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Green Fund Grants: A Path Towards a More Sustainable Southwestern

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Green Fund Grants: A Path Towards a More Sustainable Southwestern


Every semester since the 2015-2016 academic year, Southwestern University accepts applications for the Green S.A.F.E (Sustainable Advancements Funding Endeavor) Fund. The Green Fund Grant, as it is more commonly known, funds projects to promote ecological, social, and economic sustainability on campus.

The grant program receives the most support from eco-minded students wanting to create an environmentally sustainable community. Nicole Ratjak, an Environmental Studies major who has led a couple of Green S.A.F.E projects, agrees, believing the Green Fund Grant is one of many ways for students to improve Southwestern University while promoting cooperation.

“It’s great that the school allows [students] to weigh in on sustainability initiatives because a group effort is the only way to truly transform something, particularly when it comes to sustainability,” said Ratjak. 

The Green Fund Grant funded 11 projects for $26,166 during the 2019-2020 academic year — including the Arbor Day Tree Planting, the Period Project, and Upperclassmen Hydration Stations. In total, the Green Fund Grant supplied 56 projects with $171,743. In this semester alone, five projects have received approval, receiving $33,680 in total. Each of the projects are either student-led or staff-led, including a program led by Logistical Services Assistant Michael Sedwick focused on hydrating the facilities staff members.

Sam Ramon, a senior majoring in Environmental Studies and Communications, hopes to reduce the amount of plastic thrown out when students take their reusable containers home with the OZZI Reusable Utensil Program.

“​The program is the same as the containers: all students who currently use OZZI containers [,the green to-go containers,] will be given reusable utensils to bring along in addition to these containers each time they get food to go,” said Ramon.

The utensils, though themselves plastic, will reduce the amount of single-use plastics on campus. And like their container counterparts, the utensils will be meticulously sanitized and redistributed to students.

“A truly beautiful system eliminating most of the need for single-use plastic in the commons,” continued Ramon.

Ramon also co-led the Revamped Food Waste Reduction and Compost Program with Ratjak and Anthony Garcia, an Environmental Studies major in the class of 2023. The students, part-time workers at the Office of Sustainability, plans to tackle composting with two plans, bundled in one proposal.

The Waste Team, as the three are called in the Office of Sustainability’s EcoRep Program, has created a partnership with GrubTubs, a company dedicated to reducing the amount of food waste heading to landfills by converting leftovers to animal feed. The second portion of the proposal requested 75 new compost bins to help the Waste Team revamp Southwestern University’s compost program.

The fourth proposal, led by Sustainability Coordinator Veronica Johnson, Staff-Member Juan Garza, and Groundskeeper John Dixon, secures a membership with the US Green Building Council (USGBC) and allows Johnson, Garza, and Dixon the opportunity to earn TRUE Advisor Certificates.

“With the USGBC Membership, the entire Southwestern community can benefit from

discounts on educational resources and professional development courses/certifications (such as LEED Green Association and TRUE Advisor),” explained Johnson over email.

“The TRUE Advisor certificate program provides a comprehensive curriculum about zero waste policies and programs. TRUE Advisor certificate holders have a practical understanding of the most current zero waste business principles,” said Johnson.

The last, but certainly not the least, proposal, led by Director of Intercollegiate Athletics Glenn Schwab, Senior Manager of Facilities Operations Shorty Schwartz, and Assistant Supervisor of Maintenance Services Brandon Quintanilla, will retrofit the Robertson Center lights to LED. The proposal accomplishes more than just sustainability.

“The reduced energy consumption from these new lights will decrease our institutional carbon footprint. However, I believe these lights will have a bigger impact on our campus than simply enhancing our sustainability efforts. These LED lights will remove the constant buzzing noise produced by our current lighting configuration,” said Schwab.

“It was my desire to improve the experience in the gym for both the spectator and the student-athlete, not to mention the athletic staff who spend many hours in the gym,” responded Schwab when asked about his inspiration for submitting the Green Fund Grant Proposal.

The call for submitting pre-proposals for Green Fund Grants, a prerequisite for full Green Fund Grant proposals, for next fall is from April 1-15, 2021. Considering these proposals are queued to be implemented in mid-January, Southwestern students, faculty, and staff members all have something to look forward to in the spring semester.

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