In a series of articles, we look back at the events that brought our community together after two years of hybrid life.
This spring, the American University in Bulgaria celebrated Earth Week March 25-31, 2022. Students from the Sustainability Club and Xaia Hiking Club came together to organize seven days full of events discussing environmental action. From workshops on sustainability to hiking in nature, the AUBG community had the opportunity to experience a variety of activities that promote an eco-friendly lifestyle. Both professors and students took part in the organization of the week-long event that aims to promote sustainability both on and off-campus.
The series of events started on March 25, with a collaboration between the Sustainability Club, Xaia Hiking Club, and Model European Union Blagoevgrad. AUBG professor Maria Petrova held a webinar on this semester’s hot topic: renewable energy. The event took place entirely online with students Nicole Kishkin, Liliya Petrova, Kristiyan Nachev, and professor Petrova speaking about alternative ways of producing energy and their benefits for both the environment and the people.
On March 26, the AUBG students celebrated Earth Hour on campus. On this day, people turn off all lights for one hour all over the world to demonstrate commitment to protecting the environment. The candle-lit event was held on the ABF lawn and included fun activities for the youth community in Blagoevgrad. Radio AURA’s DJs provided the event’s music and students performed acoustic live music and sang karaoke.
The following day, Xaia Hiking Club (XHC) led a hike to the Stob Pyramids that was open to the entire AUBG community. During the six-hour-long hike, the students got to not only admire the beautiful views but also create new friendships. Coming from diverse cultures, they shared different experiences with one another. Todor Ivanov, who was leading the group to the pyramids, said that way they also found many common interests.
“I felt proud that we managed to organize four clubs to take part in the opening event and two more to support us throughout the activities of Earth Week,” said XHC president Mihaela Kafedzhiyska. “It was also nice that the events engaged local community members as well as AUBG students. Our main goals were not only to raise awareness about environmental protection and sustainable hiking but also to create an atmosphere where AUBG students feel welcome to take part.”
On March 28, the Earth Week continued with a Tote Bag Event hosted by the Sustainability Club in Aspire in ABF. During the event, the students had the opportunity to paint their own designs on tote bags with textile dye and markers, while enjoying soft jazz. The idea behind this was not only to provide the community with an alternative to plastic bags but also offer them an art therapy session where they get to take a break from their responsibilities and focus on a calming and creative activity.
March 29 was a hybrid webinar day organized by Xaia Hiking Club that featured guest speaker Gerrit Onstein from the Netherlands. Onstein spoke about his work, which entails hosting workshops in nature for individuals and organizations. He shared lessons on how to build a better team while working on communication skills like teamwork, asking for help, and trusting oneself and others.
On March 30, the campus celebrated the AUBG Green Day, which once again aimed to promote environmental awareness. Students, professors, and staff members put on their green t-shirts to raise awareness for the pressing environmental challenges.
The day concluded with a hybrid roundtable under the slogan “Get Engaged with Sustainability”, organized by the Sustainability Committee at AUBG, as part of the “Worldwide Teach-In on Climate and Justice” initiative. After a quick information session, the event focused on sustainability in different aspects of the AUBG life: academic research, the classroom experience, student life and life after graduation. Marketing professor Rossen Petkov presented academic research in the field of environmental science and sustainability as part of marketing. Daniel Adsett, professor in business, William Clark, professor in environmental science, and Armela Gjylsheni, a fourth-year student, talked about incorporating eco-friendly practices in the classroom. Sustainability Club President Binderiya Usukhbayar shared quick ideas on how to be more sustainable on and off-campus.
“There’s kind of a feeling that sustainability is important,” said the chair of the newly-established Sustainability committee, AUBG Professor Carter Mandrik. “But at the same time there is this sense of depression that what is happening is bigger than us. So we were hoping to spread the message that there are things we can do and this is why we prepared these panels.”
The roundtable concluded with professor Mandrik talking about career opportunities in the sustainability field after graduation. Among the participants were also business professor Maria Petrova, Kostadin Andonov from WWF, AUBG alumna (’18) Iliyana Petrova, and students Armela Gjylsheni and Ana Valeva.
The last activity of the Earth Week 2022 was the Recycling Workshop. The hybrid event was hosted by AUBG student and Sustainability Club member Aelita Khusnutdinova. Aelita spoke about recycling practices for plastic, metal, glass, paper, and cardboard. She gave an overview of the three Rs – refuse, reuse, recycle – and gave tips on each of them.
At the end of the week, students, staff, and faculty shared that they were happy to see so many people involved with Earth Week and that they were looking forward to many more initiatives like that.