“Earth Month” arrives on campus

The Office of Sustainability has planned in-person and virtual events to honor our planet


The Office of Sustainability is running two challenges, the Plant-Forward Challenge, focused on diet, and the Green Hygiene Spring Challenge.

Caroline Walker, Staff Writer

The Office of Sustainability’s plan for Earth Month, which runs from mid-March to mid-April, is to rebuild campus spirit.

“A year into the pandemic, I think a lot of people have realized just how important a sense of community is,” Brian Cohen, the Office’s assistant director for sustainability engagement, said.  “Many, including myself, have gained an even greater appreciation for face-to-face interaction and the benefits of working together to tackle our biggest challenges.”

In a reaffirmation of the importance of working together, a guest speaker, Ayana Elizabeth Johnson, spoke about the necessity of bringing together a coalition to address issues like climate change and gender equality.

The title of her address, “Climate Feminism: To Change Everything, We Need Everyone,” emphasizes the collective power that a community can have.

To encourage collective action on environmental issues, the Office’s Earth Month programming hopes to provide the Wake Forest community with in-person and virtual opportunities to learn more about environmental issues to prompt individuals to interact with and find appreciation for the natural world, as well as engage in conversations about sustainability with others.

This year, the Office of Sustainability rooted the celebration with staple events of previous Earth Weeks while also branching out to new events. Among the additions to the lineup of events are Earth Talks and a “Meet the Trees” event.

During the “Meet the Trees” event held on March 19, students gathered at the new Fireside by Manchester area to hear University Arborist Jim Mussetter explain more about different tree species found on the quad.

Another in-person offering, the inaugural Earth Talks will take place on Earth Day: April 22. Like a TEDx event specifically geared toward sustainability, Earth Talks provides students with a platform to present on their areas of environmental passion.

“Hands down, I’m most excited about Earth Talks,” Cohen said. “I was blown away, not only by the number of proposals submitted but also by their quality. I’m even more excited because what looked like it would be a virtual event will now be in person with free food thanks to the easing of restrictions on campus.”

In-person offerings will also be complemented by two new virtual challenges that capitalize on the social networks that continue to connect people digitally during the pandemic. These include the Plant-Forward Challenge and the Clean Green Hygiene Spring Challenge.

These virtual challenges are aimed at raising awareness about sustainable changes that students can make in their daily life, such as the Clean Green Hygiene Spring Challenge’s promotion of low-waste toiletry items, etc.

“This event should be a very fun extension of those interactions and give people a fun way to engage with new types of items they may not have been aware of before,” Anna Price, the sustainable consumption intern at the Office, said. “A main goal of this event is to increase social interest and support for mindful consumption in our community.”

In addition to these new challenges and events, the celebration has also been marked by traditional favorites. Many came together for banner painting, during which student organizations paint an Earth Month banner in affirmation of their support for the environment. Weekly Campus Garden hours and a film screening in Campus Garden also provided students with opportunities to connect with others and to gain a greater appreciation for the natural environment.

In this way, Earth Month events introduce students to places for building community, like Campus Garden, as well as facilitate meaningful interactions with other students who can begin to coalesce in order to form a more environmentally-friendly community.

“It’s a great time to show just how many ways students can get involved with sustainability efforts, as well as highlight some of the coolest parts of the campus environment,” said Greeks Go Green intern Sarah Templeton. 

The positive impact of building connections around sustainability even extends beyond just students, and it can be seen through the collaboration of campus offices with student organizations on environmental initiatives during Earth Month.

“I’m excited to say that we ended up with at least 17 events that were run either solely by others or in partnership with our office,” Cohen said. “Earth Month is not only a celebration for the community but also one created by the community.”