Five student ideas to green the campus get funding

Increased student activities fees provide $47,000 for the projects

Photo/Mike Lovett

Five student-conceived green initiatives have been awarded financing from the new Brandeis Sustainability Fund.

The fund was established last year by a campus-wide referendum that received the required two-thirds of student votes. The vote authorized an increase of $15 a year in student activity fees that are dedicated to student-proposed eco-friendly projects.

The $47,000 collected this year will be spent on:

  • Smart Meters to monitor electricity use at selected buildings on campus in real time to promote awareness of how much energy is being spent, proposed by Sam Porter '14;
  • cold frames to increase the size and utility of the existing campus garden, as proposed Linda Li '13;
  • installation of a micro-turbine, which would be part of an energy efficient lighting pole system, proposed by Dorian Socnick Williams '13;
  • an extension of the DeisBikes program to allow for semester-long bike rentals and an expansion of the bike repair shop, reducing students' reliance on fossil fuel-dependent transportation, proposed by Jessie Stettin '13;
  • installation of vermiculture bins at a Massell Quad residence hall floor to reduce waste and pilot a Green Living hall, proposed by Cecilia Watkins '11.

"The idea was for the projects to address environmental issues on campus in a way that would impact students, because it's the students' money," said Campus Sustainability Coordinator Janna Cohen-Rosenthal.

Using procedures modeled in part on programs at New York University and the University of California, a board comprised of four students and four staff or faculty members evaluated student proposals and awarded grants based on environmental and community impact, relevancy and financial feasibility.

The board held proposal workshops in the spring to help students revise budgets and increase feasibility. It had been prepared to hold two funding cycles each year, but received more proposals than anticipated - seven projects totaling more than $93,000 - and allotted this year's money in the first go-around.

Cohen-Rosenthal said that in the case of the electricity meters measuring the environmental impact is simple, but that is not the case for all projects.

While there will be university staff support, she said, it is ultimately up to the students to make the projects work and initiate educational events surrounding their projects.

"I view them as project managers," Cohen-Rosenthal said. "This will give them great hands-on experience."

For Cecilia Watkins, there might be an even greater success metric. Her funding will purchase vermiculture bins, but she is also using the project as a pilot program for the creation of a Green Living residence hall.

"I think it's exciting to get rid of waste in a way that actually produces something else - fertilizer," Watkins said.

This is a practice she has learned about as a volunteer for Healthy Waltham, and she hopes she can convince students and staff that it is worth taking to the next level. Watkins said she is planning events to be held throughout the semester - from installation of the bins to creation of useful output.

"Hopefully students will get excited about what we're doing and take ownership of it," Watkins said.

Categories: Student Life

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