Hark Upon the Green

Sustainability at The College of William and Mary

Looking for More Sustainable Outreach Opportunities? Explore EcoAmbassadors: VIMS Discovery Labs!

~By Allison McCluskey, Geology-ENSP double major

The EcoAmbassadors internship program is relatively new to W&M, but already has a great legacy. Earth Week, sustainability blogs, knowledge of campus recycling patterns, the native plant nursery, a proposed electric car charging station, green careers…all of these programs are made possible by EcoAmbassadors.

Led by Calanda Waters-Lake, the Director of Sustainability, EcoAmbassadors meet once a month to discuss sustainability issues and progress on individual projects. These internships are for-credit, and can count as an ENSP capstone experience.

Along with Sarah Hong, I have been serving as the VIMS Discovery Lab EcoAmbassador for this past academic year. Discovery Labs are public programs led by the Chesapeake Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve (CBNERR) at VIMS that give families the opportunity to actively learn about the Chesapeake Bay ecosystem. Each month focuses on a specific aspect of the Bay—whether it’s blue crabs, birds, shipwrecks, or underwater sound, kids and adults alike engage in hands-on learning activities to get them excited about our Bay.

EcoAmbassadors connect each month’s theme to climate change at the “Climate Corner” table. Many birds, for instance, are losing nesting habitats due to sea level rise. For March’s bird-themed lab, Sarah and I crafted a diorama activity that demonstrates how rising sea level would gradually cover up the habitats birds need. Kids get to pour increasing levels of water into the diorama and note which areas and species would be affected. They could then play a “Migration Madness” board game to see how migration patterns would be affected by changing seasonality.

Our culminating project was planning the entire April lab under the theme of Climate Change. This was quite an undertaking and required advanced planning during the Fall semester. We focused on making the activities fun, and emphasized solutions and a positive future to make sure that kids could handle the sometimes-uncomfortable topic.

This experience has been exceptional in many ways. I’ve learned more than I ever thought possible about teaching climate change. There is an exact methodology behind using words like “we” rather than “I,” and avoiding catastrophic messages of extreme destruction. We must be aware of the dangers of climate change, but approach it as something to which we can adapt and mitigate through collective action.

The EcoAmbassador for VIMS Discovery Labs internship is one I would recommend to anyone. It is a great opportunity to apply science concepts to the outside world, interact with kids, and get involved in public education. If you have any questions about my experience as an EcoAmbassador feel free to email me at ammccluskey@email.wm.edu.

Applications for the 2015-2016 EcoAmbassador program open in September. For more details contact Calandra Waters-Lake at waterslake@wm.edu.

The Virginia Institue of Marine Science: An Opportunity to Explore and Engage in Research

~By Claire Goydan

In my experience, I’ve found most William & Mary students either a) don’t know what VIMS is or b) think of it as an mystery institution somewhere off in the mist. I can dispel both these fears; VIMS is William & Mary’s “sister school” for marine science graduate research. It also does indeed exist – just take a 20 minute drive down the Colonial Parkway.

This year, I’ve worked as an EcoAmbassador, blogging about sustainable research and projects happening at VIMS. It has been a truly exciting experience getting to speak with the knowledgeable faculty and staff, and I have learned quite a bit about marine science as I collected stories and information to post. My blog has two goals, as I see it – to educate and engage.

I hope to educate William & Mary students (as well as any random internet passersby) about the research currently ongoing at VIMS, and how it fits under a larger umbrella of sustainability. In pursuit of this goal, I speak to VIMS professors about their chosen fields of study: their past work, the current thinking on the topic, and what the future might hold. There are some subjects I am already knowledgeable on, such as sea level rise. Other topics, such as marine protected areas, I had never encountered before. I had to educate myself before I could hope to write about it in a blog to educate others.

I also hope to engage William & Mary undergrads in said research. To that end, I have two short sections at the end of each and every one of my blogs: “Want to learn more?” and “Want to get involved?” To learn more, I post links to academic papers related to the blog topic, written by the VIMS researchers themselves. To get involved, I list the current ongoing research projects at VIMS looking for volunteers, as well as contact information.

So, William & Mary, I pose this question to you – want to get involved? Take a look at my blogs, and see if a topic or project interests you. Fascinated by marshes and sea level rise? Matt Kirwan, assistant professor at VIMS, is looking for volunteers. Is exploring marine population dynamics calling to you? Assistant professor David Kaplan has some projects you may be interested in. Environmental education more your style? Look to volunteer at the CBNERRs Discovery Lab, and contact Jaclyn Beck.

