Same planet, new efforts

6 days ago Mickella Rast Comments Off on Same planet, new efforts

Though VWU is engaged in more large-scale efforts, most notably the new Greer Environmental Sciences Center and the solar SmartFlower, there are other, smaller scale projects that are soon to come.

Several of the projects will give students alternate options to charge their phones or other electronic devices. A bike will soon be available on campus with a USB port so riders can either charge their phone or contribute energy to the grid underneath the school. A picnic table will also be coming that will have solar panels, so students can recharge outside while they study or hang out. In addition to this, several solar-powered charging stations have already been added to Greer, and hopefully more are soon to come.  

“I’m definitely all for it,” senior Madalyn Chevalier said. “I think being environmentally conscious is always important. I’ll all for a ‘green’ VWU.”

Professor Elizabeth Malcolm is the Chair of the President’s Environmental Issues Council (PEIC). “We try to work on increasing the sustainability on campus, making people more aware of sustainability issues and then we also—President Miller also tasked us with working on the Climate Commitment that he signed,” Malcolm said.

The Commitment was originally signed by former VWU President William ‘Billy’ Greer. When President Miller came to Wesleyan, he upheld the Commitment and additionally signed a new addendum to the Commitment to address greenhouse gas emissions. Colleges and universities who sign the Commitment in its entirely promise to try and become carbon neutral by 2050 or an earlier date of the institution’s choosing.

A Resilience Commitment was also introduced. According to Malcolm, VWU now “pledges that we will work on improving our community resilience, particularly in the face of climate-related threats. For different schools it’s different impacts, so our committee works on resilience and sustainability.”

Malcolm said that the PEIC is always open to new ideas from students and staff alike, no matter how experimental the idea.

One idea discussed during her interview with the paper was PlasticRoad, a prefabricated, modular and hollow road structure made from recycled plastic. PlasticRoad is projected to last three times longer than traditional road paving, four times lighter, and reduce construction and build time by 70 per cent. Though the company has only released PlasticRoad for bike and residential paths, the company is hopeful that it will soon be modified for commercial road use.

        Another idea mentioned was EvoWare, an edible and biodegradable food packaging made of seaweed. EvoWare is a zero waste product that has a two-year shelf life even without preservatives. It is halal certified, safe to eat and produced in compliance with HACCP guidelines. The company can even customize it to give the seaweed a specific taste, color and brand logo. It is also printable and heat sealable.

        “I think [new efforts] sound good. I don’t really know how the PlasticRoad works, but it does sound like a good idea,” junior Allison Brewer said.

        The PEIC also works with and encourages student organizations on campus to become involved, such as Marlins Go Green. Most recently, the club has worked on removing English ivy, an invasive species, from the surrounding woods and picking up trash in the same vicinity.

        Though not directly involved in an environmental club such as Marlins Go Green, Brewer is aware of some of their efforts around campus. “I do know that they go around and collect trash in the forest,” Brewer said. However, she also pointed out that those same efforts could be better publicized and more regular. “I never really hear about it or see people going out and doing it very often, so I guess that could happen a little bit more,” she said.

        Wesleyan is not the only school involved in burgeoning efforts to become an environmental steward and future pioneer, and is also not the only one involved in a Resilience Collaborative.

        Old Dominion University (ODU) is one such neighboring school that has made strides in environmental stewardship. The university also created its own Resilience Collaborative, the ODU Resilience Collaborative (ODURC). According to the ODURC’s webpage, it is a “consortium of leading scholars actively engaged in research, education and outreach on critical issues for resilience at the community, regional national, and global levels.” Specific areas of focus include climate change and sea level rise, adaptation, cybersecurity, health and community resilience.

The ODURC replaced the Climate Change and Sea Level Rise Initiative (CCSLRI) as a “coordinated, campus-wide effort for resilience collaboration.”

“ODU’s science department, especially the environmental sciences, makes a huge effort to improve the environment and I think they do a great job. I’m excited to see where their studies go and how it will help the planet thrive,” Elizabeth McGowan said. McGowan is a current sophomore at ODU and drawn to the STEM majors, though she is still officially undecided. Though she is leaning toward marine biology or veterinary sciences, she still appreciates the environmental sciences.  

Though not in the Hampton Roads area, the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University is one of Virginia’s most well-known public universities and is a self-proclaimed steward of “improving the quality of life for people within the commonwealth and throughout the world,” according to its website. More colloquially known as just ‘Virginia Tech,’ the university has been focused on STEM since its founding. Virginia Tech is also an academic partner in ODU’s Resilience Collaborative. In addition to this, Virginia Tech also has its own Center for Leadership in Global Sustainability (CLiGS), which is housed in Tech’s College of Natural Resources and Environment in Arlington, Virginia.

Kristianna Evans, a junior at Tech, said the school also invests in smaller-scale stewardship projects. “They have good initiatives, such as putting recycling bins in the dorm rooms,” Evans said. She noted that some of those initiatives are “very inefficient” and “don’t always work,” but that it was still refreshing to see the university try.

Evans is majoring in veterinary sciences. Becoming a vet is a dream held since childhood, although she has always been interested in other academic areas. She is less invested in the environmental efforts her university is making, but still believes that those same efforts are important.

Any student, staff or faculty member with ideas for environmental stewardship efforts Wesleyan could adopt or questions about the Resilience Collaborative is encouraged to contact Professor Elizabeth Malcom (emalcom@vwu.edu), PEIC student representatives Amanda Gerni (amgerni@vwu.edu) and Philip Venanzi (pbvenanzi@vwu.edu) or any other members of the PEIC.

Mickella Rast
mjrast@vwu.edu