Every year Earth Day falls on April 22nd, dating back to its inception in 1970. Through time, the entire month of April has transitioned into Earth Month, as opposed to a one-day celebration on April 22nd. Our office puts on a variety of different events to involve the campus in ways they can make a difference both on campus and around Knoxville, as well as how to live more sustainable lives.
This past Earth Month featured five different events and three volunteer opportunities. The month kicked off with the Environmental and Sustainability Career Mingle, in collaboration with Career Services. Ten organizations attended and provided students firsthand insight and advice for what it’s like working in the environmental field. Students were also able to make connections with these organizations, and set up potential internships, volunteer, and job opportunities.
Friday, April 6th was Big Green Friday, an environmental spin off Big Orange Friday, led by the SGA, where the UT community is encouraged to wear green to show their commitment to the environment. The day also featured a “Campus Bagless Day”, where VolShop and VolDining locations encouraged costumers to not take a plastic bag when they shopped to raise awareness of the over 2 million plastic bags used in the US every minute.
The following day, Saturday April 7th was the annual Sustainability Day of Service. Nearly 40 students came out to clean up Second Creek, which runs through campus. Through the help of the volunteers, an entire truck bed of litter was removed from the river.
The Environmental Leadership Awards were held on April 11th, where eight different awards were given to recognize different individuals and groups who demonstrated great environmental leadership in their everyday lives. To see the entire list of award winners, check out the post “Environmental Leadership Awards 2018“.
The following Saturday, April 14th, was the UT Gardens Work Day, where nearly 50 volunteers did various gardening practices in the Native American Interpretive Gardens on campus. This was the first volunteer collaboration between the UT Gardens and our office, and was such a success that there are already plans for more in the future.
Thursday, the 19th was the annual UT Earth Month Celebration, our biggest event of the year. Over 25 sustainability minded organizations from the surrounding area came to campus and engaged with students. The event also featured pop-up shops from the UT Recycling Free Store, Goodwill Industries, and Smokey’s Closet, as well as the UTOPS Mobile bike shop. Over 300 students participated in the passport program, and were awarded with sustainable items such as reusable grocery bags and tumblers. Earth Month Celebration also served as a volunteer opportunity, where students helped ensure it was a zero waste event.
The final event of the month was Arbor Day Celebration, where we held a ceremonial tree planting to celebrate the campus becoming a Tree Campus USA Certified Campus. Speakers included UT Arborist Sam Adams, Tennessee Forestry representative Darren Bailey, and Associate Vice Chancellor for Faculties Services Dave Irvin. Tree Campus USA is a national program created in 2008 by the Arbor Day Foundation to honor colleges and universities for effective campus forest management and for engaging staff and students in conservation goals.