UGA Office of Sustainability awards $13,000 for student projects

Athens, Ga. – The University of Georgia Office of Sustainability announced the inaugural winners in the UGA Campus Sustainability Grants Program on Feb. 22. The office awarded $13,000 of green fee funds in campus sustainability grants, enough to implement four of the eighteen projects submitted. These grants will enable students to translate their ideas for a more sustainable UGA into reality

Kevin Kirsche, director of the UGA Office of Sustainability, said that the campus sustainability grants program creates both educational opportunities for students and a chance to make a lasting positive impact at UGA and beyond.

“Through hands-on implementation of sustainable practices, students will gain understanding of how to take an idea from concept to completion,” Kirsche said.

“[The office was] very pleased to receive 18 well developed project proposals during the inaugural round of campus sustainability grant selections,” Kirsche said. “All of the proposals had merit, reflecting the high quality of engaged students at UGA.”

Selecting the winning projects for funding from this pool of ideas was no easy task. “The dedicated effort of the grant selection committee was an important part of the process of evaluating feasibility and overall merit of the proposals,” said Jennifer Perissi, a program coordinator from the office.

The grants program embodies the Office of Sustainability’s vision for the university to serve as a living laboratory. Each of the selected grant proposals applies to one or more of the priorities set by the 2020 Strategic Plan to address campus sustainability. They will address water conservation, waste reduction, alternative transportation and sustainable agriculture to help reduce carbon emissions and create a culture of sustainability at UGA.

Emily Karol, a magazines major in the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication, will work to install a water bottle refill station in the Miller Learning Center so that students can conveniently “take back the tap” and easily fill their own water bottles as opposed to purchasing bottled water. The project will work to increase awareness about how refilling reusable water bottles can save individuals money and help the planet.

Sheena Zhang,  an interdisciplinary honors student focusing on sustainable design through the Odum School of Ecology and the department of biology, will help establish UGA’s first bikeshare program in the soon-to-be LEED-certified Building 1516 residence hall on east campus. The pilot program seeks to provide a convenient means of transportation for students and to promote awareness and visibility of transportation alternatives at UGA.

Nick Martin, an environmental health science major in the College of Public Health, will work to enhance the dorm move-out waste reduction program, building upon similar efforts from last year. Working with many campus and community partners, the initiative combines philanthropy and waste reduction to save unwanted but usable dorm furniture and clothing items from the landfill, putting them instead in the hands of people who need them. Items will be collected from UGA residence halls for reuse and donation to Athens area charities.

Andrew Douglass, an agro-science and environmental systems major in the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, will assist with the installation of a rainwater harvesting system at UGArden, the campus community garden located near the State Botanical Garden of Georgia on South Milledge. The project combines the university’s dedication to water conservation with sustainable agriculture. The cistern will collect water for use in the organically cultivated garden, increasing awareness about responsible resource use while aiding the ongoing efforts of UGA students to produce local, sustainable, and delicious food.

The Office of Sustainability will assist in the implementation of the recently funded projects and plans to continue to provide students opportunities to promote sustainability.

“We look forward to expanding the grant program to provide even more opportunities for student engagement in the future,” Perissi said.

– Rachel Spencer

Posted March 2, 2011.