By Ajay Sharma, PhD and Mahua Mukhopadhyay, PhD
The NICHD Green Team typically organizes two events each calendar year: the Earth Day event in April and the America Recycles Day event in November. The volunteer team comprises both intramural and extramural staff of NICHD. As extramural (Dr. Mukhopadhyay) and intramural (Dr. Sharma) representatives, together we co-chair the team. Other volunteers include Helen Huang (Scientific Review Specialist), Deborah Henken (Program Officer), Jacqueline Lancaster (in the Extramural Administrative Office), Debbie Clay (in the Office of Science Policy, Analysis and Communication), Lynne Holtzclaw (Intramural Senior Research Assistant) and a number of postdoctoral fellow volunteers from intramural NICHD.
Earth Day Celebration/Take Your Child to Work Day
We participate in this event to educate children who come to the NIH with their parents for the Take Your Child to Work Day activities. Over the years, we have distributed flower, vegetable, and herb seeds to children so that they can grow plants in their own homes. This program has been very successful, as it gives children an opportunity to see plants growing over time and to enjoy fresh produce grown in their own garden or containers.
For children and adults, our team, with certified Master Gardener Rochelle Kithcart from NIDDK, gives demonstrations on making compost from kitchen waste, such as unused vegetables, fruit peel, eggshells, and other compostable materials. This is one of the best practices to reduce waste and enrich soil for a better garden, rather than throwing good stuff into the landfill.
We get lots of questions from kids and their parents about growing flowers and vegetables, such as: What type of soil should be used? How often I should water the plants? Or, how much sunlight is needed? This year, we had over 400 kids at our booths. The high attendance shows that kids and their parents are interested in learning about “green” activities. For our volunteers, it is a perfect opportunity to get involved in our community, share knowledge with our NIH colleagues, and instill interest in the younger generation about our connection with the environment and nature. The best part of the Earth Day program is to see the glowing smiles on the faces of children and their parents.
America Recycles Day
The NICHD Green Team celebrates America Recycles Day in the second or third week of November. The team has been proactive in inviting the Montgomery County Recycling representative, Paul Gatons, to educate NICHD staff on county recycling programs. In the past, we’ve organized oral presentation for the extramural staff and set up display tables to distribute informational pamphlets and recycling and composting bins. Our major activity for America Recycles Day has been to provide NICHD extramural staff with a yearly opportunity to recycle various office items. These include non-accountable government electronics, toner and ink cartridges, empty binders and notebooks, batteries, small appliances, cell phones, eyeglasses, and other similar items.
This year, the NICHD Green Team provided additional help beyond the two yearly events. The team helped organize a large-scale, two-month recycling event to help staff clean up offices in preparation for relocation to a new office building in Rockledge, Bethesda. This event allowed NICHD to donate a large amount of unused office supplies and books to local schools and libraries—a great bonus for our community!
The NICHD Green Team at Earth Day events in 2016 (first and second images) and 2015 (third image). Photos by Jeremy Swan.