Sustainability week celebrates environmental accomplishments

GVL / Sheila Babbitt

GVL / Sheila Babbitt

McKenna Peariso

The entire first week of October at Grand Valley State University was dedicated to the many sustainability efforts on and off campus. Hosted by various GV departments including the Office of Sustainability, the week of events included an energy competition, a garden dedication, tree plantings and many more activities. These events, which were held Oct. 1 through 8, gave the GV community the opportunity to look back on its environmental accomplishments.

“I think this week is a great opportunity for us to celebrate all of the great sustainability work that is being done on campus,” said Campus Sustainability Coordinator Yumiko Jakobcic.

Sustainability week kicked off with an energy competition between all of the campus housing buildings in an attempt to decrease their energy use. Students in residence halls are being urged to reduce their amount of energy consumption by unplugging items not in use, powering off devices, turning off lights and thinking of forms of energy conservation. As part of a larger campaign to impact students’ energy habits, the competition aims to show the importance of reducing energy use. The competition will run through the end of October and the housing unit that is able to conserve the most energy will be announced by early November. 

On Tuesday, Oct. 2, as part of sustainability week, there was a dedication to the demonstration garden near Au Sable Hall. The demonstration garden was created as a tribute to the sustainable agriculture project farm located on the far south end of campus. The dedication to the garden also served as the 10 year celebration of the agriculture project farm which helps compost waste from GVSU facilities and promotes organic farming practices.  

“We were really excited to have a demonstration garden right in the heart of campus,” Jakobcic said. “It was built for us to raise awareness of the agriculture project since its located so far south of campus.” 

In 2008, the sustainable agriculture project farm began implementing ecological practices to farm organic food to give back to GVSU and the community. This project assisted in developing the weekly farmers market in Lot G of the Allendale parking lot. The farmers market is open every Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. and offers fresh produce and goods from local vendors and farms. During sustainability week, the farmers market also offered free bike tuneups from GV’s bike shop. 

Much like the sustainable agriculture farm, the concepts of growth and achievement were also felt during the global grove tree planting. In collaboration with the Padnos International Center, the global grove tree planting event was held on Saturday, Oct. 6 to finish out sustainability week at GVSU. The event recognized and celebrated more than 17 international partnerships who were each dedicated with a newly planted tree. 

“I believe it is important that GVSU continues to strengthen its international relations with other institutions globally,” said Graduate Assistant for the Office of Sustainability Practices Samuel Afoakwa. “By doing this, the growth of these relationships is symbolically represented by the growth of trees.”

The trees will serve as a continued dedication to the international partnerships who assist GVSU in its efforts towards sustainability. The trees will also symbolize how continued placement of plants and other greenery can improve the local environment. 

“It underlines the idea that sustainability can only be achieved through unity and collaboration,” Afoakwa said. “Hence we are mandated to understand that, the global sustainability issues we are facing can be resolved when we come together as a unit.”

Unity when it comes to sustainability has been a driving force for the changes and projects the Office of Sustainability has led. Many of the sustainability accomplishments the university has accomplished are thanks to the dedication from students who see the value in improving the world around them. The Office of Sustainability is always offering volunteer opportunities and ways to get involved in environmental efforts especially on the sustainable agriculture farm.

“There’s always drop-in volunteer hours and opportunities for the sustainable agriculture farm,” Jakobcic said. “We love having students out there it’s a fun way to get involved and meet with students.”

There are also opportunities for students to assist with waste management at zero-waste football games. During every home football game for 2018, the Office of Sustainability and student volunteers help maintain the amount of litter and waste that procures from the sporting event. The final event of sustainability week at GV was the homecoming football game, which was also a zero-waste game. 

“We are always looking for volunteers for the zero-waste football games, to assist visitors and those who ares not familiar with Grand Valley’s waste system,” Jakobcic said. 

Sustainability is one of Grand Valley’s core values and the efforts from the community toward reducing energy, implementing sustainable waste systems and other environmentally-minded projects prove the university’s dedication to this value. The university has continued to win recycling competitions and other national environmental honors thanks to these projects. Sustainability week at GV was a time for the university to celebrate its achievements while implementing more ways the community can be environmentally friendly. 

“We are in a great place for sustainability,” Jakobcic said. “The students here are really into sustainability and I think they are driving a lot of the change at Grand Valley and I am so grateful to see how involved students get with these projects.”