Regardless of your interests, I invite you to learn about and engage with the exciting research happening at VIMS.

http://wmblogs.wm.edu/author/cmgoydan/

VIMS Discovery Labs

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~By Sarah Hong

My name is Sarah Hong, one of the EcoAmbassadors for the VIMS Discovery labs. I am a Korean Studies and Environmental Science double major, with interest in pre-medical and pre-physicians assistant tracks.

My job as the VIMS Discovery Lab Assistant required immense amount of planning and researching. Each month VIMS hosts a Discovery Lab, that is open to the public, to educate the local area about marine science. There is a different topic each month. For the labs that I planned, January was Gliders, February was Blue Crabs, March was Birds, and April was Climate Change. For each lab, I came up with climate related activities and posters to connect the theme of the lab to climate change. For the gliders, crabs, and birds lab, I was only given a table to plan, which usually consisted of two hands on activities and information sheets. The bulk of the work was in April for the Climate Change lab. I had to plan the entire with fun activities and posters.

Over the course of the year, I have learned a lot about how to communicate science to people of all ages. It is really exciting to engage with different age groups and figure out ways to best teach them a concept. What I found the most useful is to be really excited about what I am talking about and then the participant will hopefully gain some interest in the topic.

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Ideally, when planning the labs, I try to aim for interactive activities. Having the participants engage in an activity will make them feel more connected to the topic. It is really boring to talk at someone about climate change, because it is going to go in one ear and out the other. By allowing the participants to visualize and think about the topic will have a more positive result in understanding the information. I even made a cute children’s book called, “The Acidic Adventures of Polly the Coral,” to teach the process of ocean acidification and the effect it has on coral reefs.

This EcoAmbassador internship was a very wonderful experience for me. I was able to be creative to translate scientific research on the environment into fun activities geared towards ages 2 and up. Being able to communicate scientific concepts effectively to the public can be challenging. By simplifying the ideas to make it easier to understand can encourage participants to look into the topic in their free time. A majority of the participants are kids, so capturing their attention is a feat. Since children are the future, hopefully I was able to inspire them to pursue careers in environmental science.

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Earth Week 2015: Environmentalism Past & Present

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~By Liz Jacob

A few short weeks ago, the College of William and Mary hosted its fifth annual Earth Week for the campus and greater Williamsburg community. The goal of Earth Week is to promote sustainable lifestyles and raise awareness of environmental issues on campus. As such, Earth Week 2015 was a fantastic opportunity to reassert the College’s commitment to sustainability, and get more students and community members involved in sustainable initiatives. The week featured events ranging from invasive species restoration to a forum on environmental justice and culminated on Saturday, April 18th with Homebrewaroo on the Crim Dell Meadow.

While the week featured a plethora of events, the overarching theme of “Environmentalism: Past and Present” provided structure, guidance, and flow to the schedule. Given the broad nature of the theme, we were able to use it as a timeline for the week with each day having the following themes: Monday – Preservation and Recreation; Tuesday – Reform Environmentalism, Wednesday – Public Health; Thursday – Environmental Justice; Friday – Global Perspectives; Saturday – “We are the Future”. The daily themes were especially helpful as they provided both a contextualization and an outline for each day. As a result, more individuals were able to engage with the weekly events, even those who previously had little to no exposure to campus sustainability. This was especially important to me, as the main reason I was drawn to plan Earth Week was to create more avenues to engage the community and build capacity for more students to get involved with environmental issues.

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The true highlight of the week was Saturday’s Homebrewaroo Celebration, which drew a crowd of over 200 students and community members. The beats of student performers, the delicious scents of the entirely vegetarian meal, and the merriment of students relaxing in the meadow drew individuals to the celebration. The event featured a fantastic collaboration with Alma Mater Productions, campus dining, student organizations, and local businesses. While a big celebration on Saturday is an enduring Earth Week tradition, we were able to add flair to the event by featuring a diverse array of student organizations and community groups so individuals could visualize sustainability on campus. This also created an opportunity for students to continue to engage with environmental issues beyond Earth Week and to translate sustainability into their daily lives. In addition, we were able to restore the tradition of President Reveley reading the Lorax, complete with a costumed Lorax in attendance!  As one of the organizers of Earth Week 2015, it was absolutely fantastic to see the community come together and read a classic tale to raise environmental awareness.

