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Campus News

Students Put Their Money into the Environment Green Fund—Projects Get Underway

By Monette Austin Bailey

Here is a summary of the other projects awarded funding:

St. Mary's Hall Compost Reconstruction and Garden Maintenance ($1,050)
Upgrading the composting and drip irrigation systems for the building's student-run garden

Center for Young Children Greening Project ($4,450)
Web and video support to promote sustainable behaviors among the children

Watershed Constructed Wetlands ($4,500)
Developing a constructed wetland adjacent to the WaterShed Solar Decathlon house being built for this summer's competition

Rooftop Community Garden ($4,450)

Guilford Run Bioretention wall ($9,000)

Maryland Educational Solar Array ($30,000)

(from left) Kevin Brown, Kevin Epps and John Reddick speak with student and co-manager Brennan Keegan about the project.
A bioretention facility to filter rainwater off of Lot 1. Courses on how to create alternative energy sources. A rooftop garden for South Campus Dining Hall.

All are examples of the six projects getting under way this semester, following the second dispersal of funds raised from the student sustainability fee, or Campus Green Fund.

In 2007, undergraduate students voted for a $4-per-year fee to be put into a fund to support university projects, capping the fee at $12. Last year, they used $98,000 to purchase 66,000 renewable energy credits, or RECs. It is enough green power to meet 26 percent of the university's electricity use. Buying the RECs from Washington Gas and Energy Services allows Maryland reduce its carbon footprint.

The University Sustainability Council, created in August 2009 by former President Dan Mote, put out the fund's first call for project proposals last fall and received more than two dozen applications for a portion of the $148,000 available.

"I was surprised by who was submitting," says Matthew Popkin, a sophomore government and politics major and undergraduate representative to the council. "There were a fair amount of student groups. I'm thrilled with the fact that students are taking an active role, as opposed to just benefitting."

The selection committee, comprised of four students and four faculty or staff members, chose projects that demonstrate a range of approaches to sustainability and best address the university's priorities in a measurable way. Proposals also needed to outline outreach opportunities.

One of the winners, Bryan Quinn '01, director of technical operations for the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, hopes to begin working with faculty members this semester to develop two courses: one undergraduate overview and one junior-level lab, to teach the design of alternative energy sources.

Quinn and colleagues, who were awarded $30,000, are also building a mobile solar energy unit to take to schools and civic groups.

"The most gratifying thing is students are saying they want this; they gave their money to fund these," says Quinn, who had been looking for money for these projects from outside sources.

A section of the bioretention wall, which runs parallel to Campus Drive below Lot 1c. It will be filled in with an underground drainage pipe, gravel and plants.
A student-run project, the Guilford Run Bioretention facility also has campus and community benefits. It uses plants, soil and rock to filter out pollutants running from Lot 1 into the nearby stream, which feeds into the Anacostia River watershed. Project organizers Phillip Sandborn and Brennan Keegan, both junior electrical engineering majors, say that Facilities Management's building and landscape services unit and lots of student volunteers finished building the two-part structure (30 and 24 feet long) ahead of schedule. Plant donations have helped it come in under budget, which was set at $9,000. Planting will begin in the spring.

That's also when the campus' second community rooftop garden should start taking shape on the South Campus Dining Hall. Frank Fogarty, a graduate student in sustainable development and conservation biology, says he and fellow grad student Nicole Horvath and undergraduate Jesse Yurow were inspired by the success of the one built on top of The Diner.

"We looked at other roofs, like the new Denton one [North Woods Dining Hall], but picked South Campus because we wanted to expand," he says, explaining that the South Campus location is larger and requires less infrastructure work to support the garden.

During these cold months, the group will work out how to make sure the site is available to as many people as possible. Maintenance staff are installing safety railings and an access door. Fogarty says that they should begin planting vegetables and herbs in March.