SUSTAINABLE PROJECTS

By Emerson Andrews, SCIF coordinator

The Sustainable Campus Initiative Fund, also known as SCIF, is the University of Utah’s green grant program. Students, faculty and staff from all disciplines and departments are invited to propose projects that enhance the sustainability of the campus and community. SCIF encourages ideas that operate at the crossroads of academics and operations and work to facilitate collaborative efforts among diverse members of the campus community. Sustainability has a multifaceted definition that deals with a wide variety of subjects ranging from waste to energy to food justice. Each of the following project highlights how, through the implementation of related projects, SCIF has enabled campus-wide progress in the many arenas of sustainability.

Bike to the U Day
In spring 2011, Lynn Unger, a graduate student in social work, organized a social event in an attempt to increase the number of people who ride their bikes to the U. The main goal of this project was to provide education and awareness about the physical, mental and environmental benefits of biking. The first Bike to the U Day had hundreds of participants and was such a success that it has become an annual event. This project highlights how SCIF projects can have impacts far beyond the initial investment.

Fort Douglas Light Pollution
In fall 2013, Bettymaya Foott led an effort to decrease light pollution and to increase energy efficiency within the Fort Douglas residence hall area. The existing outdoor lights met the area’s historic standards, but they were inefficient and emitted significant light pollution because more of the light was directed upward than down toward the sidewalks. Additionally, the lights were so bright that some student housing occupants blacked out their windows. This project addressed the problem by purchasing and installing five Dark Sky-approved, full-cutoff LED light posts that lowered energy costs, reduced light pollution and maintained current historic district design standards.

Solar Parking Feasibility Study
In fall 2010, MBA students Hannah Bybee and Robinson Vasquez conducted a feasibility study regarding the installation of photovoltaic structures above parking stalls on the U campus. The study explored the financial, social and environmental costs and benefits of such an installation. The study found that a well-placed parking array would be both feasible and beneficial, suggesting that a small structure, 20-40 spaces, should be installed. This study laid the groundwork for the solar parking array that was recently constructed just north of the S.J. Quinney College of Law. This project illustrates how sustainable inquiry can become a sustainably reality.

Green Roof Study
In spring 2013, Youcan Feng, a doctoral student in civil and environmental engineering, undertook a study of green roof viability in Salt Lake City. Feng began his research with a number of goals in mind: First, to advance the use of green roofs on the U’s campus; second, to improve their performance through design guidance; and third, to provide learning and project opportunities for courses related to sustainable planning and design. Once the instrumentation was in place, Feng started to research, and not too long after, the project began receiving attention. In March 2015, Feng received the Alta Sustainability Leadership Campus as a Living Lab Award. The green roof projects showcase how campus can be a living, learning laboratory that provides the space for innovative research.

Campus Bees
In the wake of global beehive collapse, student Thomas Bench, with the help of SCIF, transformed the university into a bee-friendly campus. What started as two hives outside the fourth floor of the Union Building has transformed into a network of hives that pollinate the campus, educate the community and provide crucial data about the local and global health of bees. The U Beekeeper’s Association has recently become the largest beekeeping club in the state that partners with NASA and the Utah Department of Agriculture.

Social Soup
Social Soup is an interdisciplinary, community-based initiative that brings together students, faculty, staff and the community members around food. Initially, the series started on a shoe-string budget, but with the help of SCIF and communications doctoral candidate Kathleen Hunt, the lecture series became a success. Lectures featured both local and national experts and highlighted specific food-related issues. Through these lectures, the Social Soup educated the campus community about a variety of food issues that are tied to the environment, social justice and economic issues. In addition to the original SCIF funding, partners from the College of Social Work, the Department of Communication, University Dining Services, the Edible Campus Gardens and the Sustainability Office came together to take the series far beyond what SCIF could provide.

Garden Enhancements
For the past five years, the Edible Campus Gardens have enjoyed burgeoning success — so much success that the gardens were unable to keep up with the growing number of students, research projects and education programs seeking to use it. Because of these growing pains, students Natalie Allsup-Edwards and Mike Lynch applied for and received a $21,225 SCIF grant, which allowed them to complete garden enhancements, construct a better irrigation system, renovate the composting system, expand educational programming and increase the variety of foods produced. This grant helped the gardens become a place that demonstrates a wide range of techniques for cultivating an edible landscape in an urban environment.

Social Justice Gardens
The Social Justice Gardens are an example of how SCIF can positively impact vulnerable communities. On the surface, the gardens are a student-directed program focused on environmental justice, education and food production. The gardens provide university students with the opportunity to teach gardening science, to build and maintain a community garden with a diverse population of families and to gain leadership experience. Beneath the surface, at the root of the program, the Social Justice Gardens are an example of improving food equity in action. By providing space, education and support for food production in the community, the Social Justice Gardens give opportunity and access to communities that are affected by a broken food system.

WANT TO APPLY FOR A SCIF GRANT?

There are three types of grants:

  • Small grants are for projects that cost less than $1,000, and applications are accepted on a rolling basis.
  • Medium grants are for projects ranging from $1,000-10,000, and applications are accepted three times per semester.
  • Large grants are for projects that cost more than $10,000. Expressions of interest are due in the middle of fall semester, and final applications are due in January. Grants are awarded early in the spring semester.

A calendar of deadlines can be found here. Applications can be found here.