While I have long been an outdoor enthusiast, my time in college has truly allowed me to realize the depth of my passion for environmental issues. From my very first environmental science and policy class I realized ardent passion I have to study, and in the future, dedicate my career to environmentalism. Since then, I’ve centered the majority of my college experience, from my independent research to extracurricular activities, on environmental issues. As a result, I truly appreciate large-scale awareness efforts, such as Earth Week, as they expose more individuals to a broader array of environmental concerns. For many college students, sustainability can be a lofty ideal that can seem impossible to attain on campus. Earth Week 2015 made sustainability tangible for students and provided avenues by which they could learn to integrate environmentalism into their mentality and lives. So, I’m proud to say that while Earth Week 2015 may have passed, more individuals now know that sustainability can be a reality and everyday can be earth day.

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Elecrtric Vehicle Charging Station on Campus–Is it Feasible?

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~By Laurra Sperry

Oh electric vehicles, a sign that technology continues to advance and make everyday life a little bit more interesting. A lot of coastal universities in the United States are catching on to this relatively new spike in electric vehicle usage by installing electric vehicle charging stations on their campuses. Most of these installations are happening on the west coast- primarily in California, but continue to sprout along our eastern coast as well. Curious to see if having an electric vehicle charging station on our campus at William and Mary would be feasible, I became an EcoAmbassador for our school and began my research! Now this sounds like riveting and engrossing research; but I needed to get down to the basics- Where would we place the charging station? How much would it cost? Who would use the charging station?

 

Fortunately, there is a plethora of immensely helpful employees on this campus and I was able to talk to the experts. To answer my question of where and how, I turned to Associate Director of Utilities Daniel Patterson. Where would we put this hypothetical charging station? I came into our meeting with a few places in mind: PBK parking lot (great visibility from Jamestown Road!), the commuter parking deck (I mean, they are the ones driving the furthest!), or Zable Stadium lot. Mr. Patterson worked his magic and was able to give me some approximate figures regarding the cost of installation for each area. Zable Stadium parking lot would cost $3,616.35 and the commuter parking deck would cost $2,028.75. Wait, why no approximate cost for PBK lot you ask? Well, it turns out that the PBK parking lot is far away from an electric box and every foot of wiring needed to make that doable would cost way too much! So our options were down to two. With our options now down to the two it’s obvious to see that the commuter parking deck would be most economically feasible. It’s good to keep in mind there are grant options available to help fund projects like these.

 

On to the next task- figuring out who would use the station if we had it. This is where things got tricky…how do I assess usage on something we do not actually have on campus? And again- this is when the miraculously wonderful people of Williamsburg come to the rescue. I met with the Williamsburg KOA campground manager to talk about the usage they receive from the electric vehicle charging stations they have on their site. They get used- but mostly by out of state visitors! I wanted to know why this was the case. I contacted Steve Yakshe of Yakshe Enterprises, a local electric vehicle genius. I expressed to him my dilemma and concern on the low usage from Virginia drivers. Mr. Yakshe stated that this area has been slow to fully catch on to the electric vehicle movement and usage in these areas is minimal. In fact, working with our own Parking Services I realized that our campus only has a small handful of registered vehicles that could utilize this service.
Ultimately, an electric vehicle charging station would not be feasible at this point for our college. There is much too little need. However, the lingering question is this: If we did have an electric vehicle charging station would that promote more drivers to switch to an electric or hybrid car? Perhaps this service will be needed on campus in the not so distant future. For any questions on the EcoAmbassador program or furthering this research contact the Committee on Sustainability. For further questions about the research contact undergraduate student Laurra Sperry at ldsperry@email.wm.edu

Carbon Offset Program Returns to Campus

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~By Rachel Merriman-Goldring

In 2010, the College of William & Mary emitted more than 84,000 metric tons of CO2. The majority of this energy was purchased energy, but more than 10,000 metric tons were due to personal commuting, college-related business travel, and travel to study abroad programs.

W&M’s recently revitalized Carbon Offset program will allow faculty, administrators, and students to offset such emissions through funding energy projects on the William & Mary campus.

Carbon offsets are a reduction in emissions of carbon dioxide, intended to offset emissions in other sectors. Carbon offset programs typically fund projects that reduce the emission of greenhouse gases. This can be in one of two ways: creating better energy or using less energy. Projects can either help phase in more renewable forms of energy, or reduce the overall quantity of energy used in a particular process.

