Virginia Commonwealth University’s Office of Sustainability celebrated Earth Day with a series of events throughout the past week, culminating in an Earth Day Bazaar on Friday that drew a cheering crowd. to visit with an array of eco groups and student vendors along the Plaza Student Commons.
Morgan Winner, a student, had a stall at the bazaar where she sold second-hand clothes. The winner said she vowed to spare her clothes only after learning how bad fast fashion can be for the environment. She said some brands produce so much clothing that most end up in landfills.
“So many people buy so many items, then wear them once or twice, then throw them in the trash,” Winner said. “So it’s a lot of waste and…just overconsumption. So by saving, I’m trying to stop the cycle of waste in the textile industry.
Another vendor was Chris Bridges, who uses the pronouns they/she. Bridges said he started making rugs about a year ago and thought it was a cool way to bring their art to life. While Bridges started out using acrylic yarn due to cost, they later switched to wool.
“Which not only improves their quality and makes them even softer, but they’re much better for the environment than acrylic,” Bridges said.
Medical student Bobby Scott was at the bazaar to represent medical students for a sustainable future. His booth highlighted projects across the country that have turned medical waste, such as medicine bottle caps, into art. These items are usually thrown away because they are not made of recyclable materials.
“Otherwise they would go in the trash unless [they were] diverted to one of those types of art projects,” Scott said.
Scott is interested in setting up a program similar to VCU that exists at University of Wisconsin hospitals and clinics. He said a local daycare has also expressed interest in the project and using alternative materials for art projects.
“I think there are a lot of creative avenues,” Scott said.
The Office of Sustainability was active with events and activities throughout the week. The office held two StudyWell filing events on Monday and Wednesday. StudyWells are events that highlight topics essential to fostering student well-being and success. The first was at the Cabell Library on the Monroe Park campus. At this event, students learned more about the development of the ONE VCU sustainability plan.
The plan will create a roadmap for the university and the healthcare system to achieve meaningful and impactful environmental sustainability goals. It will explore existing conditions and opportunities to improve sustainability through operations, administration, academics and research from universities and the health system.
The office released a survey last week seeking feedback on how members of the VCU community believe the academic and healthcare systems should prioritize sustainable action in operations, administration, research and the academics.
At Monday’s event, Diana Hall, a student intern at the Office of Sustainability, said visitors asked so often how they could volunteer and help that she created a spreadsheet to collect information about the people.
The Office of Sustainability offers several volunteer opportunities throughout the year, such as the VCU Community Forestry Program, which looks after over 100 trees planted at Amelia Street School. Another is the VCU Learning Garden, which offers weekly volunteering and learning activities from March to December.
Across the Cary Street Gym campus, Sustainability, the VCU Outdoor Adventure Program and the Virginia League of Conservation Voters hosted a rock climbing event on Wednesday. Emily Morrow of the League of Conservation Voters said the goal of being sustainable is to save outdoor spaces and make them accessible to everyone.
“And I think for too long it was a mostly white cis male space and we started bleeding into [where] white cis women can take advantage of these spaces, but it’s really still cut off from large parts of the community,” she said. “So making it more accessible, where there’s more opportunity to learn and try something new, I think is really important.”
Black Girls Hike RVA, a group that organizes hikes for women of color, was also present at the event. Nicole Boyde, co-founder of the group, said they wanted to help spread the message that outdoor spaces are for everyone.
“Just understand that there are so many different activities you can do and participate in here in the city, [at] VCU and along the James River,” she said.
Isaac Saneda, a junior at VCU, said he came to the event because he loved rock climbing and wanted to find out how the community could make it more inclusive.
“I look forward to having a chat with these people later in the event,” Sandea said.
As Earth Day has passed, the Office of Sustainable Development has ways to get you involved throughout the year. You can find more information about upcoming events and ongoing volunteer opportunities online at sustainability.vcu.edu/get-involved/events-volunteer/.
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