Sustainability fund recipients will advance Emory’s Sustainability Vision through innovative green projects

Emory Report | Dec. 7, 2020

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Winners of the most recent round of sustainability grants will put their funds toward a wide range of green initiatives across campus, including enhancing the biodiversity capability of The Complex residence hall’s green roof.

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Undeterred by the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, project teams that received small grants from Emory’s Office of Sustainability Initiatives (OSI) this year will promote social justice, energy-use reduction, biodiversity in landscapes, climate solutions and sustainability practices and values among the Emory and broader Atlanta communities – in both physical and virtual spaces.

This fall, OSI opened applications for its annual Incentives Funds programs, which welcome creative proposals that seek new knowledge and foster sustainable cultural change at Emory. This year’s diverse projects include hosting a virtual sustainable fashion show, promoting research laboratory efficiency, examining racial bias in health care delivery, revitalizing a residence hall’s rooftop garden and evaluating the effects of COVID-19 on local food systems.

Three categories of funds are available: 

  • The General Sustainability and Social Justice Incentives Fund allows all Emory and Emory Healthcare 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 behaviors, procedures and equipment utilized for work and research 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 more sustainable management of energy, water, waste, safety, health, engagement and purchasing.

A committee of Emory students, faculty and staff representing a variety of programming, academic and operational roles reviewed all 16 submitted applications. Submissions are evaluated for their alignment with Emory's 2025 Sustainability Vision and Strategic Plan, the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, feasibility, clarity, sustained impact and innovation. The committee voted to award more than $32,000 to 12 project teams.

Kelly Weisinger, director of sustainability, is excited by this year’s projects for the Incentives Fund Program. “Especially during this difficult year, the creativity and passion of the Emory community in advancing campus sustainability efforts are extraordinary,” says Weisinger. “We are thrilled and grateful to announce the grantees and eagerly anticipate seeing their projects come to fruition in furthering Emory's sustainability vision.”

The following are newly funded project proposals. 

General Sustainability and Social Justice Incentives Fund

  • Art for Change (team leader, Yifei Gao; faculty advisor, Evan Saltzman): Uniting artists and activists to host virtual artistic workshops that will teach artistic technique and awareness of social issues to Atlanta youth, culminating in a fall 2021 virtual art exhibition
  • Biodiversity and Living Wall Initiative (team leaders, Christie Jones and Jared Feuer; staff advisor, Erik Edwards): Improving ecosystem biodiversity, environmental education and aesthetic beauty on campus by creating an organically managed living wall of native Georgia plant species between Candler School of Theology and Tarbutton Hall
  • Emory Climate Stories (team leader, April Hang): Hosting bimonthly climate stories (both nonacademic and research-focused) to raise climate awareness and foster interdisciplinary research collaborations
  • Food Wealth and Food Poverty: Examining COVID-19 Impacts on Atlanta’s Local Food Systems (team leader, Hilary King): Qualitatively evaluating changes in Atlanta’s local food systems due to the impacts of COVID-19 by conducting interviews with Atlanta-based food organizations, local farmers and suppliers of Emory’s food as well as city of Atlanta officials
  • Herbicide-Free Emory: Education and Outreach (team leader, Christie Jones; faculty advisor, John Wegner): Installing movable signage at Lullwater Preserve, a currently herbicide-free space, to educate visitors about landscape-management practices that enhance biodiversity
  • Hit the “Alt” Key on Fast Fashion! (team leader, Katie Zhang; faculty advisor, Amanda Whitfield): Raising awareness about sustainability in the fashion industry and creating a platform for sustainability activists and designers to promote their work through speaker panels and a virtual fashion show
  • Learning About Implicit Racial Bias from Obstetric Patients and Clinic Staff: Lessons for Those in the Medical Profession (team leader, Shivani Bhagat): Assembling focus groups to help identify biases in maternal care, thereby providing insight into best practices for ensuring well-being and reducing inequity for mothers of all races and ethnicities and fostering culture change at Grady Memorial Hospital
  • Regreening The Complex’s Living Roof (team leader, Nicholas Chang; staff advisor, Jake Horvath): Enhancing the biodiversity capability of the green roof of The Complex first-year residence hall by using planters to increase habitat diversity and pollinator food sources, simultaneously promoting the aesthetic value of the roof deck

Green Offices Incentives Fund

  • Hydration Station Installation (team leader, Fiona Riedl): Installing a hydration station in the Advancement and Alumni Engagement space at 1762 Clifton Road to set the expectation and facilitate the habit among building occupants of using reusable water bottles 

Green Labs Incentives Fund

  • Energy-Efficient Freezer Purchase (team leader, Adam Gracz): Replacing an old freezer with a new model that consumes less energy and provides expanded cold-storage space
  • Green Tirouvanziam’s Lab: Sustainability Implementation Project (team leader, Milagros Aldeco): Improving the Tirouvanziam lab’s procedures by taking a chemical and reagent inventory and adding energy-saving timers to equipment outlets in order to guide the lab toward achieving the highest Green Lab qualifications
  • Maximizing Science While Minimizing Energy: A Salaita Lab Initiative (team leader, Radhika Sharma): Creating a sustainable lab space by replacing an outdated thermal cycler with a sustainable and energy-efficient model constructed from recyclable materials
  • Sustainable Centrifugation Set Up (team leader, Gregory Melikian): Upgrading the lab’s current centrifuge to a newer, energy-efficient version while fostering behavior change by communicating sustainable lab practices among lab members