Community collaboration shines during Earth Week

Posted on April 14, 2022 by Dana Poleski

Members of the Sustainability Club Members of the Sustainability Club

Earth Week at Sweet Briar is always full of creative and purposeful community events celebrating our environment and encouraging us to live sustainably. This year, the Sustainability Club and Center for Human and Environmental Sustainability are partnering with over a dozen other campus groups including clubs, offices and courses, to offer a wide variety of activities to celebrate all week, leading up to Earth Day on April 22. 

Events include a community garden spring clean-up with the Center for Human and Environmental Sustainability, birdhouse painting with the Audubon Society club, a tea party in the wildflower meadow with the Camus Events Organization, a farm-to-table community lunch sponsored by the Office of Alumnae Relations and Development that features produce from the greenhouse, and the opportunity to experience the new soundwalk created by Daisy’s Harp and Professor Josh Harris.

Sustainability leadership

Annika Kuleba ’22 president of the Sustainability Club, noted the strong collaboration of the sustainability leadership team to bring the events to fruition. The team includes Lilly DeMeritt ’24 (vice president), Renee Taylor ’24 (secretary), Abigail McAllister ’24 (treasurer), Vicky Harder ’24 (sophomore representative), Haley Holzworth ’25 and Beckett Baldinger ’25 (first-year representatives). 

“I am most excited about the wildflower meadow tea party we are putting on with the Campus Events Organization and the outdoor farm-to-table lunch we are hosting with alumnae relations and development on Earth Day when the Sweet Briar Community comes together to appreciate our beautiful campus,” says Annika.

Club collaboration

“I love collaborating with other clubs,” says Vicky. “It’s always a really fun time to hear other people’s ideas and suggestions for how to improve our club events for the current semester and for the future.” 

Vicky helped plan the Crafty Vixen’s upcycled closet workshop and the Sweet PEAs’ event on how to be a sustainable Vixen and better understanding how sustainability intersects with women’s health both for students and globally. “The Crafty Vixen is dedicated to crafting in a sustainable way,” she said. “So we felt that an upcycled workshop would be a great way for people to work on their sewing skills and add some pizazz to their closets. The Sweet PEAs are focused on the health and wellness of students on campus and our former chairwoman thought that an event like this would help students understand what being sustainable really means and how they can work on it in their everyday lives.”

Investing in our planet, our campus

Over the last several years with the College’s focus on sustainability curriculum, enterprises and co-curricular activities, Earth Week at Sweet Briar has become a collaborative, community-building celebration that raises awareness of caring for our home, the environment and ourselves as individuals and as a community. This year, Earth Day’s theme is “investing in our planet.”

Lisa Powell, director of the Center for Human and Environmental Sustainability, notes that “While Sweet Briar College is ‘investing in our planet’ every day, Earth Week really brings home how committed our students and broader campus community are to our sustainability initiatives, and to thinking not only about our College, but also about how we can be part of regional and global efforts to tackle pressing issues like climate change, food insecurity, and human health and well-being. Building the capacity for critical thinking and action around sustainability is a big part of Sweet Briar’s curricular and co-curricular focus on leadership development among our students.”

Connecting sights and sounds

This year, Earth Week festivities will end on a special note, literally. After the farm-to-table lunch, band and greenhouse produce market, associate professor of music Josh Harris and Daisy’s Harp will host a reception, inviting people to experience the soundwalk they created during the fall semester, which explores the nature area around Babcock, Guion and the Upper Lake.

“We really wanted to incorporate the outdoors spaces on campus as a way of collaborating with our environmental sciences program,” says Josh. “Using space to compose a piece of sound art was a very different process than the usual linear, or chronological, one. We had to consider that this piece would be heard in a variety of ways, based on how a hiker moved through the space. We also had to consider the natural sounds occurring in the various spaces we were writing for.”

Rachel Davis ’22, who plays the vibraphone in this work of environmental sound art, shares, “It was a fascinating process writing music not only for a unique software like this one, but as a means of accompanying the scenery which, let’s be honest, is the real main event here. The piece of landscape I was writing about is a popular stopping point for monarch butterflies in both the fall and spring, so I wanted to make something which would reflect their presence.”

You can access the soundwalk here and listen on your smartphone as you follow the route on campus, or you can enjoy it virtually. The soundwalk musicians are:

  • Molly Booth, violin

  • Lillie Blazer, violin

  • Kira Bramblett, violin/trumpet

  • Rachel Davis, vibraphone

  • Josh Harris, keys

  • Julianna McIntyre, cello

  • Cassie Munford, alto saxophone

  • Arianna Ratliff, bass

  • Jackie Vari, flute

  • Elisa Weilenmann, clarinet