June 29, 2022

Wheels of Change

Art students give old bikes a new and more colorful life.

UMW Hosts “CLEAR” Planning Session, Nov. 13

The University of Mary Washington is spearheading the creation of a Climate, Environment and Readiness (CLEAR) plan to support the quality of life of the Fredericksburg region. On Wednesday, Nov. 13, community leaders and concerned residents came together to set preparedness goals, prioritize needs and start coordinating plans for a CLEAR blueprint.CLEAR has five main goals, including protecting private property by creating and coordinating plans for floods and severe weather emergencies; preserving our resources and open spaces; identifying sustainable activities that save money for homeowners, businesses and local governments; enhancing resilience through activities aimed at preventing crises; and diversifying our regional economy by attracting new businesses that build green jobs. “Fredericksburg, Stafford, Spotsylvania, King George and Caroline have a well-deserved pride in preserving historic legacies,” said Richard Finkelstein, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, in a recent op-ed. “They share in the beauty that distinguishes our region. Our infrastructure is strained. The environment of our area is at risk. But by working together to strengthen resilience we can grow our economy, sustain the values that have made us strong, and be optimistic about the future of our region.” Fredericksburg Mayor Mary Katherine Greenlaw, a signatory for the U.S. Conference of Mayors Climate Protection Agreement, addressed the group at 8:30 a.m. UMW Professors Melanie Szulczewki, Alan Griffith and Grant Woodwell discussed sustainability, diversity and global climate change, respectively, during the morning sessions. The planning session concluded with breakout groups at 10:30 a.m. led by representatives of Marstel-Day, Public Works of Stafford, Friends of the Rappahannock, Worrell Management and the National Academy of Environmental Design. For more information, contact Richard Finkelstein, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, at rfinkels@umw.edu.

UMW Launches Litter Prevention Campaign

The University of Mary Washington will take part in the Keep America Beautiful® Cigarette Litter Prevention Program, a national program to reduce the impact of cigarette butt litter.

UMW is partnering with the Fredericksburg Clean & Green Commission in their efforts to reduce cigarette butt litter in the City of Fredericksburg

UMW is partnering with the Fredericksburg Clean & Green Commission in their efforts to reduce cigarette butt litter in the City of Fredericksburg

In its first year, UMW will target cigarette butt litter throughout the campus with a concentrated and sustained effort and will partner with the Fredericksburg Clean & Green Commission in their efforts to reduce cigarette butt litter in the City of Fredericksburg. This year’s campaign theme is “Butts are Litter Too.”

To kick start the campaign, student volunteers will hand out pocket ash trays on the Fredericksburg campus from Wednesday, Sept. 11 through Friday, Sept. 13.

The Keep America Beautiful® Cigarette Litter Prevention Program tackles the issue by integrating four proven approaches: encouraging enforcement of litter laws, including cigarette litter; raising awareness about the issue using signs and public service messages; placing ash receptacles at transition points such as entrances to public buildings; and distributing pocket ashtrays to adult smokers.

In 2012, nearly 240 communities reported an average 42 percent reduction in littered butts as a result of implementing the program. Tobacco products, including cigarette butts, are the most-littered item in America, representing nearly 38 percent of all items, according to “Litter in America,” the Keep America Beautiful® landmark 2009 study of litter and littering behavior.  This research also showed that individuals who would never litter items such as beverage cans or paper packaging may not consider tossing cigarette butts on the ground “littering.”

The “Butts are Litter Too Campaign” is only one of UMW’s sustainability efforts centered on waste reduction. University waste reduction efforts include participation in Recyclemania, a national recycling contest, in which UMW placed first in Virginia in 2012 and 2013. In addition, the university has partnered with Sodexo Inc. for a comprehensive food waste reduction campaign, including reusable take-out containers, composting and raising student awareness of the economic, environmental and social impact of food waste.

