Above: Students pick up litter from marshlands along the Charleston coast during an event in 2019. (Photo provided)

Earth Day, observed each year on April 22, is the celebration of the birth of the modern environmental movement. It’s a time to take in the beauty of our planet, reflect on how we impact the natural environment and what we can do to protect it.

With the 50th anniversary of Earth Day on April 22, 2020, being overshadowed at the College of Charleston by the early days of the pandemic, this year students and staff within the Center for Sustainable Development (CSD) decided to celebrate Earth Day for the entire month of April. Dubbed Earth Month, the four-week series of events are designed to focus attention on important issues involving environmental stewardship and sustainability.

According to Darcy Everett, the center’s climate manager and zero waste coordinator, bringing about Earth Month required a collective effort. She and Nicole Killen, a graduate student in the concurrent environmental and sustainability studies/public administration master’s program, have engaged the support of numerous partners – on campus and off. Collectively, they’ve curated a month’s worth of programs that span the spectrum from panel discussions to litter clean-ups to workshops and in-person tours of the College’s gardens.

“It’s vital that the College take a leadership role in our community to provide a wide range of opportunities for students, employees and community members to learn and engage in sustainable practices,” Everett explains. “From climate justice to indigenous agricultural resilience to green supply chain issues, our goal is to engage people in the many aspects of sustainability.”

Earth Month is structured around weekly themes, beginning the week of April 4, 2021, with “Tune into Earth Month,” which will feature a panel discussion on the climate crisis as well as a litter clean-up near campus. The following weeks will focus on themes of sustainable businesses, personal actions and the importance of enjoying the outdoors sustainably.

“Through our social media accounts, we’ll provide ways that people can get involved in sustainability. They can do that through music and podcasts, by supporting sustainable businesses, by taking personal actions and by getting outside to enjoy and protect our local environment,” says Everette. “Ultimately, our hope is that this initiative will empower all Cougars to continue being involved year-round, not just during Earth Month!”

That kind of sustained engagement is something that Todd LeVasseur endorses as well. He’s the director of the College’s Sustainability Literacy Institute, which is housed within the CSD and is home to the College’s Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP) on sustainability literacy.

“Our QEP is centered around advocating for resilient, just, equitable – and sustainable – economic, social and environmental systems,” LeVasseur says. “There is so much innovation taking place in the sustainability space about generating solutions to contemporary problems, and in particular anthropogenic climate change, which is our CofC Sustains/Solves theme for this academic year. We really could have filled more than a month with events and activities. Nonetheless, it’s our hope that by participating in Earth Month, everyone on campus will be inspired to become a change agent. And for students in particular, once they graduate, we hope they’ll carry on the important work of addressing climate change and keeping our planetary temperatures from rising further, while centering climate justice in their advocacy and careers.”

Earth Month at the College starts on Thursday, April 1, 2021. For a full schedule of activities and events, check out the Earth Month website.