Campus News

UGA awards sustainability grants to fund student projects

Athens, Ga. – The University of Georgia Office of Sustainability has awarded $43,000 to fund 11 interdisciplinary student projects through its annual Campus Sustainability Grants Program. The program, funded by student green fees, provides financial and staff resources to implement student-initiated projects that further the university’s sustainability goals.

The office received many well-developed project proposals from students in various academic disciplines. A selection committee of students, faculty and staff made the final recommendations for projects to be awarded in 2015. Student projects that received funding align with UGA’s 2020 Strategic Plan to promote stewardship of natural resources and advance sustainability research, education and service at UGA and beyond.

The Campus Sustainability Grants Program has helped foster several ongoing UGA initiatives. Since its inception in 2010, the Office of Sustainability has awarded a total of $130,000 to fund 37 student-initiated sustainability projects at UGA. This year, the program offered its most awards to date through a partnership with UGA’s Ideas for Creative Exploration and increased operational funding announced by UGA President Jere W. Morehead.

Kevin Kirsche, director of the Office of Sustainability, said the program is a great way for students to learn valuable grant-writing skills and to make a tangible difference on campus and in the local community.

“The Campus Sustainability Grants Program is an opportunity for students to learn by doing,” he said. “The program provides an avenue for UGA students from diverse academic backgrounds to work collaboratively and develop innovative ideas from concept to completion.”

Recipients of the 2015 Campus Sustainability Grants are as follows:

reCYCLE: Abandoned Bike Repair and Redistribution Program
Yasmin Asghari, an environmental health science major in the UGA College of Public Health from Norcross, will work with UGA Parking Services, BikeAthens, UGA Bike Co-op, Students for Environmental Action, Office of Sustainability and others to implement an abandoned bicycle recycling project. The program will repair abandoned bikes and distribute them to selected UGA students with demonstrated need and a commitment to use and care for the bikes. The bike repair and redistribution program hopes to encourage and increase biking as a viable mode of transportation and mobility to promote a culture of sustainability and health at UGA.

It’s All About the Bags
Tiffany Eberhard, an environmental health science major in the College of Public Health from Athens, will work with UGA Housing, Bag the Bag student organization and the Office of Sustainability to increase recycling of plastic bags and other hard-to-recycle materials in UGA residence halls. The project will increase infrastructure such as new bins and processes for collection and provide educational activities to promote a mentality of “zero waste” among student residents.

Aquaponics at UGA: A Quintessential Model for Sustainability Education, Research and Outreach
Elizabeth Hincker, a master’s student in the Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources from Danville, Virginia, and Robert Bringoff, an associate professor in the Warnell School, will construct a greenhouse dedicated to an aquaponics system at UGA’s Whitehall Forest to accommodate the increasing demand for education, outreach and research in this rapidly growing area of sustainable food production. Workshops will be designed for high school students as well as middle and high school teachers to familiarize them with the fundamentals of aquaponics and the many possibilities for its use in sustainability education, research and entrepreneurship.

UGArden Recycled Compost Screen
Kaela Horne, an anthropology major in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences from Nahunta, received funding to create a mechanical compost sifter at the UGArden Learning and Demonstration Farm. Design and construction of the sifter will be a collaborative effort between UGArden and the College of Engineering. The sifter will be constructed using reclaimed materials and will serve as an example to other small-scale organic farming operations. The UGA student chapter of Engineers Without Borders will assist with the final design, and student volunteers will construct the project.

Outdoor Challenge Course Signage
Matt Kasten, a master’s student in UGA’s sports management and policy program from Charlotte, North Carolina, will partner with the UGA Department of Recreational Sports, Warnell School, Office of University Architects and Facilities Management Division to create and install interpretative signage at UGA’s recently renovated outdoor challenge course and outdoor education facilities.

A4P (Air Purifying Plants Proliferation Project) 2.0
Ryan McCullough, a graduate student in the Lamar Dodd School of Art from Dayton, Ohio, will work with the printmaking department, Facilities Management Division and others to enhance air quality in art studios. The A4P will incorporate careful selection and use of nontoxic chemicals in the art-making process and construction of a plant repository in the school of art to grow and distribute air-purifying plants. He envisions a living plant installation that will hang in the school of art as a center for education about the benefits of air-purifying plants and cleaner ecological approaches to studio practices.

Chew Crew Junior Herder After School Program
Ansley McKinney, a cellular biology major in the Franklin College from Orlando, Florida, will work with the College of Environment and Design and College of Engineering to create the Junior Herder Program, an after school environmental education program at Barrow Elementary School. This program aims to give elementary students the opportunity to engage in hands-on learning in areas of ecological restoration, outdoor education and sustainability through direct involvement with the Chew Crew, a prescribed grazing project that uses goats to remove invasive plant species and restore native landscapes.

UGArden Biodiesel Processor
Mitch Reynolds, an environmental economics and management major in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences from Stone Mountain, will create a biodiesel processor for use at the UGArden Learning and Demonstration Farm. The generator will convert waste vegetable oil sourced from the Georgia Center for Continuing Education and other local commercial kitchens with the hope of powering diesel equipment used at UGArden.

Development of a Site Specific Management Plan for Campus Grass Areas and Campus Intramural Athletic Fields
Chase Straw, a doctoral student in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences from Frankfort, Kentucky, will work with Facilities Management Division’s Grounds Department and UGA Turf Club to conduct performance testing on campus turf areas including UGA’s intramural athletic fields. The performance testing will lead to site specific management plans for large grass areas on campus to reduce the application of water and other necessary inputs for a thriving turf landscape.

Material Reuse, Thinking Inside the Box
Mason Towe, an economics major in the Terry College of Business from Watkinsville, will work with the school of art, College of Environment and Design, Office of University Architects, Facilities Management Division and the Material Reuse Program to establish a program to facilitate reclamation and reuse of materials by current and future art students and faculty. The project envisions developing a program and a storage facility that enables artists to conserve money and resources by reusing diverted “waste” materials.

Analyzing Electric Vehicle Use in the UGA and Athens Community
Huawei Yang of Xi’an, China, a doctoral student, and Kevin Yu of Johns Creek, an undergraduate student in the College of Engineering, will implement smartphone technology to analyze electric vehicle use within the Athens and UGA communities. Application of this research will assist in the development of a planning tool for communities to optimize the locations and installations of electric vehicle charging stations.

For more information on Campus Sustainability Grants and other initiatives of the UGA Office of Sustainability, see