Meet the Spider who co-founded the RVA Environmental Film Festival

February 27, 2020
Tamara Smith, GB'92, is one of RVA's biggest proponents of sustainability.

Tamara Smith, GB’92, has been behind the ten years of the RVA Environmental Film Festival every step of the way. From a one-day film screening in 2008, to a 10-day festival with thousands of attendees, Smith has guided the organization as treasurer, and now president.

“It has been rewarding in several ways. Someone once gave me advice ‘Never underestimate yourself’ which has carried me along the way of this ever-evolving pursuit of environmental activism,” Smith said.

The RVA Environmental Film Festival (EFF) showcases films that raise awareness of environmental issues relevant to the Richmond region, the country, and the planet, Smith says. In 2008, the festival was founded as The Biggest Picture: Richmond’s First Environmental Film Festival under the James River Film Society. In 2011, the Sierra Club – Falls of the James Group backed the event as the RVA Environmental Film Festival. Support from the community has grown with each passing year.

“Putting the pieces together for a mission, rubbing elbows with like-minded people, and doing the most not for just Sierra Club members but for the entire community of Richmond has given me courage to continue,” Smith said. 

Timothy Hamilton, associate professor of economics, has been a long-time proponent of the Environmental Film Festival, and says Smith’s contributions have helped it remain a crucial part of the sustainability efforts in RVA. And since some of the films are now screened in the Robins School of Business, it helps involve students in these significant matters. 

“The EFF is a great way to expose students to the variety of environmental problems that demand solutions,” Hamilton said. “It’s also an opportunity to engage with the Richmond community on issues that are important to multiple stakeholders.”

But her contributions to the Richmond sustainable efforts don’t end there. She is also an integral part of the Big Yard Sale, hosted by the University of Richmond each year, where donated student, faculty, and staff items are sold at a discount to prevent waste and promote sustainability in RVA.

“I voted to support this back in 2000, and now the Office of Sustainability at UR is proud to include it in this year’s program of sustainable activities,” Smith said.

She says she used the skills she learned in The Richmond MBA to promote these efforts, and others, to ensure a sustainable future for Richmond, and beyond.

“I have a passion for environmental activities, and I have been able to use my skills from my graduate education to convince our steering committee to support the film festival, and find non-profit financial partners.”

She says the EFF has continued to evolve, using everything from sponsorships to social media to spread the word and help bring awareness to environmentalism and sustainability to the Richmond region. “We’ve brought it this far,” she says, “I have a suspicion that it can continue to expand in different ways with new topics.” 

For more information on the Environmental Film Festival and the Big Yard Sale, visit the University of Richmond Office of Sustainability.