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Villanova’s St. Thomas Day of Service Grows Greener

Villanova’s St Thomas Day of Service Grows Greener
St. Martin of Tours’ students help VUSP faculty and staff build a rain garden at the school.

There were hints of green in Villanova University’s 8th annual St. Thomas Day of Service. In keeping with the University’s Sustainability Policy “to conduct its activities in an ecologically sound, socially just and economically viable manner,” an emphasis was made this year to green a few project sites. The 2013 Day of Service coincided with the U.S. Green Building Council’s (USGBC) Green Apple Day of Service. USGBC is the non-profit organization that developed the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system, “a green building tool that addresses the entire building lifecycle recognizing best-in-class building strategies.” The LEED program provides third-party verification of green buildings, four of which have been certified on the Villanova campus. The Green Apple Day of Service strives to bring awareness to unsustainable design flaws and practices that plague many of America’s schools. The day is meant to encourage academic communities to address aspects of their facilities that are unsustainable. This can be as simple as a cleanup or as complex as an energy audit. This year, Villanova targeted 14 Green Apple Day of Service sites, more than any higher education institution in the area. At many sites, work included weeding plant beds, school cleanups and painting (using low VOC paints), but a few sites called for significantly larger projects. Among them, the installation of a rain garden at St. Martin of Tours School in Philadelphia, Urban Farming with Philly Urban Creators in North Philadelphia, and a sustainable agriculture class with the Center for Environmental Transformation in Camden.

Faculty and students from the Villanova Urban Stormwater Partnership (VUSP) helped to design, install and fund the rain garden at St. Martin of Tours School, one of the sites of the College of Engineering’s NovaCANE (Villanova Community Action by New Engineers) program. The rain garden was designed to help capture a portion of the rainwater falling on the school’s main building and direct it to a plant bed intended to hold and filter the water so it can be sustainably resupplied to the groundwater system. About a dozen St. Martin of Tours 8th grade students volunteered their time to help plant the garden. VUSP students and faculty will visit the school to educate students about the role their new rain garden is playing in stormwater management.

Villanova students enrolled in this semester’s sustainable agricultural course, offered through the Center for Peace and Justice Education, spent their St. Thomas Day of Service gardening at the Center for Environmental Transformation (CFET) in Camden, NJ. One of the Center’s founders is Villanova University Professor of Ethics, Mark Doorley, who is currently an active member of the CFET board. The Center works to bring environmental justice to the Camden area by educating people on more environmentally responsible ways of living through sustainable modes of food production, stormwater management and waste recycling. Villanova volunteers spent their day helping the CFET prepare their gardens for the changing season.

Villanova MBA students and members of the Villanova Community Garden student group volunteered with Philadelphia Urban Creators in North Philadelphia. The students helped to establish urban garden locations with flower beds and main garden wall painting. They were also involved with fall crop preparation and the construction of a new building for hydroponics. The organization uses these facilities to help educate, energize, empower and unite the neighborhood. The gardens also help to address the “urban desert,” providing a source of local, healthy food for the community.

Since completing the 2013 St. Thomas Day of Service, the University has been contacted by other schools interested in partnering on more “green-focused” service projects in 2014. Villanova is also looking at ways to make the entire event more sustainable, from the paint we recommend to the t-shirts given to volunteers.  Beyond the Day of Service, the University is committed to educating its students about sustainability throughout the year. Most recently, Villanova celebrated its first Campus Sustainability Day, which educated the campus community on issues surrounding sustainability, related course offerings and future career opportunities.