Virginia Commonwealth University

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VCU Gives Earth Day the Green Light

April 22, 2011

Slide show and story by Larisa Robinson | Capital News Service


Students, faculty and staff crowded the Student Commons Plaza on Friday to celebrate Earth Day. This year marked VCU’s fourth observation of the international event.

Unlike past Earth Days at VCU, this year’s event focused specifically on the university’s green initiatives. All week, known as Earth Week, student and university organizations encouraged everyone on the Monroe Park and Medical College of Virginia campuses to reduce, reuse and recycle.

That energy led up to Friday’s main event on the Plaza, which presented information about transportation, energy, green buildings, storm-water management, dining and composting, and campus programs promoting “going green.”

Amanda Schuler, co-founder of the environmental group Green Unity, has participated in VCU Earth Day since it began in 2007.

“I’m so proud of this event,” Schuler said. “It’s just great to see it growing and to see new faces come out.”

Despite the new faces, the number of students who attended the event was small: Of VCU’s approximately 33,000 students, perhaps a few hundred participated.

“It’s so hard to mobilize,” Schuler said. “You would think with so many students, how come we only get a fraction of them to come out to these events? I just don’t know how else to get folks out.”

Joyce Foster of the Planning and Design Department wants to solve that problem. She staffed the booth displaying what VCU is doing about sustainability.

“My main part in this is to be certain we’re specifying sustainable products and systems,” Foster said.

She is the university’s interior design planning manager and was recently asked to join the VCU Sustainability Committee.

“The Sustainability Committee is working toward letting students know about our green initiatives,” Foster said. “I’m really impressed with all that they’re doing.”

Although her main concern is whether VCU buildings meet green standards, she wants the green movement to spread across the campuses.

“I can say that the VCU campuses are doing better than they used to,” Foster said. “But [for students] unless you see something today [at Earth Day], you wouldn’t know.”

Several university organizations that want to spread the green word were present at Earth Day. The Sustainable Communities Institute was one.

Mark Hill, a second-year graduate student, interns for the institute. He and a fellow intern were promoting VCU Green Map, an interactive website raising awareness about VCU’s initiatives supporting an eco-conscious campus.

“We’ve been working on this since last semester,” Hill said. “We’d just like to see students be more interactive and to see more green activities on campus.”

Information wasn’t the only draw for the Earth Day celebration. Booths also offered free food, pens, cups, herbs and vegetable seedlings.

Amauri Latham, a VCU junior, was attracted by the food and the information.

“I found out about this event by walking past it,” Latham said. “I didn’t have a clue about VCU’s green initiatives until coming here.”

VCU and its environment-inspired organizations are working toward making sure future students get a clue. The Climate Action Plan calls for VCU to be climate neutral by 2050.

On the Web

For more information about VCU Green Map, email or visit

For more information about all of VCU’s green initiatives and organizations, visit