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The Blue & Gray Press | November 19, 2017

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Eco Club Paints for Green UMW

By BRITTANY De VRIES

After three years of working to conserve energy, junior Lauren Birney said “it wasn’t as much of a downer as I thought it might be.”

She is referring to her work with the campus Ecology Club.

“It is such a huge challenge that some people can feel powerless sometimes,” Birney admitted. “I realized that I never felt that way.”

Birney stood out on the campus lawn Oct. 22, a little blue paint on jeans.

Trash bins turned blue at Ball Circle that day, where the Ecology Club held its promotion for National Campus Sustainability Day.

After weeks of discussion over how to make recycling on campus walk more accessible, without buying expensive containers and creating more work for the staff, the Ecology Club decided to take every third trash can and make it recycle-friendly.

The bins were sanded, then painted blue. A wooden cover, built by the woodworking class, was placed as a lid on the final product.

Ecology Club chairman and Senior Hilary Lufkin was impressed by the interest she received from people walking by.

“We are starting a dialogue on campus between students, faculty, staff, and residents,” Lufkin said. “We’re celebrating our energy conservation efforts.”

Members of the Ecology Club had a table outside of the nest from 11 a.m.—1 p.m. handing out information on energy sustainability, and also on the Power Vote campaign, a nationwide petition that has had over 1 million student signatures pledging to make energy and global warming a priority as they head to the polls Nov. 4.

Along with painting and fixing up the trash bins, several windmills also lined the brick walk and campus green.

Tom Owens, Chesapeake Climate Action Network of Virginia (CCAN) campus coordinator, said the windmills have been displayed all over the country, including attendance at several presidential debates, to promote CCAN’s Power Vote campaign.

“The windmills have traveled all across the country, including at several presidential debates,” Owens said.

During the Va  Powershift conference held at Virginia Tech the previous weekend, Lufkin asked Owens to bring the windmills to the UMW campus for Sustainability Day.

Owens said that 12 campuses in Virginia are currently running Power Vote.

“Students realize it’s on them to create the change and influence our political leaders who have the power to make these changes,” Owens said.

Director of Landscape and Grounds Joney Wilson is in charge of the upcoming Sustainability Team, a group of students, faculty, staff, and administration that working to create a core advisory council for energy conservation at UMW.

“It would be the hub of campus sustainability,” she said.

Wilson said that the team made a verbal proposal to Vice President for Administration and Finance Richard Hurley about five weeks ago, and a written proposal three weeks later.

“Administration knows it is the thing to do, but we just have to figure out what to do to make it work,” Wilson said.

Lufkin said that getting students to help create the bins makes a big difference in the long-term success with energy conservation, because they feel more involved with the development.

“Students feel more investment to use the bins and recycle when they help make them,” she said.