At the beginning of the month, I attended the 21st annual Environment Virginia symposium, a two-day conference open to sustainability professionals from the public and private sector from across the state. This was the first year that the conference included a "Viable and Sustainable Farms" track, among the more traditional concurrent sessions like "Land Conservation" and "Chesapeake Bay". The agriculture track was host to a varied array of sessions like wholesale distribution of local food, cultivating the next generation of Virginia's farmers, and tracking and accounting BMPs (Best Management Practices).
A number of additional UVa reps joined me in Lexington that evening for the 2010 Governor's Environmental Excellence Awards ceremony and banquet. UVa received a Silver Award for our Food Waste Composting Project; quite an honor to be recognized for that work.
Back on Grounds it was back to preparing for the sustainability world's biggest holiday: Earth Day (April 22nd, of course). This year, being the 40th anniversary of Earth Day, the Unity Project and other UVa student groups and departments banded together to create a truly impressive line-up of events and activities over the course of what became known as Earth Week. Check out the calendar from last week on the recently revamped UVa Sustainability website: Earth Week Calendar.
UVa Dining hosted a couple of events during this week-long celebration; namely the Earth Day bEARTHday Cookout last Monday as well as the Earth Day Prize Package Giveaway. The Cookout included some local food items (the menu consisted of local grass-fed burgers from Wolf Creek Farm, as well as potato salad made with potatoes from the Shenandoah Valley), live music by Trees on Fire, EMPSU prizes and raffles, and a display of the number of disposable to-go containers used at O-Hill in one week. The number is 4,700 (yes, in a single week!), by the way.
Dining's Prize Package was one of the culminating Earth Week events, on Earth Day itself: prize winners earned a spot for them and a friend to attend a private Dining-catered Farm to Fork dinner, chartered bus transport downtown, and tickets to the Ben Harper concert that evening at the Charlottesville Pavilion. The student winners had a great time and really liked the local dinner as well as the show. I was pleased to hear a few self-proclaimed foodies explain that though Ben Harper was a nice perk, they had entered in the raffle specifically for the chance to enjoy a local meal! With ingredients sourced from the Local Food Hub and Retail Relay, who could resist such a series of delightful spring fresh dishes?
Dining participated in several other events, like the Alternative Transportation Fair (I got to make my own bike-smoothie!), the StudCo Green Reception, Free Coffee Hour at the Fine Arts Cafe, and the Sustainability @ UVA Earth Day Extravaganza. Myself and other student volunteers manned the Green Dining info table, and in particular highlighted the unveiling of our two new frequent user punch cards: one for reusable to-go containers, and the other for reusable bags. These cards are both good through the end of the semester, so pick them up now so you can rack up punches to redeem the cards for the giveaways.
On a final note, yesterday I attended the Planning Department's Food Systems Planning Course panel on Local Food Heroes in our community. The line-up and the insight that all of the panelists shared with the audience made me realize (once again) that Charlottesville really is a hotbed of all-stars that are genuinely committed to ensuring economic vitality, farmland preservation, and access to healthy diets by way of creating a local food system. I left that panel sufficiently inspired to end the semester with a bang -- to that end, please join other students and administrators at our final Green Dining meeting of the year next Tuesday, May 4th, at 1pm in Hotel E. We'll analyze Earth Week and other events, as well as brainstorm projects to tackle next year. Hope to see you there!