The University of Arizona

New Green Fund-Supported Sustainability Projects Named

By La Monica Everett-Haynes, University Communications | March 25, 2013
A new set of sustainability projects has been approved for financial support at the UA through the Green Fund. "In each of them, there is a kernel of a really good idea. What we want to do is to say 'yes' to good ideas that will transform the campus and community in positive ways," said Jesse Minor, a UA doctoral candidate who chairs the student-run Green Fund committee. (Photo credit: Patrick McArdle/UANews)
A new set of sustainability projects has been approved for financial support at the UA through the Green Fund. "In each of them, there is a kernel of a really good idea. What we want to do is to say 'yes' to good ideas that will transform the campus and community in positive ways," said Jesse Minor, a UA doctoral candidate who chairs the student-run Green Fund committee. (Photo credit: Patrick McArdle/UANews)

Twenty-one sustainability projects have been approved for UA Green Fund support during the 2013-14 academic year.

UA staff member Lisa Comella, who began turning plastic bags into products in 2010, will be supported by the Green Fund to run workshops to train UA community members to do the same.
UA staff member Lisa Comella, who began turning plastic bags into products in 2010, will be supported by the Green Fund to run workshops to train UA community members to do the same. "Most plastic bags are recycled to make, you guessed it, more plastic bags," Comella said. "With plastic bags, it’s just a vicious cycle. It seems to me that repurposing them instead of recycling them to make more has more impact and is an incredibly positive way to deal with this very prevalent waste stream.
"We want people to see that there is an understanding that we are doing something deliberate and thoughtful to try and improve the UA," said Jesse Minor of the UA student-run Green Fund committee. (Photo credit: Norma Jean Gargasz/UANews)

A new set of projects designed to green the University of Arizona campus have been approved under the Green Fund's annual funding round.

The student-run Green Fund committee recommended funding 21 projects, which then were approved by the Office of the Vice President for Student Affairs for a total of $470,950. An additional 10 mini-grants, which are funded throughout the year, were approved for a total of $12,462.

The Arizona Board of Regents approved the Green Fund for the first time as part of tuition and fees in March 2010 and, over a four-year period, funding has amounted to more than $1.5 million.

Selected from nearly 50 proposals that came from across the UA campus, the projects will be implemented during the 2013-14 academic year and include infrastructure improvements, facility upgrades, new course offerings, externships and other educational programs, among other things.

"These are things that contain energy savings, water use reduction, a strong educational component and other things that fall under the rubric of sustainability," said Jesse Minor, a doctoral candidate in geography and chairman of the 10-member Green Fund committee for the 2012-13 academic year.

Minor said the educational projects are just as important as sustainability efforts that improve infrastructure. In fact, the presence of an educational component is the sign of a strong proposal, he said, as such efforts lead to changes within people.

"We want to see behavioral changes that save the campus money and that cause people to think about their role in the campus community," Minor said. "There is a level of power in changing behavior through education."

In addition to expanding and strengthening sustainability efforts at the UA, Joe Abraham, who directs the UA Office of Sustainability, said that one of the priorities of the Green Fund has always been the direct involvement of the student body.

"It's a balance of engaging students in meaningful ways, giving them opportunities they wouldn't otherwise have without the funding," said Abraham, one of the UA staff advisers who offers support to the committee.

"It also allows students to be in strong leadership roles and involved in the decision-making process for those projects that provide environmental benefits, generally to the University," he said.

Benefits are both direct and indirect, as evidenced by the new projects being funded, which include:

  • New green experiments for the organic chemistry laboratories will be introduced.
  • SolarCats will work with the UA's Parking and Transportation Service to retrofit golf carts to use solar power.
  • A new course, "Green House Gas Emissions Inventories in Practice," will be developed to educate students about greenhouse gas and other environmental footprint methods and at the same time serve existing institutional sustainability commitments.
  • Support for the establishment of a community garden that will be built in Rincon Heights Neighborhood Association, which borders the UA.
  • The UA James 4-H Camp near Cottonwood, Ariz. will install solar panels, retrofit its lighting systems and capture greywater for use in water-efficient toilets.
  • A trailer to transport equiptment to schools in the community demonstrating the benefits of biofuels.
  • The UA community garden will expand to involve the local community in education and food production.
  • Photovoltaic panels for power generation and shading exposed ducts will be installed at the College of Architecture, Planning and Landscape Architecture.
  • Externships will be offered through the University's Arizona Cooperative Extension, involving UA students in community-based summer projects.

Another project to be funded is the UA ReUse Workshop, which UA alumna Lisa Comella designed having asked the question: Why not recycle some of our waste products by turning them into functional products the community could then use in a way that generates a profit?

The workshop will train people how to transform plastic bags, which are not easily recycled, into reusable tote bags.

It is a timely objective to consider.

Cities such as West Hollywood, San Francisco and Portland, including those internationally, have begun to ban the use of plastic bags. Tucson is considering it too.

But this does not solve the whole problem, said Comella, associate director for development in the College of Fine Arts.

"Even if the world banned the production of plastic bags tomorrow, there would be enough hanging around that we still need to be deal with," said Comella, who also has used discarded plastic bags to make iPad covers, wrist purses, mini-messenger bags, make up bags, coin purses and shoulder purses.

"By repurposing our own waste streams, we can take advantage of an inherent fundraising vehicle that is literally, right under our noses," she added. "By recycling our own 'garbage' and creating new, functional, UA branded-products we all use everyday, we can raise money to help further our own mission – how could we not do this?"

Comella began making her own bags in 2010 as part of a craft project.

"I made a few and wasn't that thrilled but I kept experimenting. After I made a few, sold a few, and started talking to people about it, I realized there were much larger implications," Comella said, adding that she and her team intend to begin workshops in the summer.

"The Green Fund not only makes it financially possible to run the pilot workshops but it also lends credence to the idea that we can become a more fully sustainable campus by repurposing our own waste," Comella said.

"Down the road, other artisans who work with other scrap materials like wood, rubber and metal can be part of the UA ReUse Workshop," she said, and this will truly put us on the map as being a fully sustainable campus. That's my vision, and I know we can get there."

Contacts

Jesse Minor

UA Green Fund

jminor@email.arizona.edu

 

Joe Abraham

UA Office of Sustainability

520-621-2711

jabraham@email.arizona.edu