Moving Earth Week Online

By Greta Mattheis ’21

Illustration of the Earth with a hand holding a seedling plant. William & Mary Earth Week 2020

The 2020 Earth Week logo

Everyone on the Earth Week Committee felt disheartened the day we realized we would not be returning for the rest of the semester. The Earth Week Festival, scheduled to be on April 25th, was not going to come to fruition this year, at least not in the way we had planned. The uncertainty we felt left our team of nine with a lot of questions: How do we find the energy as a team to start all over from scratch? Is celebrating Earth Week appropriate during a pandemic? Will anyone participate even if we do get it together in time? Ultimately, we realized that, even given the situation, as a committee we had the obligation to spread the message of Earth Day to the community. In the four weeks leading up to Earth Week, our committee had the challenge, but also the opportunity to create an Earth Week William & Mary had never had before.

Despite our early feelings of disarray, once we began planning, we were full of ideas of what W&M Earth Week Online could look like. Naturally, there were major limitations that came with the time crunch and learning how to work from home. We wanted to create the same feelings that Earth Week brings but in a simple and accessible way. To do this, we kept two of our most essential and beloved events, the Lorax Reading and the AMP Earth Day Homebrew concert, and we combined them with some new events. In that way, we got to have a nod to the original event we had planned even though it would be online.

Soon, collaboration became our favorite word. In order to fulfill our wish of having a variety of events, we realized that we needed help. Luckily, a handful of campus organizations jumped to our rescue. We were happy to find that even given the change of circumstances, people still cared about Earth Week and wanted to work with us. The Wellness Center, W&M Dining, and AMP were amazing not only in their willingness to collaborate, but even more in their imagination for what they wanted to do for the week. In particular, we were so impressed by the Wellness Center, who after only a week under quarantine, already had a robust weekly schedule of classes. Thankfully, they were gracious enough to share some of the events they had planned for the week with us.

Everyone we worked with on AMP was so willing to step outside of the box and use platforms like “Netflix Party” and the video game “Animal Crossing” to host their events. One of the highlights for me was getting to be a part of the creation of W&M Sustainability’s YouTube page. It was the perfect medium to reach the greatest amount of people we could in an accessible and fun way. It was particularly helpful when W&M Dining and W&M Outdoor Recreation had the idea of creating webinars for the week. Even if members of the community couldn’t attend some of the events when they aired, the YouTube account turned into a great resource of sustainable living ideas for people to visit on their own time, even now!

Our team, the Earth Week Committee, loved running the social media advertising for Earth Week in the week before the events. We created lively interactive Instagram stories people could share to get the community excited for Earth Week. It was really gratifying seeing that friends of mine had seen and used the story challenges we had created completely of their own volition. It was a great way to remind people of Earth Week in a way that connected them to their peers and worked on their own schedule.

One of my greatest take-aways from the online celebration of Earth Week was that there was a lot of good change that came out moving the events online. One of the greatest opportunities we had was to collaborate with seven other Virginia Universities. We created a webpage where we compiled all of our Earth Week events to share with one another. Being able to see the way we were all able to collaborate and interact with each other’s populations was really exciting and encouraging. Throughout these weeks, I’ve heard talk of the quarantine pushing people into creativity and I think I can say that was case here. I know I’m still sorry to miss out on the sense of community and excitement that comes with the in-person festival, but I’m proud of what came of the William & Mary’s Earth Week Online. It was definitely an adventure figuring out all the ins and outs of creating an online platform, but I hope future Earth Week chairs will be able to utilize some of our achievements even when the events are returned to normal.

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