The W&M carbon offset program is unique in that it’s on-site. Most other offset programs involve sending money to outside providers, who conduct offset programs in locations around the globe. While such programs are an important part of increasing environmental consciousness, they have their flaws. These programs provide less education and outreach, less accountability, and spend more of the funding on administrative costs. The W&M offset program spends 100% of its donations on offset projects.

The W&M offset program is uniquely equipped to fulfill its mission. Says Eileen Nakahata, head of the Carbon Offset Working Group (colloquially referred to by some of its goofier members, including yours truly, as COWG), “The Committee on Sustainability is different than other student organization in that it works with the administration and faculty. This gives it a lot more potential to act on environmental issues on campus. The Carbon Offset Working Group is a good example of this, because a student organization could not do a program like this on their own.”

Currently, the group’s 7 members, Akshay Deverakonda (‘15), Meghan Frere (‘17), Rachel Merriman-Goldring (‘17), Eileen Nakahata (‘17), Abigail Simon (‘17), Danya Abdel Hameid (‘18), and Tommy Griffiths (‘18), are working on a variety of tasks. These include finding potential projects, revamping the website, and gaining access to necessary accounts.

The Carbon Offset Working Group recently received a $3000 Green Fee from the Committee on Sustainability. The funding will allow the working group to phase out more than 300 incandescent bulbs in professors’ desk lamps, and to replace them with LEDs. The Green Fee grant will serve as a test case, to allow the working group to implement its first project, and to do calculations of the quantity of carbon offset.

Future carbon offset projects will be more long-term and larger in scale. The committee’s first project will fund the replacement of parking lot lights at the William & Mary Law school with high-efficiency LEDs. This project is estimated to reduce carbon emissions by more than 380,000 kg of CO2 over the lights’ estimated 10-year lifespan. The Carbon Offset Working Group currently has $3,597 of funding for the project, and the Committee on Sustainability has funded $7,669 of this project through the Green Fee program. The working group aims to raise an additional $10,878 to fully fund this $22,144 offset project.

A solar project is the next initiative on the docket. The working group is talking with Matt Goetz (‘15) who conducted an assessment of the feasibility of photovoltaics on campus rooftops. Currently, the working group hopes to place solar panels on one of the Campus Rec’s eight slanted rooftops.

The working group continues to update its infrastructure. The website, http://offset.wm.edu/, is undergoing renovations. By the end of May, William & Mary faculty, administrators, students, and visitors will be able to donate money to offset their travel, heating/cooling, electricity use, and other emissions.

Eco Spotlight: VIMS Assistant Professor David Kapla

Originally written by Claire Goydan and published on William and Mary Blogs on January 13th, 2015. Reposted here with permission.

Sustainability often gets a dirty (and incorrect) reputation for being soft and theoretical. Few disprove this theory like David Kaplan, who translated his advanced background in string theory and black holes into marine population modeling and research. After completing his PhD in physics at the University of California at Santa Barbara, Kaplan felt like he wanted a change. “I was doing theoretical physics, working on black holes, and it just lacked some value for humanity,” Kaplan said. Wanting to focus his impact, he pursued research in oceanography and marine ecology, which he discovered required quite a bit of physics. Before long, Kaplan had researched, studied, and worked on four continents (most notably in Chile, France, and California) on a range of projects.

Now an assistant professor at VIMS, Kaplan focuses on population dynamics and marine protected areas. Much like Kaplan’s career path, marine protected areas (MPA’s) have had a convoluted history.

Dr. David Kaplan

The idea of protecting marine areas has been around in one form or another for centuries. In the 1920s and 1930s, the first MPAs were created primarily for scientific research, as opposed to marine conservation like most people (including myself) have assumed. Meanwhile, protected land reserves had been around since the late 1800s, over 30 years before the first MPA! Kaplan explains, “You advance 100 years into the future, you see that there is the same temporal gap in massive use of protected areas.” Terrestrial reserves really took off in the 1970s, while MPAs for conservation only gained traction starting in the 2000s.

