Faculty members, staff, and students are participating as partners, sponsors, and exhibitors in the Blacksburg observation of Environmental Awareness Week Aug. 21 through 26.

At the Community Celebration on Tuesday, Aug. 22, displays from Virginia Tech will include research and activities to advance the nation's energy independence and protect the environment. For example, the Hybrid Electric Vehicle Team, a student organization, will have an exhibit. The team designs and builds hybrid electric and alternative-fueled vehicles and won the 2006 GM and DOE Challenge X competition by designing an SUV powered by electricity and E85 (85 percent ethanol) fuel.

The Community Celebration will be from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the YMCA's new headquarters, 1000 North Main. Other Virginia Tech participants are:

• Biodiesel@VT, a student and faculty member group organized by Lisa Schweitzer, assistant professor of urban affairs and planning in the College of Architecture and Urban Studies. Group is researching the technical factors required for conversion to biodiesel, looking specifically at changes in operation as a result of switching fuels, and creating information and an online resource guide for commercial and private diesel operators.

• The Community Design Assistance Center, of the College of Architecture and Urban Studies, which assists communities, neighborhood groups, and non-profit organizations in improving the natural and built environments through design, planning, policy, and research.

• Virginia Tech Recycling and the Environmental Coalition (EC). The EC is a student and faculty volunteer group that carries out many projects, including working with Virginia Tech Physical Plant to collect recycled paper from more than 30 buildings on campus. EC also conducts educational programs to increase environmental awareness.

• The Myers-Lawson School of Construction, whose research and education projects include green-building methods, technologies, and best practices.

In addition to the exhibits, the College of Architecture and Urban Studies will offer tours of the Solar House on Tuesday beginning at 3 p.m. and on Saturday, Aug. 26, from 10 a.m. until noon.

Other activity sponsors from Virginia Tech throughout the week are the Environmental Coalition and the Graduate Urban Affairs & Planning Association.

The Town of Blacksburg has received a $95,000 US Environmental Protection Agency Resource Conservation Challenge grant. This grant calls for the formation of a collaborative community partnership to address toxic chemical risks within the community and provide community education and outreach opportunities on general environmental awareness issues. Virginia Tech Partners in the Sustainable Blacksburg initiative are:

• Annie Pearce, assistant professor of building construction in the College of Architecture and Urban Studies, representing the Myers-Lawson School of Construction

• Elizabeth Gilboy, director of the Community Design Assistance Center

• Doug Nelson, professor of mechanical engineering in the College of Engineering

• Jessica Folmar, a student in Environmental Science in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and president of the Environmental Coalition

• Robe Lowe, environmental programs manager in the Department of Environmental Health and Safety Services

• Sean McGinnis, director of the Green Engineering program, an undergraduate concentration in the College of Engineering

• John Randolph, director of the School of Public & International Affairs

• Lisa Schweitzer, assistant professor of urban affairs and planning in the College of Architecture and Urban Studies, and director of Biodiesel@VT

• Marc Stern, assistant professor of forestry in the College of Natural Resources, whose interests include the human dimensions of natural resource policy and management, and environmental communications

• Richard Rich, director of the Center for Environmental and Energy Studies

• Department of Urban Affairs and Planning, College of Architecture and Urban Studies

• Larry Bechtel, recycling coordinator , Virginia Tech Physical Plant

"Participating in the US EPA's Resource Conservation Challenge through this grant program has already brought together over two dozen community groups with shared goals who are eager to partner and bring about local solutions to national environmental problems," said Marc Verniel, Town Manager

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