National nonprofit Keep America Beautiful® has field-tested and expanded the Cigarette Litter Prevention Program since 2003, funded by Philip Morris USA, an Altria company, and with additional support from Reynolds American Inc. Services Company.  Information about starting and maintaining a community Cigarette Litter Prevention Program is available online.  The “Guide to Cigarette Litter Prevention” can be accessed through the Keep America Beautiful® website www.kab.org or directly at www.preventcigarettelitter.org.

Keep America Beautiful, Inc., established in 1953, is the nation’s largest volunteer-based community action and education organization. With a network of over 1,200 affiliate and participating organizations, Keep America Beautiful forms public-private partnerships and programs that engage individuals to take greater responsibility for improving their community environments. To learn more about Keep America Beautiful, go to www.kab.org.

UMW Dining Chosen for Sustainable Seafood Initiative

The University of Mary Washington’s Eagle Dining is a part of Sodexo’s new Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certified sustainable seafood program. The program ensures that customers can trace the origins of their seafood to its original source. UMW is one of 11 locations in the Washington, D.C. metro area in the program, including Marymount University and George Mason University. Each of the participating corporate, university and public institutions obtained MSC Chain of Custody certification, a comprehensive traceability program that assures customers the seafood can be traced back through the supply chain to the fishery. “We have a unique opportunity to leverage the scale of our supply chain in an approach to seafood procurement that benefits consumers and communities alike,” said Deborah Hecker, vice president for sustainability and corporate social responsibility at Sodexo. “The future of wild caught seafood depends on recognizing and rewarding sustainable fishing practices. This program helps our clients and consumers do that.” Eagle Dining by Sodexo, a Virginia Green certified business, has served UMW for more than a decade. It received The Marstel-Day and Stafford Printing Green Frontier Award in 2013 for excellence in green business practices. Sodexo, Inc., provides a full spectrum of quality of life service in the U.S., Canada and Mexico. Headquartered in Gaithersburg, Md., Sodexo, Inc., also funds all administrative costs for the Sodexo Foundation, an independent charitable organization that has made more than $17 million in grants to fight hunger in America.

Office Sustainability Tip of the Week

We wanted this week’s tip to point out something that has a very big impact on sustainability, but something that not everyone may be aware of.  Have you heard of the Meatless Monday movement?  Even though its been in existence since 2003, I had never heard of it until my wife brought it up to me several days ago.  The Meatless Monday movement is an international campaign that encourages people to not eat meat on Mondays in order to not only improve one’s personal health, but also the health of the planet.  One startling fact that highlights the effect that the consumption of meat has on the environment: it takes 5,214 gallons of water to produce a single pound of beef!  Another interesting fact: it takes the equivalent of a gallon of gasoline to produce one pound of grain-fed beef in the United States.  With increased energy consumption, often comes the environmental damage we have seen take place in the United States over the last few decades.

We’re not suggesting everyone stop eating meat; that’s a personal choice.  As a fairly regular meat-eater, I’m always hesitant when I hear the word “meatless” or “vegetarian,” but the goal of the Meatless Monday campaign seems very reasonable for those of us who are not willing to make that jump to vegetarian or vegan, but are interested in ways to not only cut back on our meat consumption, but also help the environment.  The overall goal of the campaign is more to reduce your meat consumption as opposed to giving up meat altogether.  I strongly encourage you to go to the Meatless Monday website to read more about the campaign as well as browse through some great articles on healthy living, tasty meatless recipes, information about seasonable vegetables, and how certain businesses and schools are also adopting the idea of Meatless Mondays.  This is something that you could consider doing not only in the home but also at the workplace.  You may also find that by cutting out from consuming meat on Mondays (or any one day of the week for that matter), you’ll be saving money as meat prices have been on the rise over the past few months.

If you have any suggestions for things we can all do differently each day to create more sustainable environments, please feel free to leave a comment or email me the idea to be featured in a future Tip of the Week.  The PCS Action Group members for the “Office Sustainability Tip of the Week” are Kevin Caffrey, Elizabeth Sanders, Robert Louzek, and Dre Anthes.

