Each year Virginia Tech hosts dozens of programs and events to promote sustainability on campus and in the community, many of which are put on in collaboration with the Town of Blacksburg and the local citizens’ group Sustainable Blacksburg.
Earlier this month, all three entities received the Silver Governor’s Environmental Excellence Award for their role in the planning and execution of Sustainability Week for the past 10 years. Representatives from all three entities accepted the award at the 28th annual Environment Virginia Symposium in Lexington, Virginia.
Sustainability Week is held each fall to educate students and community members about the importance of integrating sustainability into their everyday lives and motivating them to take tangible actions toward becoming more environmentally friendly.
Each year, Sustainability Week includes more than 20 different activities to “celebrate, educate, and motivate” participants.
The planning team for the event includes volunteers of all ages from across the university and town who work together to create events that focus on fostering a sustainable future through energy, transportation, housing, consumption, disposal, food, land use, and other topics.
Events typically include activities such as the “Caught Green Handed” campaign, an annual Active Commute Celebration that features alternative transportation opportunities, tree plantings, presentations and workshops on various sustainability topics, film showings, and local food from the Blacksburg Farmer’s Market and various dining venues. Volunteers have the opportunity each year to get their hands dirty by planting trees and removing invasive plant species from the Stadium Woods forest.
Some notable achievements in sustainability in recent years include:
- Virginia Tech has implemented a food waste collection program in the dining halls, diverting an annual average of 600 tons of food waste for composting.
- The Town of Blacksburg launched a community Solarize Initiative in 2014, which more than quadrupled the number of residents with solar energy systems in the community in less than a year. Since then, more than 30 other localities across the commonwealth have created similar programs.
- Nearly 1,000 new trees have been planted on campus and in the community.
Future sustainable efforts being planned include the development of a Multi-Modal Transit Facility (MMTF) on campus. The facility, which is a joint project between the university and the town, is being designed to earn LEED Platinum and serve as a sustainability showcase in the community.
Another joint effort in progress includes the development of an information clearinghouse on the “green” features available at various apartment complexes in the community.
This award is the third the partnership has received since the inception of Sustainability Week in 2007. In 2008, the group received the Bronze Governor’s Environmental Excellence Award, and in 2013, the group received the national Best of Green Schools Best Collaboration award. Virginia Tech is recognized as a leader in campus sustainability and since 2008 has received six Governor’s Environmental Excellence Awards (two gold, one silver, and three bronze).
The efforts support Virginia Tech’s Climate Action Commitment and Sustainability Plan, which was reaffirmed in 2013 and commits the university to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, improving energy efficiency and recycling, and pursuing LEED Silver certification standards or better for new campus buildings.