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Sustainability grants fund innovative projects across campus

Winners of the most recent round of sustainability grants will put their funds toward a variety of green initiatives across campus, including creating habitats for pollinators and educating about the value of pollinators to local ecosystems.

Students, faculty and staff are making the most of being back on campus this year with sustainability-oriented projects to improve Emory’s campus and community.

These projects are funded through the Office of Sustainability Initiatives’ (OSI) General Sustainability and Social Justice, Green Labs and Green Office Incentives Funds, which offer small grants for implementing climate solutions, conducting research and driving positive cultural change throughout the university and Emory Healthcare.

This year’s grant recipients will support biodiversity, save energy, reduce waste and increase engagement with climate action and racial justice at Emory. The “Improved Bike Rack Pilot,” for example, will install new infrastructure on campus to further support Emory community members who bicycle. Team leader Ben Kasavan says, “I look forward to completing this pilot project, which will show that installing high-quality bike racks increases the number of people who will bike.”

“For the fourteenth year of this program, I am motivated and inspired by the many members of the Emory community who, year after year, continue to envision and then lead the implementation of intersectional and thoughtful projects to improve the well-being of people, other species and the land upon which Emory is located,” says Taylor Spicer, assistant director of OSI. “The incentives funds are resources we are thrilled and humbled to be able to offer to give anyone at Emory the creative freedom to be a sustainability visionary.”

The OSI Incentives Funds support these project areas:

  • The General Sustainability and Social Justice Incentives Fund is open to all Emory students, faculty and staff, and awards up to $3,000 for research, campus improvement and cultural change-making projects with a focus on sustainability and social justice.
  • The Green Office and Green Lab Incentives Funds award up to $5,000 to certified Green Offices and Green Labs for implementing sustainable practices in their workplaces. Information about becoming a certified Green Office or Green Lab can be found on the OSI website.

Applications were reviewed by an interdisciplinary committee of faculty, staff and students for their alignment with Emory’s 2025 Sustainability Vision and Strategic Plan and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, as well as their feasibility, creativity and impact.

“The OSI Incentives Fund is a wonderful grant-making apparatus that encourages innovative solutions to address issues of social justice and develop sustainable practices for offices and labs,” says Alan Anderson, a member of the committee and assistant vice president of university partnerships in the Office of Government and Community Affairs.

“As a member of the grant-review team, I was honored to learn about all of these creative ideas from the grantees and thankful to contribute to this powerful effort.”

The following are newly funded project proposals.

General Sustainability and Social Justice Incentives Fund

  • A Survey of Agrilus planipennis in Emory University’s CampusForests (team leader, Nick Chang; faculty advisor, John Wegner): Collecting data on the abundance and distribution of Agrilus planipennis, an invasive beetle commonly known as the Emerald Ash Borer, in Lullwater Preserve and Hahn Woods to assist with making plans to address the infestations
  • Cox Bridge Pollinator Garden and Campus Reforestation (team leader, Caroline Maki; faculty advisor, John Wegner): Restoring the soil and revitalizing a pollinator garden in the Cox Bridge ravine and planting native trees and shrubs in key areas within Lullwater Preserve to support pollinator species living on campus
  • Create a Pollinator Garden on Tull Plaza (team leader, Kay Norgard): Planting herbs and other pollinator-friendly plants to create a habitat for pollinators in Tull Plaza and educating about the value of pollinators to local ecosystems
  • Improved Bike Rack Pilot (team leader, Benjamin Kasavan): Encouraging more people in the Emory community to bike by replacing bike racks in front of Candler Library that are difficult to use with ones that are more secure and store more bikes to encourage more Emory community members to bicycle to and on campus
  • Increasing Engagement of Medical Students in Sustainability and Climate Action–Oriented Projects (team leader, Madhu Manivannan; faculty advisor, Rebecca Philipsborn): Evaluating student attitudes toward the School of Medicine’s new “Climate Change and Environmental Health” curriculum and organizing a home-composting workshop for faculty, staff and students in the School of Medicine
  • Training: How to Lead Discussions about Racism: A Primer for Facilitators (team leader, Jessica Blackburn): Providing a workshop to train employees from the Office of Research Administration to effectively and thoughtfully foster dialogue about racial discrimination within their department

Green Offices Incentives Fund

  • Ensuring Effective Events: Zero Waste at Rose Library Events (team leader, Laura Starrat): Reducing waste at events held in the Rose Library by replacing plastic water bottles with reusable glasses and carafes and adding new waste bins that encourage effective waste sorting
  • Green UniversiTEA (team leader, Terez Whatley): Replacing single-use tea bags by growing herbal plants in the office of the German Studies Department and using the leaves to make tea
  • Mitigating Climate Costs of “And I Must Scream,” Special Exhibition at the Michael C. Carlos Museum (team leader, Amanda Hellman): Replacing plastic and vinyl signs with paper labels and hand-painted signage for the 2022 exhibition “And I Must Scream,” which highlights art representing modern crises such as climate change
  • Mitigating the climate costs of the special exhibition, “Making an Impression,” at the Michael C. Carlos Museum (team leader, Ruth Allen): Using paper labels printed with vegetable ink and recycled fabric banners to reduce plastic waste in the August 2022 exhibition “Making an Impression” 
  • Sustainable Tote Bags for the Robert W. Woodruff Library (team leader, David Smith): Providing a reusable, cotton tote bag from the Library Service Desk to replace single-use plastic and other non-biodegradable materials handed out to library users checking out books

Green Labs Incentives Fund

  • Blakey Lab Goes Green 3.0: Back on the Block (team leader, Michael Hollerbach): Reducing the energy used for heating reactions in the Blakey Lab by replacing energy-inefficient sand baths with metal-heating blocks

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