Last Week’s Tip: Litter on Campus.




Eagle Dining Wins Green Award

The University of Mary Washington’s Eagle Dining has been awarded The Marstel-Day and Stafford Printing Green Frontier Award, which celebrates excellence in green business practices. Eagle Dining was one of five local businesses honored at the Fredericksburg Regional Chamber of Commerce’s annual gala on Friday, Feb. 1. Eagle Dining, which is managed by Sodexo, has undertaken many sustainability initiatives, including purchasing locally sourced seafood and produce, reducing the use of paper goods and creating a “Go Green” meal plan. Every “Go Green” meal plan purchased by students donates $5 to a sustainability grant fund. UMW students can apply for the grant funds to support on-campus sustainability efforts. Eagle Dining has also been named a green restaurant as part of the Virginia Green initiative. “Following the lead of our parent corporation, Sodexo, our team is committed to reducing our carbon footprint and providing highly sustainable and eco-friendly food services at the University of Mary Washington,” said Kori Dean, general manager of Eagle Dining. “It is extremely gratifying to have those efforts recognized by such a prestigious organization. We will continue to look for the practices that will help us to be not only one of the best campus dining operations in the Commonwealth, but also one of the most sustainable.” Several of Eagle Dining’s philanthropic efforts have included work with Dinners for the Homeless and STOP Hunger. In November 2012 the Eagle Dining sponsored campus-wide food drive collected more than 3,000 pounds of food for the Fredericksburg Area Food Bank and Presbyterian Food Pantry. For more information about Eagle Dining by Sodexo’s community outreach, visit http://umwdining.com/community/index.html. Local businesses Reality Realty Professionals, the Title Professional LLC, NSWC Federal Credit Union and the Rappahannock Electric Cooperative also received awards at the Fredericksburg Regional Chamber of Commerce’s gala.

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News release prepared by:  Julia Davis

RecycleMania Kicks Off February 4th

Starting on Monday, Feb. 4, the University of Mary Washington will join colleges and universities across the country in RecycleMania, an annual eight-week competition to reduce, reuse and recycle the most on-campus waste. More than 600 schools are participating this year, representing all 50 states as well as five Canadian provinces.

This year marks UMW’s fifth time in the Per Capita Classic Competition category, which measures the percentage of recycled materials per person on campus.

For the GAP Bin Palmeri Plazanext eight weeks UMW’s recycling efforts will be monitored by members of the Ecology Club and RecycleMania volunteers. The entire campus community can participate by committing to green practices.

UMW’s year-round recycling categories of cardboard, mixed paper and co-mingled glass, aluminum and plastics will remain the same during the competition. More information about what can and cannot be recycled at UMW can be found at http://sustainability.umw.edu/recycling/.

Recycling receptacles at UMW offices are included in campus recycling. Faculty and staff are encouraged to verify that office recycling bins are properly labeled and to contact the Work Management System for bins and labels if needed.

Last year UMW won first place in Virginia and 18th in the overall competition by recycling 37.96 pounds of materials per person over eight weeks, which is equivalent to more than 200,000 pounds of recyclables kept out of landfills. The 182 metric tons of CO2 kept out of the atmosphere through recycling equaled the equivalent of taking 97 cars off the road.

“RecycleMania  is about more than winning,” said Joni Wilson, director of landscape and grounds. “It is an opportunity for us to raise awareness about recycling programs and sustainability issues in general.”

Statistics and weekly recycling data will be published throughout the competition at http://recyclemaniacs.org/.

For more information about the sustainability efforts and programs at UMW, visit http://sustainability.umw.edu/ or contact sustainability@umw.edu.

Haitian Development through Home-Grown Capacity Building and Group Organizing

During the first week of April, I undertook a truly transformational journey.  We traveled to the island nation of Haiti, the only country in the world with a last name: “The poorest country in the western hemisphere.”

