Students receive funding for sustainability projects

Contact: Jeanne Baron
Photo of students gardening.

Student sustainability projects

KALAMAZOO--Reducing paper usage, educating incoming students about sustainability and a novel way to produce green electricity are among the research projects Western Michigan University students recently won funding to pursue.

WMU's Student Sustainability Grant Program awarded $10,928 to four projects during the spring round of funding to help foster a campus culture of sustainability. Coupled with the $31,803 that was awarded to six projects in the fall semester, the program has dispensed a total of $42,731 during the 2011-12 academic year.

The Student Sustainability grants are available to students paying the campus Sustainability Fee, which students approved by vote in 2010. The four spring 2012 projects, along with the amount awarded and the principal investigators, are:

  • Carbon-Neutral USB-Drives, $4,878, conducted by Meredith Atchison from Grand Rapids, Mich., and Izaak Blankenstijn from the Netherlands and currently a Kalamazoo resident, both of whom are graduate students in education leadership-higher education and student affairs leadership.

    This project aims to reduce energy usage and paper waste by using carbon neutral USB flash drives to electronically distribute mandatory reading materials to those attending WMU's financial workshop for Registered Student Organizations. Members of certain registered organizations as well as certain recipients of University grants are required to attend the workshop. The grant will pay for USB drives partially made from hardwood to be purchased from a Forest Stewardship Council-certified source, reducing the amount of ink, electricity and paper usage on campus by some 15,200 pages per academic year.
  • New Student Orientation: Strides Toward Becoming Sustainable, $3,125, conducted by Brian Donahue from Tinley Park, Ill., a junior majoring in organizational communication, and Anthony Haduch from Park Ridge, Ill., a senior majoring in early childhood professional education.

    This project supports efforts by WMU's First-Year Experience Programs office to adapt its programs to utilize more sustainable practices and educate new students about on-campus sustainability efforts. The office interacts with all incoming first-year students and their families. On rainy days during orientation sessions, it used to give attendees inexpensive plastic ponchos donated by the WMU Bookstore. Many wearers would throw away the ponchos as soon as they were no longer needed. The grant allows durable umbrellas to be purchased, loaned to attendees when necessary and reused indefinitely.
  • Prototype of a Hybrid Solar Updraft Tower, $2,925, conducted by Adam Haslinger from Clarkston, Mich., a senior majoring in engineering design technology, and Josef Imesch from Farmington Hills, Mich., a senior majoring in engineering management technology.

    This project aims to produce a prototype hybrid solar updraft tower that uses lenses fixed atop a greenhouse and mirrors to direct sunlight onto a tower, where hot air will rise and drive turbines to create electricity. Solar updraft towers have had mixed results, but none so far have incorporated a hybrid design with lenses and mirrors to concentrate and focus sunlight.
  • A fourth grant of $721 was awarded to the University's Botany Club, a Registered Student Organization that teaches students about plants and how to grow them.

Student Sustainability Grant proposals are reviewed by an allocations committee composed entirely of undergraduate and graduate students. All submitted proposals are eligible as long as they promote a campus culture of sustainability and benefit all students. To qualify, proposals must be safe, legal, adequately budgeted and possible to do within the University's existing infrastructure.

Projects funded in earlier award cycles included two separate awards of $9,997 and $9,289 to build and maintain a student-led cafe featuring locally sourced, sustainable and healthy food choices as well as menu items that cater to special dietary needs; $9,992 to educate students, create a conservation area to protect native Michigan biodiversity and maintain gardens capable of supplying WMU catering services with sustainably grown produce; $9,388 to establish a bicycle cooperative; and $5,097 to implement a used bike rental program.

For more information about the Student Sustainability Grant Program, contact Dr. Harold Glasser, professor of environmental studies and WMU's executive director for campus sustainability, at or (269) 387-2713.