So how did MPAs grow from tiny scientific reserves to a mass movement for conservation, with some protected areas as large as the state of California? Much of the impetus to create MPAs has unsurprisingly come from our increase in fishing frequency and technological development, not to mention increased global markets for transportation. “It’s being driven by problems of overexploitation that didn’t exist 50 or 100 years ago,” Kaplan said. “Suddenly, you have major potential for exterminating marine species. That was hard to do before that time period.” The technology used to organize and develop this foreign transportation actually became crucial to developing MPAs as well. “Down the road came the idea that these forms of spatial management or protection could protect against our failure to manage humans non-spatially,” Kaplan said. Rather than institute nitpicking limitations on net size or hook size, or limit each person’s catch individually, MPAs provided a broader, more attractive approach.

Despite their growing popularity (MPAs now cover between 2-3% of the world’s oceans), they still have some issues.

  • Easy Does It – Predictably, as MPAs gained favor, governments all over the world jumped on board to protect the first and the most. The issue is that the easiest areas to protect, and the ones legislators protect first, are those that are not under heavy use. Protecting a large chunk in the middle of the ocean gives you some impressive square footage to put on paper, but it’s often not as beneficial as protecting a smaller, more contentious fishing zone.
  • Border Patrol – MPAs are proven to increase abundance and diversity of marine species, but fishers still want to make a living. Kaplan remembers, “In Chile, I worked at very small reserves that had these huge mollusks. Fishers would line up along that border for these mollusks that would move, y’know, one foot a month, to crawl over the edge and get harvested.” This limits marine species within the confines of the MPAs, and as the species density grows, they’re forced outside.
  • Blurred Lines – Most countries have discrete levels and categories of MPAs, but rarely have an obligation to adhere to them. These categories also differ from country to country and state to state. They all mean different things and have different goals regarding fishing, boating, pollution, which causes more confusion. With limited and sometimes no obligations, governments may create MPAs for status alone, essentially useless for conservation.
  • One Size Doesn’t Fit All – Not all fish species are perfectly suited to MPAs. It is the largest fish that are being caught more often that need to be protected, like big bluefin tuna. However, these species are typically much more mobile than others, and so a single static MPA can be less effective. Some alternatives have been suggested, such as dynamic (moving) MPAs and enormous pelagic MPAs to cover their migration patterns.

Dr. David KaplanIn the end, the future of MPAs will be decided politically. Their popularity is exciting, and more and more of the ocean is protected each day. In the future, the heavily fished areas are less tractable and will have a longer political timescale attached. “We shouldn’t get a false sense of security based on that, the size or the percentage.” Kaplan said. “There’s quality and quantity involved there… It has gotten to a phase where every developed nation wants to announce they have the largest MPA.” Rigorous research and proper advocation are required to ensure the future of MPAs, and the future of marine diversity around the world.

Want to get involved?

If you are interested in David’s research and would like to get involved, he is currently looking for students to help with his ongoing and future research projects:

  • Conservation modeling
  • How reserves affect marine populations with different life histories
  • Turtle tagging field work
  • Larval dispersal related to population persistence

Want to know more?

Sustainability Initiatives Are Plentiful On Campus

This piece was originally published on Sept. 11th, 2014 in the Flat Hat Newspaper, and was written by , and was reposted here with permission.

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In 2008, then-interim College President Taylor Reveley released a statement on the College of William and Mary’s sustainability policy which committed the College to setting “an example for present and future generations in the use of natural resources.” Six years later, this fall semester is shaping up to be filled with examples of this commitment.

Auxiliary Services controls much of the infrastructure on campus, from dining halls to parking and transportation. Many sustainability initiatives are currently at work, some more noticeably than others.

The Copy Center recycles scrap paper into notepads and sells two for $0.25 or ten for $1. Scrap paper that isn’t used is donated to Williamsburg Campus Child Care for children’s art projects.

The Office of Parking and Transportation Services is currently collaborating with the Student Assembly on a bike initiative. Director of Auxiliary Services Cindy Glavas said the initiative will promote “the installation of bike fix-it stations, organized rides and marketing efforts.” A new class, Kinesiology 196: introduction to cycling, has also been added to the course listing. It focuses on biking basics, safety and repair.

Additionally, Glavas said that Tribe Card Services is partnering with the Williamsburg Farmer’s Market “to accept William and Mary Express as a form of payment and encourage students to buy locally.” The farmer’s market is open every Saturday, weather permitting, during the spring, summer and fall in Merchants Square.

New sustainability initiatives from Dining Services include planning a third annual “Farm to Fork Dinner” in the coming weeks (last year’s was held on the Sunken Garden with a small admission fee) and an upcoming $25,000 study. This Kitchen Energy Study aims to analyze the efficiency of residential facility kitchens.