Despite U.S. government warnings about travel to Haiti (the Department of State strongly urges U.S. citizens to consider carefully all travel to Haiti), we were neither robbed, raped, or murdered.  In the view of U.S. authorities, this might be considered somewhat miraculous.  Not only did I survive, but I returned with a powerful sense of what Haitians can and have achieved, witnessing their organization and capacity building, as well as the often demoralizing, destabilizing, and dehumanizing influence of NGOs and missionary groups on the Haitian people.  (I make this last comment knowing that I may once again be labeled as the anti-Christ or being in bed with the devil.)

When I planned this trip to Haiti, I left the specifics up to my friend, Carla Bluntschli, who has lived in Haiti for 27 years.  I simply said that I wanted to see and experience Haitian development.  In seven days, I learned more than I ever imagined, and I hope to share some of those lessons here.  Our plan was to visit a number of different organizations, and Carla has a deep network of friends in Haiti.  We visited MCC (Mennonite Central Committee) volunteers and country staff who are working in water, reforestation, and food security; we visited an NGO, Haiti Outreach, which works with communities to create clean water systems; we stayed two nights with Oganizasyon Peyizan 7e Seksyon Kominal Gwomon (OP7G) – the Peasant Organization of the 7th section of the community of Gros Morne, and were astounded by their understanding of their own needs, their organizational skills, and the tasks that they had set for themselves.

Everyday, I was impressed with the Haitian people and their organizations.  OP7G was the most amazing.  We met the first evening with seven of the eleven members of the Executive Committee.  Their definition of development: people working to help others and themselves.  This was a theme that I encountered repeatedly throughout the trip.

OP7G was founded in 2001 and its members received training from PDL (Partenariat pour le Développement Local  – Partnership for Local Development) which works to organize and empower peasants so that they can move forward.  In its first year, OP7G had 47 groups in seven localities serving more than 600 members; ten years on, it has 215 groups working in 28 locations and nearly 2700 members.  Each group meets every week; each month, all groups send representatives to a general meeting.  The goal is for OP7G to look to see what is missing so that they can accompany one another.  They look for what they have and what is missing in their communities.  They undertake an ingenious social mapping program (I have only seen this in Haiti) where every year, they map their communities.  They draw maps that include each household, its members, the type of house, and roof material.  They also determine who has children in school and how many of a family’s children are in school, as well as the number of times a day that a family is able to eat.

There are four economic levels that these data represent, and part of the moving forward is to provide the support so that families can move from the lowest level to the next level.  People are moving up, but as new groups are constantly forming, there are many who are still in level one of economic development.  Groups form around a number of  themes including Health, Agriculture, Education, and Income Generating Activities.

The training that these groups receive from PDL is both simple and complex.  They use simple messages that often take a great deal of time for people to grasp, debate, and come to some conclusion about.  Two examples stand out.  One was a simple diagram of a chicken egg.  If the egg was eaten, it would not hatch.  If, however, the egg hatched, it would produce a chicken which would produce more chickens until such time as people could both eat eggs and see their flocks grow.

Another example emphasizes the need to organize – that there was strength in numbers.  The story was of a big fish who could easily swallow smaller fish.  The small fish decided to organize into small groups, but they were still vulnerable to being consumed by the big fish.  Only when the small groups grew into larger groups were they able to fend off the big fish and ultimately surround it, growing from small fish into larger fish.  The big fish might represent the government, a large landowner, or simply a wealthy person in the community who took advantage of his position.  By working together, groups would be able to grow and expand, and counterbalance the power of the big fish.  PDL’s instructional technique uses large diagrams so that people can easily see and discuss, even if they are not literate.

We met with one NGO, Haiti Outreach, which has progressed dramatically over its nearly 20 years of work.  The organization began by drilling wells and found that a month after the project was finished, the wells no longer worked.  Over the course of a few years and surveys of failed wells, it became clear that without community participation and ownership of the projects, the pumps would continue to fail.  The people had to determine their own needs and their commitment to fulfilling those needs.

