Looking Back on Earth Week 2021

By Claire Hutcheson ’22

Returning to campus this spring after 9 months away due to COVID-19 and a semester off, I was looking for a way to connect myself back to the William & Mary community. I found it through my role as Earth Week Co-Chair. I entered this position late in the game after a professor connected me to William & Mary Sustainability to explore what I could get involved in. After a few Zooms, I was selected, onboarded, and thrilled to be working alongside Mary Lawrence Young as Co-Chairs.

Earth Week was going to look a little different this year because of COVID-19. Sadly, there would be no big festival, but instead a Sustainability Symposium with the acclaimed indigenous conservation advocate Winona LaDuke and humanitarian, environmentalist, filmmaker, Céline Cousteau, as well as a week full of programming that would be our job to facilitate. By that point, it was time to assemble our team. Mary Lawrence and I selected a wonderful group of underclassmen for our committee. Our members were Emily Kaplan, Emily Key, Julia Masterman, Maddie Winer, Sarah Bomar, and Sydney Thayer. 

Our role was to support the Symposium by advertising to students and attracting volunteers and to serve as a hub for all events related to Earth Week. The committee combined forces to brainstorm possible events and reach out to campus organizations that might be interested in running them. The result? A lovely and educational week with highlights including plant-based Earth Week specials at “Swemromas” and The Daily Grind Coffee shops, outdoor yoga at The Martha Wren Briggs Amphitheatre, a campus-wide scavenger hunt, a succulent sale from Botany Club, and a trash-cleanup 5K run by Student Assembly. The committee also worked hard on educational materials. Topics include environmental racism, plant-based eating, composting, and more.

The LaDuke and Cousteau symposiums went incredibly well too. I personally learned so much from both their perspectives and was charmed by their frank and passionate demeanors. In the LaDuke session, I was a breakout room moderator. I got to hear how others processed LaDuke’s powerful message and shared how these ideas could translate practically on campus. 

Overall I am incredibly appreciative of the opportunity I had organizing Earth Week 2021. Like everything this year, we had to be adaptable and redefine what our events would look like. I developed my leadership, communication, and organizational skills juggling the responsibilities of this position. I feel closer than ever to the sustainability community at William & Mary and am so proud to have facilitated an accessible, educational, and fun experience for my peers to connect to our planet.

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