Earth week approaches

Austin Walker
Staff Writer

In celebration of Earth Day, off- and on-campus organizations will host events and activities to help make RVA a greener city. Photo by Brooke Marsh

UPDATE: Earth Day Bazaar has been moved to Wednesday due to Monday’s weather.

Richmond may not always be the greenest city, but the activists living here are attempting to change that. To celebrate Earth Day, organizations on VCU’s campus and throughout the city are holding events to promote sustainability throughout the coming week.

The Green Unity organization at VCU and the Office of Sustainability have planned events that will take place on campus, and the Enrichmond Foundation will hold the Earth Day Richmond Festival, the largest Earth Day celebration in Virginia.

Earth Day began in the United States in 1970, and has since evolved into a global celebration in more than 192 countries. What was initially a celebration held mainly on college and university campuses has become a worldwide push for environmental preservation and appreciation.

The Green Unity student organization will be kicking off the events on campus with their fifth annual Earth Day Bazaar, which will take place in the Commons Plaza. On Monday, April 20, local sustainable businesses will set up booths where they’ll be selling items and holding workshops.

Cassandra Lebowsky, an environmental studies major at VCU, is on the leadership team for Green Unity and was tasked with promoting the Bazaar event on social media. If you share their flyers and photos on Facebook, along with the hashtag #EarthWeek2015, you’ll be entered into a raffle that will be drawn at the end of the week.

“Our Earth Day Bazaar is going to be our biggest event for Earth Day, but Earth Week is the (April) 20 through the 23, and our last event will be the following weekend when we have a big clean-up,” Lebowsky said.

Ashley Grupenhoff, another environmental studies major, has been a member of Green Unity at VCU for three consecutive years, and also serves on the Leadership Team. There was some obscurity at the beginning of this school year as to whether or not they would hold the event, but enough people requested it and volunteered to help that they had to follow through.

“We had a bunch of previous vendors who come back every year say ‘This is the one way every year that I can sell my stuff, and sell my art,’” Grupenhoff said. “So on the vendor side they kind of pushed for doing it and we put out the application for vendors and within weeks we were filled.”

Support from volunteers within Green Unity and students outside of the organization has been overwhelming, Grupenhoff said. Originally, there were not enough spaces or positions for all of the volunteers to be able to participate, but they eventually expanded the scope of their events and the help they could receive.

Both student artists and artists around Richmond unaffiliated with the university will be at the event showing off their pieces and selling items.

To find a listing of all the events which Green Unity will be hosting during Earth Week, visit their Facebook page, “Green Unity at VCU.”

Erin Stanforth, VCU’s director of sustainability, said her office has been working closely with Green Unity to make the Bazaar event successful. They’ve also been trying to expand their reach to beyond just that event.

“This year I think that we’ve expanded what we’re trying to do for Earth Day to not just be the Bazaar, but actually have some educational offerings to the campus community,” Stanforth said.

Some of these events include cooking demonstrations, ethics workshops, art displays, movie showings and lectures to be held in the Student Commons.

Aside from what’s happening on campus, the Enrichmond Foundation will be holding their Earth Day Richmond Festival on April 18 in conjunction with sponsors including Google, WCVE, The Science Museum of Virginia and more.

Taking place at the Great Shiplock Park in Shockoe Bottom, this festival will include live performances by local bands, as well as local food trucks, art presentations and paddle boarding and kayaking on the James. Erin Stanforth said there’s a possibility that VCU will also be at the event with a table, but it has not been finalized.

This is the 25th anniversary of the festival, and Enrichmond announced on their website that it will be the largest one they’ve had yet.

“I think it’s the most important day of the year, and that education is the mission of the events we’re holding,” Stanforth said about Earth Day.

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