Monday, October 24 marks the annual Food Day celebration. Food Day is an annual national effort to provide education to the public about eating a healthier, less processed, and more locally based diet. This year, Ike’s, a popular dining hall located in the President’s Park residence neighborhood, will host a Meatless Farm to Table Dinner in honor of Food Day.
Mason’s celebration of Food Day is just one example of the university’s commitment to sustainable practices. According to the statement on sustainability at the university issued by Dr. Ángel Cabrera, “We strive to graduate responsible stewards of the planet and engage in research that can help us tackle some of the most pressing environmental challenges of our time.” The Office of Sustainability, created in 2007, has played an active role in working to aid in this goal. Through promoting an environment that fosters the learning and implementation of environmentally friendly and safe practices, Mason continues to make its mark on sustainability in Northern Virginia. “Becoming the first university in Virginia to achieve a ‘STARS Gold Rating’ from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education,” as Dr. Cabrera’s statement also noted, “indicates to us that we are on the right path.” Since the Office of Sustainability’s inception, environmentally friendly practices have become a norm around campus.
In addition to academic program offerings in environmental sciences and engineering and sustainability studies, the campus has made additional moves to promote sustainable practices. One of these, and a source of pride for the university, is that more than 10% of the food served at Mason dining halls is purchased locally; in fact, some produce is grown as locally as the President’s Park Greenhouse on the Fairfax Campus.
The Fairfax Campus boasts several student and volunteer-run gardens:
The President’s Park Hydroponic Greenhouse behind the freshman residence neighborhood of President’s Park is a crown jewel of Mason sustainability. The greenhouse was originally part of the College of Science (COS), used for biology classes in 2009. By 2014, however, the COS portion had been moved to the roof of Exploratory Hall and the Office of Sustainability took over the existing facility. Through generous grants from the Auxiliary Enterprise Management Council and the Patriot Green Fund, the greenhouse has evolved into a hydroponic powerhouse that produces an estimated 2,000 pounds of produce annually. All produce harvested in the greenhouse is then sold to Mason Dining to help with operational costs. The produce is then incorporated into menus in the dining halls across campus, such as Ike’s and Southside. The Greenhouse provides students with transformative, experiential learning opportunities that prepare them for career readiness through service learning, volunteerism, and internships.
Although many of the sustainability efforts on campus are self-sustaining, external support helps in the procurement of better and newer technologies, as well as maintaining the gardening spaces.
Donations to the Sustainability Program Fund can be allocated to any of the garden initiatives on campus. These funds help to provide students with the best technologies, facilities, and tools and enrich their sustainability efforts.
Additionally, the Office of Sustainability and the Foundation offer the Storm Sustainability Scholarship. The Peter and Marjorie Storm Sustainability Scholarship was initiated by the Storm children and annually recognizes a student who excels in one of Mason’s many sustainability-focused programs.
10/24/2016 – CM