December 13, 2013

Sustainability Council awards project funds

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s Sustainability Council is funding 14 “green” projects in the organization’s latest series of grant awards.

A total of $120,616 will support a wide variety of endeavors focusing on transportation, food production, renewable energy and energy efficiency, outreach, and more. Electric vehicles, energy audits, obtaining heat from waste, scholarships and supporting sustainable vegetable farming on campus are just some of the projects.

The money comes from a $10 per-semester student Green Fee enacted by the SIU Board of Trustees in 2009 due to a student-led initiative. This is the ninth funding cycle since that time and 99 projects have been funded.

“In networking with other campus sustainability professionals, I am increasingly proud of what SIU has accomplished with the Green Fund. Many universities are now trying to accomplish what we’ve already been doing for years, and it’s very rewarding to see and share the results of Green Fund-supported projects,” said Kris Schachel, sustainability coordinator.

Projects receiving funding this fall, along with a brief description of each, are:
• SIU Sustainable Vegetable Farm: $24,048 to support and increase productivity of the vegetable farm and enhance its use as an educational center.
• Recreational Sports and Services electric vehicle: $22,581 for a totally electric vehicle the unit can use to support its programs and services.
• College of Engineering energy audit: $19,206 to perform a comprehensive energy audit of the college using a wireless sensor network.
• Electric vehicle conversion: $17,500 to the Transportation Education Center to convert a donated commuter vehicle into an electric vehicle with plug-in.
• Design and operation of a low-cost, energy-efficient bio-digester heater: $14,086 for advanced testing of a prototype bio-digester utilizing anaerobic digestion.
• Imagining Geographies: $6,100 to support the program’s spring focus on sustainability through lectures, trips, visual installations, publications and other partner efforts.
• Leave No Trace Course Scholarship Fund: $5,320 to provide weekend retreats for students, engaging them in various components of sustainability living and ecological consciousness. After training, the students can then lead workshops.
• Completion of the SIU climate action plan: $3,500 to complete work begun during the 2012 fiscal year to define campus goals, strategies and tactics for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
• REACH Projects: $3,000 to provide two undergraduate REACH awards to students conducting sustainability research and creative projects.
• Josh Fox lecture and visit: $2,000 to cover costs of hosting a lecture and visit to SIU by Josh Fox, the writer and director of “Gasland” and “Gasland 2” during the spring 2014 semester.
• Restoration Club prairie garden: $1,750 to develop and maintain a prairie garden on campus at the northwest corner of the Life Science II building.
• Energy efficient campus Wi-Fi hotspot (proof of concept): $825 to test the feasibility of using solar power and batteries to extend and/or enhance campus Wi-Fi coverage.
• Alternative Spring Break: $500 in support of a site leader retreat in conjunction with the 2014 Alternative Spring Break.
• Bat rejuvenation project: $200 to place bat houses on campus to support bat populations.

The quest to improve sustainability and “green” efforts at SIU never ends though, Schachel said. In fact, preparations are underway for the spring 2014 Green Fund round.

The emphasis will be on research, education and development of renewable and alternative energy along with energy efficiency and conservation on campus. Projections call for more than $150,000 to be available for the newest round of funding. Proposals are due March 21, 2014. Visit for details and applications.