Honors College, Office of Sustainability Sponsor Students to Attend Sustainability Conference

Posted: May 5, 2010 at 1:03 am, Last Updated: May 4, 2010 at 3:52 pm

By Catherine Ferraro

Celebrated in more than 175 countries every year, Earth Day recently marked its 40th anniversary on April 22. This year, to inspire awareness and appreciation for the Earth’s environment, a group of Mason students worked together with the Office of Sustainability on a project during Mason’s Earth Week.

Joining together to encourage students to get involved in Earth Week, the Honors College and Office of Sustainability offered awards for up to 11 students to attend the 2010 Sustainability Conference at Longwood University.

The conference was titled “Towards a Culture with a Conscience: Reflections on Sustainability.”

To be considered for the opportunity, students submitted an application and an essay describing their interest in the conference and the topic of sustainability.

All students also agreed to work as a team with the Office of Sustainability upon their return and use the knowledge gained at the conference to plan and implement a project that would benefit the Mason community.

“We felt that offering students an opportunity to participate in the conference was important because there are many individuals on campus who are not as aware about issues of sustainability as they could be,” says Lenna Storm, manager of the Office of Sustainability.

“The conference helped the students learn a lot about the issues we are facing from environmental, ethical and economic standpoints.”

In March, seven students traveled to Farmville, Va., to attend the conference: Ashley Mott, Alison Rutledge, Amanda Wall, Jason Von-Kundra, Yuka Taylor, Emily Miles and Cassondra Coleman.

The conference featured invited speakers who shared their thoughts and experiences pertaining to sustainability, such as environmental stewardship, economic development and social justice.

When the students returned from the conference, they began working with the Office of Sustainability to take care of Mason’s new sustainable produce garden.

The garden is a joint project with the Fairfax County Restoration Project and the Transurban-Fluor Capital Beltway Project Community Grant Program.

The garden will provide produce for the campus community and local food banks.

For the past several weeks, the students have been working in the garden to build up the beds and plant the produce.

They also used recycled wood pallets and crates to build a fence that surrounds the garden.

Some of the planted produce includes tomatoes, tobacco (to deter pests) and radishes. The students are also working on creating an herb garden.

As one of the founding members of Mason’s Garden Club, Coleman, a junior global affairs major in the Honors College, felt attending the sustainability conference and working in the garden would be a great way to get more involved in environmental causes on campus.

“Not only did the conference help us learn more about the area of sustainability, but it also focused on several issues of which I am very interested, including the fair trade movement and international issues,” says Coleman.

“Being able to come back to campus and work as a team with other students on the garden made me feel like I was really making a difference and bringing awareness to the campus community.”

Another student who attended the conference is Jason Von-Kundra, a junior earth science major.

As co-chair of Mason’s Environmental Action Group, Von-Kundra works with other students to help raise awareness of environmental issues and encourage community involvement.

According to Von-Kundra, having the opportunity to work in the garden is a great way to use the knowledge he learned at the conference and also encourage others to get involved and learn about sustainability.

“Growing up, I have always had a great appreciation for the environment, and it concerns me that our planet is not sustainable,” says Von-Kundra.

“Being so dependent on fossil fuels makes me worry about future generations and understand the importance of educating as many people as possible so that they realize the significance of living a sustainable life.”

Both Coleman and Von-Kundra, who plan to continue working in the garden, helped to plan several other events during Earth Week: the Environmental Film Festival, the Environmental Expo and the Organic Garden Gala.

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