organized and conducted the weekly estimates and organized a dorm competition,” said Dr. Malcolm. “Micaela Morris and Ashley Roehrman worked to improve recycling from the facilities side and Director of Civic Leadership and Service Learning Brian Kurisky collected and recycled electronic waste.”

During the six-week period, VWU’s recycling was estimated to have reduced the equivalent of 42 Metric Tons of CO2, or eight cars off the road, or the energy consumption of four households. Over the six-week period, the University recycled a total of 17 lbs. per person and had a recycling rate of 35 percent.

According to the national Earth Day website, in 1970, 20 million Americans mobilized to call for greater protections for our planet. The Earth Day movement strives to build the world’s largest environmental movement to drive transformative change for people and the planet.

The Virginia Wesleyan University community is dedicated to a greener campus and a greener world. The ongoing sustainability efforts of the University's faculty, staff and students reflect a larger commitment to ethical conduct and social responsibility through environmental stewardship and education. Learn more about Sustainability at VWU.