The Keck Lab has maintained a record of water quality in Lake Matoaka, College Creek and the campus stream for the past 10 years. It has  also gathered meteorological data at 10-minute intervals for all of them over the same period. Students have used this data in the past for projects such as the establishment of beehives on campus, and the data is available for other future projects.

“[We] plan to conduct intensive studies on the storm-water ponds located behind the [Marshall-Wythe School of Law] and behind the [McCormack-Nagelsen] Tennis Center [this semester],” Keck Lab Director Randolph Chambers said.

Director of Sustainability Calandra Waters Lake is planning new sustainability events on campus this semester. “Meet the Greens,” which took place during the first week of classes, was a gathering of campus clubs and organizations focused on environmentalism and sustainability.

Many fall semester events were unveiled at the event. “Sustainable Soccer” will be held Sept. 27 and Sept. 28. Two soccer games will be “greened” through a partnership between COS, the Athletic Department, Dining Services and Facilities under the activity “Local Sustainable William and Mary.”

“The goal is to make those games as sustainable as possible,” Lake said.

Volunteers will be available to direct spectators to recycle and compost their game-day waste. There will also be sustainability groups tabling at the games. The Football Club approached the College to help organize the event and has also helped facilitate ‘greening’ sports games nationally.

Planned for every month this semester beginning Oct. 7, Sustainability Seminars on different subjects will take place at the Williamsburg Community Building. The topic for October is “Natural Landscape.” There will be speakers on native plants, campus landscaping and home gardening information for interested students and community members.

Additionally, the second annual “Sustainability Summit” will be taking place Oct. 25. The event will gather students, faculty and staff together to discuss sustainability projects and development on campus. There will be a panel of professors and break-out groups in this day-long event. “The goal is to have as much communication between people and groups on campus as possible,” Lake said.

Throwback Thursday: What about the Sustainability Summit?

Remember the Sustainability Summit that happened last semester? What was that all about? What can I expect if I go next semester? Check out this great blog article by Talia Schmitt to get a great idea of what happened and to think how far we’ve come even since last semester! (Reposted from Flat Hat Newspaper with permission from the author)

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Approximately 60 staff members and students gathered inside the School of Education Saturday, Oct. 25 to talk about sustainability in the second annual Sustainability Summit.

“The summit started last year just like everything else at William and Mary — with a little resources and a lot of passion,” Committee on Sustainability co-director and environmental science professor Dennis Taylor said,

The summit, organized by the Committee on Sustainability, was a product of a green fee grant and dedication from the student and sustainability fellows — Sharon Hartzell ’14 and Patrick Foley ’12.

COS programs and education subcommittee co-Chair Natalie Hurd ’16, sustainability director Calandra Waters-Lake, professor Andrew Fisher and Summit Working Group volunteers organized this year’s event.

“The summit was designed with the intent to bring individuals and organizations together in order to facilitate increased communication and innovation, and I think we achieved that goal,” Hurd said.

The summit was split into three sections: defining sustainability through professors, through students and through food.

Each professor looked at the subject of sustainability through a different lens. Fisher used a historical perspective.

“History helps us see how we got into these messes,” Fisher said. “By understanding the past, we have a better idea of what will work in the future. A sustainable future would be one where both human and non-human life can be adequately sustained.”

Student interns also spoke about their experiences working in the environmental field.

Akshay Deverakonda ’15 interned for the Environmental Protection Agency during the fall of 2012 through the William and Mary in Washington program. He noted how, although Washington, D.C. is filled with people with economic backgrounds, his employers told him that getting a science degree was the way to go.

“On one side you need to understand the economics behind environmental politics — the ‘hey this might save you money’ attitude — but on the other hand if you have a science degree you stand out among the sea of government majors,” he said. “With a science background, you make the concepts more accessible.”

Audrey Kriva ’17, the founder of DormMania, also gave advice to students who may want to start green initiatives.

“It is really important to do your research ahead of time, share ownership, and break your project into easy-to-follow steps. However, everybody has their own way of doing things and that’s important to recognize that too,” Kriva said.

The last panel discussed sustainable food. Committee on Sustainability member and leader of Campus Gardens Nora Jackson ’16 said she sees the sustainable food process as cyclical.

