Celebrating Earth Day

University President Steven Knapp added GW to a growing list of colleges committed to combating global warming during the University’s first official celebration of Earth Day.

Knapp signed the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment on the Duqu?s Hall terrace Tuesday morning. GW joined a list of more than 500 universities that have signed the commitment and is the first college to do so in the D.C. area.

“We will move forward as part of a much larger community on this very important issue,” said Knapp, who formed a Presidential Task Force on sustainability this fall. He added that signing the commitment makes GW part of the solution to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and achieving climate neutrality.

Along with making campus buildings and transportation more environmentally friendly, Knapp said the University also plans to improve environmental education on campus.

George Hawkins, director of the District’s Department of the Environment, likened the University to Puritan John Winthrop’s “city upon a hill” and said he hoped that GW’s green-friendly policies will inspire other District universities to follow suit.

“This is where we set the bar for others to look up to,” Hawkins said.

Ten other GW administrators, faculty members and representatives from various student organizations joined Knapp in signing the commitment. Knapp jokingly urged the co-signers, who were each given a new pen for the occasion, to “keep the pen, but recycle the box.”

While the commitment’s signers acknowledged the pact will not immediately offset GW’s emissions, they said it is an essential part of the University’s green-friendly agenda.

“It’s a good step forward,” said junior Ian Tully, co-signer and member of the Progressive Student Union. “It opens the door to a whole host of other things.”

Members of environmental student organizations on campus said Knapp’s commitment showed that the administration is open to working with them to create a greener GW.

“It’s good to know president Knapp is on board with us,” said Mike Aloi, a co-signer and member of GW Students for Fair Trade.

Senior Maggie Desmond, co-signer and member of the Sustainability Task Force, said her organization was encouraged by the Earth Day celebrations.

“The stars were aligned,” Desmond said. “We knew if we did our part, they would do theirs.”

Knapp also announced the University’s plan to install a green roof this summer on the Elliott School of International Affairs building at 1957 E St.

The project was started by Net Impact as a part of their Campus Greening Initiative. Net Impact, represented Tuesday by co-signer Robert Joppa, a graduate student, raised $7,000 to go toward the project, and the University has agreed to match that number.

The signing ceremony was followed by a commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the GW Cherry Tree, the University’s yearbook. Ten cherry trees were planted by those who signed the Climate Commitment as well as several Student Association and Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity members.

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