Sustainability Week focuses on the positive impact a local community can make, and this year, Blacksburg is taking notes from several sources, including some from overseas.
Pam Warhurst, English TED Talks speaker and founder of Incredible Edible, will give a presentation on sustainability that will be screened at the Lyric Theatre today at noon.
The video, “How We Can Eat Our Landscapes,” suggests a few ways to encourage curiosity about food, sustainable eating and reducing global impact. After the talk, there will be a discussion panel with community members who work to do the same thing.
The first is Ellen Stewart, who has been director of the Blacksburg Farmers Market since 2009.
“Our basic reason for being here (is to) bring local food to the people and to have face to face interaction between people producing the food and people consuming the food,” Stewart said.
In Stewart’s first year at her position, the Market Square Park on Draper Road was completed. Since then, the market has seen a rise in popularity.
“I’ve just seen a whole lot more awareness in the community of the importance of eating local and of all the reasons to support local farmers,” Stewart said. “It’s good for the economic health of a community and good for the environment.”
During last year’s Sustainability Week, members of Tech’s student body called for change when hundreds of discarded Styrofoam to-go containers drew public attention.
Although environmentally unfriendly, to-go boxes are the standard in most dining halls. Change is coming, however. This year, Dining Services announced that reusable to-go containers are coming to the West End Market.
Stewart said she believes Tech’s effort to reduce its global impact partially rests in its status as a land grant university, as well as its diverse student body.
“I think Blacksburg is a really aware community,” Stewart said. “It’s very active and people tend to just get involved in these sorts of issues.”
One of those active people is Carol Davis, sustainability manager for the town of Blacksburg. According to Davis, sustainability comes from the town’s individuals, and this week’s TED Talk hopes to create an ideal meeting place for citizens to discuss ideas.
“I think we’re approaching it with the same spirit of any TED Talk, which is ‘there’s an idea.’” Davis said. “It might be controversial, it might be intriguing, but we’re posing it as a dialogue and seeing what ideas emerge.”
Even when Sustainability Week ends, those citizens will still be able to put their ideas on a platform for town discussion. Blacksburg recently launched Speak Up Blacksburg, an online public forum for new ideas around town. Once a proposal reaches a certain threshold of public interest, town council begins to investigate.
Speak Up Blacksburg has already given voice to several discussions, including future events on the College Avenue Promenade and programs within Blacksburg Parks and Recreation.
One citizen of Blacksburg found a way to help the town’s sustainability efforts continue even after she passed away. A partner of Susan Garrison, Davis’ predecessor, set up an annual endowment fund that will help finance projects in Garrison’s memory.
Although Stewart and Davis have yet to hear Warhurst, they still have reason to be excited.
“I’m really interested in anything that helps the community to think outside of the box,” Stewart said. “There’s always something new, creative and innovative we can be doing to make our community more caring and more aware of food issues. I think that’s something this kind of TED Talk really sparks.”