Dimming the lights, turning off the air-conditioning and setting out reusable bamboo flatware were just a few steps that went into putting together this year's Sustainability Banquet. 

Around 70 people gathered in the Web on Thursday evening to reflect on the accomplishments of the Office of Sustainability and recognize University of Richmond students, faculty and staff who had made outstanding contributions to sustainability. 

Vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free options were courtesy of a local restaurant, 821 Cafe.

“I am so happy, just seeing it all come together," said senior Rylin McGee, a sustainability intern, "because it has been something we’ve been planning for a long time. We were kind of all working on our own separate little mini projects.”

As attendees arrived at the event, they were encouraged to take part in a scavenger hunt with answers hidden in sustainability facts and posters plastered around the room.

In 2018, there were 98 undergraduate- and 14 graduate-level courses that included sustainability, according to one of the posters. The University of Richmond Office Supply Exchange (UROSE) saved UR employees approximately $5,241 through the office supply exchange program, according to another poster.

Director of Sustainability Rob Andrejewksi was thrilled by the turnout of the event and opened the banquet by thanking everyone for attending.

“We have a number of awesome people in the room,” Andrejewski said. “I am overjoyed that we get a chance to gather and get to celebrate.”

Updates about sustainability projects during the 2018-2019 academic year included the announcement that UR had become the first institution in the Southeastern U.S. to match 100% of its electricity needs with solar energy. 

As the evening continued, three graduating interns — McGee, Jenny Kearney and Natalie Phelps — were recognized by their fellow interns for their commitment to the Office of Sustainability and their contributions to making sure that UR continues to focus on its sustainability efforts. 

Shani Buchholz, the administrative coordinator for Common Ground, received a sustainability leadership award for her sustainable practices in the Office of Common Ground.

“We used to buy the pre-filled [Keurig K-Cup] pods,” Buchholz said. “But we stopped doing that, and now we have reusable pods that we just fill whenever we need."

Buchholz has also started to collect used batteries, taking them to be disposed of properly in the library. And she makes sure to unplug everything in the office before winter break to conserve energy.

“I’ve always been a big believer in doing things sustainably,” Buchholz said. “I know that resources aren’t going to last forever, and we need to try and make sure we reuse, reduce and recycle whenever possible. Even at home, my husband and I have a compost pile.”

Another award recipient, senior Monica Stack, worked with the Office of Sustainability during her term as 2018-2019 President of WCGA. 

The award was very unexpected and thoughtful, Stack said. Many of the recipients' friends presented their awards. For Stack, that was senior Muhammad Coovadia.

“It was so nice that they had a friend present [the award] to you,” Stack said. “It’s also emblematic of how thoughtful and inclusive the Office of Sustainability is -- because that’s so much of what sustainability is. It’s putting thought into everything that you do.”

Other recipients of the award included Emily Boone, director of biology instruction, sophomore Peter Braun and senior Jenny Kearney. 

For students who are interested in sustainability, the event is an important time to celebrate, said Cassandra Troy, the sustainability, communications and engagement specialist. 

“This is just a chance for people to gather together to see that there are a lot of people who care about sustainability and to know that we are doing awesome stuff,” Troy said.

The Office of Sustainability announced that goats will be returning to campus in the next few weeks to continue eating and clearing invasive plant species as a part of UR's Eco-Corridor project. This spring, they will be contained between the Web and Westhampton Tennis Courts. 

Contact features writer Kyla Coleman at kyla.coleman@richmond.edu.