Haiti Outreach trains communities for three months and the communities themselves own these projects.  This was a transformation not only on the part of the NGO and how it approached development, but also profound transformation on the part of project participants.  Ownership means paying; if you pay for something it has value and must be cared for.  Today, Haiti Outreach continues to make everyone aware of four points that must be taught, discussed, and committed to before any project is undertaken: authority, responsibility, accountability, and transparency.  It took a decade for this vision to develop and the community has responded remarkably.

In another case, we met a man and woman who had lived for 25 years in the U.S. before returning home to help their community.  Their six children remained in the States and were appalled that their parents were going back to Haiti.  The couple have embarked upon an ambitious program of agroecological development, a field in which neither one of them had any practical experience before returning home.  Their organization, the Association for the Development of Rural Areas, is based on the belief that it is essential that people be able to grown their own food, produce it in an economic and sustainable way, and do so naturally, without the use of chemicals.  This couple now has more than 300 people coming to its demonstration farm for monthly meetings, where they share knowledge and learn about farming techniques.  On the day that we visited, a man from a water organization was discussing ways that communities could develop wells and use the water both for domestic use and for their gardens.  Water availability and conservation are critically important in this far northwestern part of the country where cactus was the dominant vegetation.

At the end of the trip, we were, in my view, used as pawns by a rising politician.  He took us to two different groups and introduced us as development experts who were in the country to see their projects.  That led to some specific questions about what we could do for these organizations.  Even though we repeatedly stated that our goal was simply to learn from Haitians what they were doing themselves to promote development, it was uncomfortable to be put in the situation where we were the “experts” with money to bring.  After we reiterated that we had no money to give to their organizations, there was some awkward silence and some downcast expressions.  Again we tried to talk about what we had seen other groups doing and how successful they had been.  This was a message that we felt compelled to share, but it was the first time that we confronted the expectations of Haitians that “blans” (whites) would give them money.  It was a real learning moment, and demonstrated clearly how dependent that Haitians have become on blans and that we continue to reinforce this dependency with our missions and charity.

In a relocated camp on the last day, as an angry Haitian man asked me why I was taking photos and what I was going to do with them.  When we eventually made clear to him the purpose of our trip, he became a little less angry, but declared that Haitians do not need money.  They need machinery, they need training, they need jobs; they do no need handouts.  Where have the millions of pledged dollars gone?  I don’t know, except that it is yet another example of our flawed development approach to Haiti.

An important lesson of the 2010 Haiti earthquake is that it is far easier to give handouts and create dependency than it is to enable real change and empower peasants to achieve their own objectives. 

Recyclemania in Full Swing at UMW

The results of week two of RECYCLEMANIA are official — our ranking is 16th in the international competition and second in Virginia, with Virginia Wesleyan College having the lead.

Our combined weight is 9.90 pounds of recycling per person. This is equivalent to 48 metric tons of CO2 or 25 cars off the road, or the energy consumption of 13 households. For more information, visit http://recyclemaniacs.org/.

Message from Joni Wilson, director of landscape and grounds

Sustainability Day at UMW

Curious about sustainability? Join local experts and learn about recycling, composting, plastics in the environment, use of native grasses, stormwater effects and proper planting at Sustainability Day at UMW on Saturday, October 8. The activities will run from 10 a.m. – 1 p.m. at Jefferson Square and are free and open to the public.

Bring your questions and unidentified pests to the Plant and Insect Clinic offered by Master Gardeners and the Stafford County Extension agent.

At 10:30 a.m., UMW staff will demonstrate dividing perennials, spring flowering bulbs and proper tree planting, followed by a presentation by  volunteers from Tree Fredericksburg at noon.

Sponsors include the University of Mary Washington, Friends of the Rappahannock, Virginia Cooperative Extension, Rappahannock Group Sierra Club, Master Gardener Association of the Central Rappahannock Area, the Rappahannock Regional Solid Waste Management Board and the UMW Ecology Club.

For more information, contact Joni Wilson at (540) 654-2088 or jwilson@umw.edu.