GreenFest inspires sustainable growth

 Students at GreenFest booths talk with visitors about the environment.

McKenna Howenstine|Marlin Chronicle

On Sunday, April 21, GreenFest, an Earth Day inspired festival headed by Dominion Energy, the VWU Sustainability Council and Marlins Go Green, saw blooming success. Tables and events lined the halls of the Jane P. Batten Student Center and spilled into the CMAC, as presenters from local businesses and organizations offered insights to keeping the community green in a variety of ways. 

From a clothing swap and pea-planting to cotton candy and a bounce house, GreenFest had something for everyone. Locals came together to create an event that brought together the VWU community as well as surrounding participants from the Virginia Beach and Norfolk areas. 

VWU has been committed to sustainability in various ways for many years. With the creation of the Environmental Sustainability Council (ESC) over 10 years ago, there are intentional actions taken campus-wide to keep the Marlin community on track. 

“I think it reflects the institution’s commitment to the environment, and the different things that we’re doing to promote environmental sustainability in our classes as well as through these extracurricular things,” Dr. Maynard Schaus, professor of Biology and Environmental Science, director of Accreditation, coordinator of Sustainability Management and member of ESC, said. During GreenFest, Schaus gave away trees to be planted at home and spread the word about the Earth and Environmental Sciences department’s programs. 

Along with creating school policies and practices, ESC works with groups on and off campus to organize events such as GreenFest. This year’s GreenFest hosted organizations that focus on sustainability and conservation. It served as an opportunity for students seeking jobs in the local community, and also as an educational opportunity.

 Students at GreenFest booths talk with visitors about the environment.

McKenna Howenstine|Marlin Chronicle

GreenFest brought fun in ways a true festival would, with cotton candy, popcorn and a bounce house. Many of the organizations and presenters in attendance also hosted interactive experiences such as a promotional recycling game station, potting and planting peas station, community art piece creativity station and marine life skeleton identification station. The event was originally meant to be outdoors, hosted alongside birdwatching and native plant gardening, but was moved indoors due to weather. Thankfully, in true Virginia Beach rain-resilience fashion, the event turnout was still high. 

Representatives from the Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center were of the many organizations that attended the event.

“What we have recognized is that you usually only have about, on average, seven seconds with a person before they stop paying attention to you, and they want to move on to the next thing,” Community Engagement Coordinator at the Virginia Aquarium Max Wright said. “So, what we do is try and combat those very natural human behaviors by creating activities and opportunities that are digestible in that short amount of time.”

Wright, along with other members of the Virginia Aquarium, hosted a biodegradable bird feeders examination station at GreenFest.

“While they’re [examining the feeders], we’re sharing information about the different parts of the bird feeder itself and why it’s directly impactful for those animals, and then what those animals are doing for the environment around us, and why we want to support them,” Wright said. “As those interactions are happening, we’re filling them with information at the same time, and because they’re also engaging other senses, they’re able to absorb it and digest it a little bit more because they’re physically moving and hearing the information at the same time.” 

Wright said those who visit the aquarium tend to be more engaged than those at events such as GreenFest, so these interactions are really just the first step in a visitor’s environmental education. 

Keeping education interactive is especially valuable for young children, but is important for everyone. Hands-on learning increases relevance and generally fosters appropriate care and concern for a cause. Without a connection to conservation of the environment, people may look the other way. Without a foundation of scientific awareness for the world around us, it is more difficult to comprehensively get people in-the-know and impassioned. 

First-year Madeline Diaz spoke to the importance of environmental education in schools. Diaz, who plans to become an elementary teacher, was surprised by the amount of young participants at GreenFest.

“I really did not think that there were going to be a lot of kids here. I think that’s really nice because environmental education needs to be further brought up in schools,” Diaz said. “I think events like this will keep that, like, direction we’re heading into full speed ahead.”

To learn about other ways VWU is inspiring sustainability practices and careers inside and outside of the community, Marlins Go Green can be reached via email and social media (, @marlinsgogreen).

By MJ Matthews