Sustainability small grants help fund campus and health care initiatives

By Rachel Musetti | Emory Report | Dec. 3, 2019

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Winners of the latest round of sustainability grants have diverse plans to improve green initiatives in offices, labs and across campus. They were honored at a luncheon in November. Emory Photo/Video

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Every year, Emory’s campus is enlivened with new ideas proposed and executed by students, faculty and staff seeking creative ways to participate in sustainability initiatives. The Office of Sustainability Initiatives’ annual incentives funds programs seek new knowledge, support new behavior patterns and foster cultural change toward social justice and sustainability at Emory and beyond.

The newest awards range from research laboratory efficiency and clinic space waste reduction, to public art and enhanced learning environments. All projects embody Emory’s sustainability vision “to be a model of transformative practices and sustainable choices at every level. From the copy room to the operating room, from the classroom to the residence hall — among academic units, healthcare units, and operational units — Emory will more deeply engage the challenges of sustainability and expand our leadership in higher education.” 

Funding is categorized in three ways:

  • The General Sustainability & Social Justice Incentives Fund allows all university and health care students, faculty and staff to request up to $3,000 for any project or research related to sustainability at Emory and the intersections of sustainability and social justice. 
  • The  Green Offices Incentives Fund and Green Labs Incentives Fund support sustainability in Emory’s work and research spaces by funding sustainable processes and procedures in Emory University and Emory Healthcare offices and labs that are certified through the respective programs. Up to $5,000 is available for proposals that encourage changes in behavior, practices and equipment utilized in these spaces in areas such as energy, water, waste, safety, health, engagement and purchasing.  

The applications for Incentives Fund grants are reviewed and discussed by a committee of Emory students, faculty and staff from across campus. The reviewers represent a range of programming, academic and operational roles for the university. Applications are evaluated for their alignment with  Emory’s 2025 Sustainability Vision and Strategic Plan, Emory’s Climate Action Plan, feasibility, clarity, sustained impact and innovation.  

“This year the Emory community came out with a bang,” says Vincent Graves, environmental health and safety professional II and member of the Incentives Funds review committee. “It’s great to know that there are so many faculty, staff, students and health care staff from the Emory community taking the initiative to lead projects that will move Emory and the surrounding community forward in sustainability.”

"The Green Labs Incentive Fund and the team in the OSI have been amazing partners, encouraging us to assess our lab’s environmental impact and to implement changes to conduct our research in more sustainable ways,” reflects Simon Blakey, professor of chemistry and three-time Green Labs Incentives Fund grantee. “It’s amazing how much we’ve changed practices in such a short amount of time.”

The newly funded project proposals announced in fall 2019 are as follows: 

General Sustainability and Social Justice Incentives Fund

  • Air Emory (team leader Eri Saikawa): Monitoring and reporting air quality around Emory University’s main campus in a way that informs and educates the Emory community
  • Bee Campus USA (team leader Kaysee Arrowsmith; staff advisor Andrea Mitchell): Raising awareness of the roles pollinators play and enhancing sustainable habitats for pollinators on Emory’s campus through plantings and educational programs
  • Earth Matters on Stage: Ecodrama Playwrights Festival (team leader Lydia Fort): Fostering new dramatic works that respond to the ecological crisis and exploring new possibilities of being in a relationship with the more-than-human world
  • EmPower: Tackling Energy Burdens in Atlanta with Energy Efficiency Upgrades (team leader Megan Deyhle; faculty advisor Justin Burton): Training Atlanta-area K-12 classes about ways to conduct energy audits and install more energy-efficient upgrades to homes as a means to help reduce the energy burden for students’ families
  • Enhanced Green Learning Environments (team leader Cristina Sanchez; faculty advisor Sarah Blanton): Increasing sustainability signage, student art and greenery in the Department of Physical Therapy
  • Goizueta Sustainability Campaign (team leader Sophie Reiser; staff advisor Harriet Ruskin): Leading a three-week campaign to equip Goizueta students to commit to reducing waste, eating more sustainable food and using more sustainable commute options
  • Let’s Ride MARTA (team leader Aaron Klingensmith; faculty advisor Shaunna Donaher): Educating students about the personal and societal benefits of using transportation, debunking myths of MARTA and hosting a MARTA scavenger hunt to show Emory’s connectivity through public transit
  • Monarch and Milkweed (team leader Jacobus de Roode): Raising awareness of the plight of the monarch butterfly and the importance of pollinators through an art installation and public outreach
  • The pARTner Project: Arts “Hack-a-thon” Themed with Sustainability (team leader Cynthia Peng; faculty advisor Dana Haugaard): Encouraging a collective of engaged Emory students in all factions of the arts to create sustainability-themed artwork with mostly repurposed materials in a 24-hour competition and showcase
  • Reusable Recess Cups (team leader Amneh Minkara; faculty advisor Mindy Goldstein): Replacing 3,000 disposable cups currently used per semester by students at Emory Law School Recess with reusable stainless steel cups to reduce waste
  • Sustainable and Healthy Commuting through Bike Repair Services (team leader Lalita Martin; staff advisor Benjamin Kasavan): Providing bike repair services in a hands-on educational way to cyclists at the on-campus Fixie in order to encourage biking in the Emory community
  • Using Sustainable Materials to Reduce Bird Collisions on Campus (team leader Ananda Woods; faculty advisor John Wegner): Studying bird mortality on Emory’s campus and piloting using bird-proofing vinyl on windows to decrease the mortality rate due to collisions with glass

Green Labs Incentives Fund

  • Blakey Lab Goes Greener and Cleaner (team leader Taylor Farmer Nelson): Adding a dishwasher to decrease water used in lab cleaning procedures by 80% while maintaining a standard of cleanliness required for research
  • epGreen Centrifuge Implementation (team leader Radhika Sharma): Replacing current centrifuges with an epGreen centrifuge to reduce energy, costs and environmental impact.
  • Lab Waste Management (team leader Elena Jordanov): Diverting waste in labs by purchasing Terracycle nitrile zero waste boxes for gloves and increasing color-coded composting and recycling bins

Green Offices Incentives Fund

  • Brain Health Center (BHC) Sustainability Initiative (team leader Elizabeth Dee): Facilitating the reduction and diversion of waste from the BHC by installing a hydration station, dishwasher for reusable kitchen items and hand dryers, as well as piloting a composting and recycling system.