Marshall community celebrates Earth Day

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Marshall University’s Memorial Student Center Plaza was full of green Wednesday, and not just with the school’s colors.

Students and community members gathered by the fountain to celebrate Earth Day with plant sales, interactive activities for kids and booths with information on recycling and other environmental initiatives in the area.

Justin Furby, junior environmental science major and president of Marshall Parks and Recreation Organization of Students, said this event and other events surrounding Earth Day are meant to educate the public as well as to help people recognize their personal impact.

“I think Earth Day is important, because we want to recognize our impact,” Furby said. “So I think whenever you see events like this, you kind of realize how much you use, like energy wise, and the impact that you have, I think, on a daily basis.”

Amy Parsons-White, sustainability manager for Marshall, said Marshall is making efforts to improve its impact on the Earth through its recycling program, bike share program and new initiatives.

“Well, we’ve had a fairly strong recycling program since 2009,” Parsons-White said. “We are in the process of expanding that to accept glass. We’re going to put more recycling containers outside and in people’s offices.”

Starting in the fall, Parsons-White said Marshall will begin a composting program to reduce waste, which will be the first commercial facility of its kind in West Virginia.

“We will compost all paper and cardboard from campus, as well as grass clippings and food and turn that back into dirt that we can then use on campus,” Parsons-White said. “So, there’s really nothing more sustainable than that, taking our trash and turning it into a useful product.”

According to Recyclemania Research, an organization that tracks recycling at colleges and universities across America, Marshall University diverts 30.532% of waste from going to land fields. Parsons-White said she entered Marshall into this competition to get a baseline by submitting Marshall’s weekly recycling data.

“I entered us into a contest but didn’t announce it at all, because I wanted to just see what our baseline was,” Parsons-White said. “That’s without even letting people know to recycle more. So, I feel like if people know we’re already in the top 100 universities for recycling, we could be in the top five.”

Parsons-White said the recycling programs and other environmental initiatives at Marshall could be improved if more people were aware of opportunities to adjust their impact.

“I think we need to improve on reaching out and involving the community, and even our students,” Parsons-White said. “We’re working more with social media and different platforms to get the word out to educate. We’re holding more social forums, workshops where people can come and become educated on things that we do and things that they can do. I think that’s what we really need to focus on right now, kind of getting the word out.”

Marshall is joining with the city of Huntington to develop empty lots into rain gardens and vegetable gardens as a recovery program, which Parsons-White said she hopes will begin in the fall.

“We’re also starting a recovery group that will work with people in recovery, not just from substances, but we’re all addicted to something, whether it’s our phone or coffee or whatever it is,” Parsons-White said. “So, we’re trying to wipe out the stigma of addiction and recovery and get more students involved in our recovery program, where we’ll be working with the city to rehab empty lots.”

Parsons-White said she is hopeful of where Marshall is headed in terms of reducing waste and improving the environment.

“I feel like in a year, a year and a half, we’re really going to see the fruits of all of this labor,” Parsons-White said. ‘I will gladly put in the work to make it happen.”

Heather Barker can be contacted at [email protected]

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