Eastern Mennonite University’s Earthkeepers club and Sustainable Food Initiative (SFI) presented at the first annual Student Sustainability Summit on April 9 at the Staunton Innovation Hub. Around 15 EMU students and a few faculty members attended the event, which included 10 research and project presentations from undergraduates from the attending schools.
The event was co-hosted by Sustainable Shenandoah Valley (SSV) and Net Impact, with the goal of bringing together networks of undergraduate students and community organizations who work in similar areas of impact relating to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.
Sustainable Shenandoah Valley is a regional consortium facilitated by representatives from EMU, Mary Baldwin University (MBU), James Madison University (JMU), Bridgewater College, and Blue Ridge Community College.
SFI presenters Felicity Zimmerman, Levi Geyer, Evelyn Shenk, Jessica Chisolm, and MeLeah Bustamante focused on ways to increase food education, access, and sustainability through on-campus gardens, chickens, food access initiatives, and educational spaces.
Earthkeepers presented on EMU’s Climate Action Plan, exploring more of the progress the university has made thus far in its climate commitments and potential next steps to meet the next benchmark goals. They also spoke about initiatives that Earthkeepers has pushed for, like a sustainability coordinator position at EMU. Earthkeepers’ presenters were Jake Myers, Isaac Alderfer, and Andrea Troyer.
Troyer is the leader of Earthkeepers, and she first heard about the summit from Professor Jim Yoder, an EMU representative for SSV. She served on a planning committee with students from other universities in the fall. “I’ve known about it for a while, but it was really exciting to see it all play out over the past few months,” Troyer says.
What stood out most about the event were the projects and initiatives led by students from other campuses and how those were making an impact. It was exciting to meet others also working towards sustainability goals, she says.
Heather Korzun is the president of the MBU chapter of Net Impact, an international organization with the goal of creating a more just and sustainable world. “The event last Saturday was extremely exciting,” Korzun says. “I was very glad to have the opportunity to facilitate so many great connections. I think my greatest takeaway had to be all of the passion and hard work that students in the Shenandoah Valley have around sustainable development.”
Korzun also commended the groups from EMU for their work. “I love how the Climate Action Plan is making real change at EMU, and my vice president was very excited to hear about SFI’s chickens and how they have such a longstanding and thorough approach to fighting food insecurity and food waste,” she says.
The event was inspiring for Troyer as well: “There’s always an opportunity to connect my passions and my vocational interests and skills with the work that is needed to create change in sustainable development.”