BLACKSBURG — Through snow and mud, they trudged down to the creek to plant trees.
Freezing temperatures did not deter hundreds of Virginia Tech students and community members from gathering at Stroubles Creek Saturday morning.
“We woke up and were like, Do we even want to be here?” said Meena Kannan, a 20-year-old junior from Bethesda, Maryland, and a member of the Environmental Coalition student group that hosted the event.
But Kannan and her friends think the goal — planting 12,050 trees to help combat the climate change crisis — is more important than sleeping in.
“In general, environmental causes aren’t really brought to the forefront,” Kannan said.
Emma Lipscomb, coordinator of the Big Plant, said she was surprised at the turnout, despite the name of the event, which drew 900 people — more than twice who attended last year’s inaugural plant.
“I had no idea it would be this big,” said Lipscomb, a 20-year-old junior from Nelson County. “It shows that so many people care and so many people want to make a difference.”
Lipscomb greeted volunteers beside a bucket of what looked like sticks. Called live stakes, the plants are cut from dormant trees. Root hormones placed on the base will help them grow into trees — black willow, silky willow, silky dogwood, elderberry.
Lipscomb described how people should plunge the trees halfway into the muddy soil around the creek. Besides removing carbon dioxide from the air, the trees will provide shade to the creek, reducing the increasing water temperature.
Mary Freday, an English instructor at the Language and Culture Institute in Blacksburg, brought several of her students, who mostly hail from China and Saudi Arabia. For many, she said, it was the first time they had planted a tree.
In the coming days, Freday is overseeing the planting of a dozen more trees on private properties as part of the organization More Trees Please! Freday started the Floyd-based nonprofit in June, she said, “because I’m scared.”
She noted she has an 11-year-old child. She did not want to look back on her life and say she hadn’t done anything to address environmental degradation.
“We want everyone to feel like they have a part to play in fighting climate change,” Freday said.