“We do not want to have any inputs that lead to outputs that fall on people,” she said. “We need to think about how our food choices impact other people and places. We must always vote with our dollar.”

Lisa Lawrence, Virginia Institute on Marine Science Seafood Educator, reiterated the point of responsible food practices.

“Eat what’s fresh. Eat what’s in season. It’s like when you go to Food Lion and see a cheaper shrimp option from Thailand and a more expensive alternative from the United States — choose the one from the U.S.” she said. “By choosing the one from the U.S., you know it has gone through the U.S. regulations, whereas for the option abroad, you can’t be so sure.”

The last part of the summit was dedicated to ecological restoration, the idea of recovering a damaged eco-system. Keynote speaker Paddy Woodworth, a former journalist for The Irish Times and author of “Our Once and Future Planet: Restoring the World in the Climate Change Strategy,” discussed how what many people consider as “natural” is sometimes socially constructed by humans over time. In this way, he challenged the audience to look at the human and nature dynamic differently.

“Ecological restoration … gives people hope. It shows us that people can engage in an ecosystem that will make that system richer — more biodiverse, function better and I think that’s very exciting,” Woodworth said. “A lot of people have an idea that you can only destroy or preserve and restoration is a different approach which shows us that we belong in nature and we can have a good role in nature as well.”

Reflections on Virginia Power Shift

~by Anne Davis

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The weekend of Valentine’s Day, hundreds of students gathered at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, Virginia for Virginia Power Shift, hosted by the Virginia Student Environmental Coalition (VSEC) and Virginia – Student Power Network. The weekend kicked off with a vibrant march of over 200 students — the third  largest action in North America as part of the Global Divestment Day – sending a clear message: “Virginia Board of Visitors: Whose side are you on? Virginia > fossil fuels.”

An open mic night provided a forum for all participants to creatively express their art and stories, through spoken word poetry, DJ-ing, even opera. The rest of the weekend was full of workshops, panels, and speakers all surrounding different environmental and intersecting social justice issues. As one of the organizers of the convergence and member of the VSEC core team, it was truly an overwhelming honor for me to watch and experience our hard work and fruits of our labor come to life in such an amazing way.

….However, had you gone back in time – say three years ago – and told 18-year-old me I’d be standing here where I am now, I probably would have laughed in your face.

Sure, I have been passionate about environmental issues for a long time, but it took me a number of years to realize there is so much more to it than just reduce, reuse, recycle. At that point, I was incredibly confused and uncertain of my future life path, only certain that I was ready to be out on my own. This is why I see student coalitions and college initiatives as such an important part of fostering engagement with environmental and social justice issues. For many, it’s the first time you have opportunities to take classes and explore subjects and activities you haven’t before or didn’t even knew existed; Performance Art in Feminist Movements? Rad. The Politics of Race and Class in American Sitcoms? Sign us up! Underwater Basket Weaving? Why not?!  This brimming exploration and craving of knowledge leads us to take what we learn in the classroom and into the streets through community engagement and social movement building.

I count Sprog, an amazing week-long environmental organizing summer training camp, as the kickstart to my involvement in environmental organizing and activism. But had it not been for Sprog, which provided me the tools and skills on how to run campaigns and create change, and most importantly, a support network of like-minded young people – there’s a good chance I would still be floating around directionless; caring about an issue, but undeveloped and untrained as a leader. For this reason, I see convergences like Virginia Power Shift and sustained leadership development opportunities for social movements and activism for students as key. Working with VSEC and VSPN have also taught me the importance of united student power and amplifying student voices across the state, for inaction from our government and administrators will affect our generation most directly.

As s keynote speaker Rev. Lennox Yearwood put it best, “The great movements that have happened have started with one-on-one relationships… Power is in the relationships.” In my Social Movements and Social Change class, we are studying some of the motivations behind why people join or stay in a social movement – whether for material incentives or emotional support, among other theories and reasons. I can’t speak for everyone, but I can say that Rev. Yearwood’s quote rings true for me and why I do (and am still doing) this work. It’s the connections, friendships, and powerful networks that I’ve built up with so many along the way. Going forward, I hope that William & Mary VA Power Shift participants will use this opportunity as a catalyst for change on campus, spreading leadership development and sustaining the relationships built over this past weekend to inspire the next cohort of student activists and power shifters. Virginia, Dominion, BOVs and more better watch out because its students are organizing – and they’re doing it at unified and escalating levels.