Vance-Granville Community College’s seventh annual Earth Day festival was held on April 23 in the Civic Center on the college’s Main Campus. Weather conditions forced the event to be moved inside from its usual outdoor setting, but that move did not dampen the spirits of the many students, faculty, staff and community members who enjoyed a variety of informative displays, works of art and demonstrations related to science, nature and environmental sustainability. Enhancing the festive atmosphere was entertainment provided by instructor Michael Stephenson’s Music Ensemble students and friends. Also, in spite of the weather, a group of students, faculty and staff participated in the first-ever Earth Day “Fun Run/Walk” around the college campus, promoting healthy exercise along with a healthy planet.
Many of the exhibits were class projects by students in various VGCC Biology classes, and several VGCC curriculum programs also contributed their expertise to the event. Automotive Systems Technology program head Fred Brewer and two of his students, Clinton Perry and Paul Barker, demonstrated various alternative fuel technologies. Brewer also showed off his department’s own hybrid vehicle, a Toyota Prius that boasts a solar roof panel. Students in the Carpentry and Electrical/Electronics Technology programs informed visitors about “green” residential building techniques, compared various types of light bulbs and showed off the student-assembled solar panel array capable of producing about 400 watts of electricity. Electronics Engineering Technology program head Wesley Williams displayed a solar-powered cell phone charger and gave visitors instructions on how to make their own. Festival-goers sampled organic chili prepared by VGCC Culinary Arts students under the direction of Chef Ross Ragonese. The VGCC Learning Resources Center (LRC) displayed materials in the library’s collection related to the environment and climate change.
Guests participating in the event included the Granville County Greenway Plan Committee, Novozymes of Franklinton, Backyard Plantation Nursery of Oxford, beekeeper Jimmy Chalmers of Oxford, Citizens Climate Lobby and the Granville County-based Biofuels Center of North Carolina. Mike Smith, a herpetologist and educator from the North Carolina Herpetological Society, brought a variety of live reptiles as part of his booth. Wayne Rowland of Vance County N.C. Cooperative Extension discussed Shiitake mushroom inoculation. A local business that joined the Earth Day event for the first time was biodiesel start-up Future Fuels Unlimited, operated by Jody Hastings of Townsville and John Pendergrass of Henderson, both of whom are graduating from VGCC in May. Hastings said that their business, which the pair started in 2011, owed its existence to VGCC. “It all began in my Environmental Biology class when Dr. Blanche Haning assigned a project about decreasing our carbon footprint on the planet, so I started researching about biofuels,” Hastings said. Then, he met Pendergrass through their membership in the Phi Be ta Lambda business student organization. The two developed a business plan that won a PBL competition and received guidance from their instructors and the VGCC Small Business Center. Hastings and Pendergrass showed Earth Day visitors their equipment for processing waste vegetable oil into biodiesel, and they signed up several people to have their used cooking oil collected from their homes.
Earth Day was also observed the same day at VGCC’s South Campus, located between Creedmoor and Butner. Students in English instructor Frankie Frink’s class took part in a competition to create posters depicting some aspect of the environmental concerns related to Earth Day. Brett Bowling won first place for his poster on “Neo Windmills.” Clarence Garner placed second for his poster on Organic Foods. The third place winner was Chelsea Woods for her poster on Over-Population. The Earth Day observance also featured recycling of residential electronics by Metech Recycling of Creedmoor, as well as a display about the e-recycling industry. Other displays included one on Composting by Teresa Baker, Recycling Coordinator for Granville County Schools; the Granville Greenways Project by Michael McFadden of the Granville Greenways Technical Committee; an environmental books display and resource lists of environmental books and “green jobs” by South Campus librarian, Jennie Davis; and a display on Endangered Species.