Georgia Tech Celebrates Earth Day With Artificial Garden

Students Build Trees From Recycled Objects

For the first time, Georgia Tech’s award-winning Earth Day celebration will feature an element of the artificial. A garden of tree-like sculptures crafted from recycled materials will serve as a backdrop for the annual green-themed festivities, inspiring passers-by to practice sustainable behaviors.

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A piece from Georgia State University Professor Pam Longobardi's Drifters Project displayed in the Charlotte and Philip Haynes Gallery at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, NorthCarolina. Image provided by

Earth Day attendees have had the opportunity to sign pledge cards stating their commitment to reduce, reuse, and recycle at previous celebrations. This year, individuals will cement their pledge by ‘planting’ a wire flower in the sustainable garden. “This way, the garden will grow ‘organically’ and become a beautiful and inspiring piece of art,” said Garden Project organizer, Chris Olson. “The Garden will be a visceral representation of this year's theme, ‘Celebrate Our World,’ as the whole campus collaborates on this art piece.”

Combining art and environmentalism is Olson’s passion. “The idea to do a large-scale collaborative art project has been in my head for a long time,” he said. “Working with the Georgia Tech Earth Day Committee gave me the perfect opportunity to put the idea into action in the form of a recyclable sculpture garden.”

Both Georgia Tech and Georgia State University students are building objet d’art for the garden. Each “tree” will stand approximately four feet in height or less and be structurally stable without the assistance of chemical adhesives. The Office of Solid Waste Management and Recycling, the event’s sponsor, will provide the materials from their own cache of items collected from the recycling bins located in every building, office, and dorm room on campus.

“We have the support of about 18 Georgia State University art students who have taken the project on as a final project for their Installations Class,” said Olson. “The class is taught by recyclable-materials-artist Pam Longobardi. She has created installations across the U.S. and abroad in Venice. I'm very excited to be working with her and her class.”

Olson contacted Longobardi in January of 2010 after learning about her use of plastic marine debris in a project entitled “Drifters.” “When he introduced the idea about having 'recyclable art' as part of Tech's Earth day celebration, I was very interested and had the perfect class, 'Installation and Collaboration,' that could be partnered with his idea,” said Longobardi. “I think the idea is so timely, so necessary, and all my students are very excited to be taking part. It’s an excellent collaboration and a model of institutional cooperation.”

Olsen is hopeful that the garden project will exemplify both form and function. “I hope that, on the base level, we are able to create a beautiful and unique piece of art that will receive support from members of the Georgia Tech campus and the community,” said Olson. “I also hope that the Garden will serve as a discussion starter around environmentalism in both the artistic realm and in our personal lives.”

Students will construct their sculptures April 10 - 18. The garden display will then appear in the grassy area next to Skiles Walkway from April 19 - 23 as a part of Think Green Week and the Georgia Tech Earth Day celebration. More than 3,000 visitors will view the garden as part of the Institute’s annual celebration on April 23 from 10 a.m. - 2 p.m.