People working in a garden

Student Sustainable Farms has received Green Fund grants for projects to improve sustainability. (Photo provided)

April 24, 2024

SIU awards nearly $173K in Green Fund grants, honors students for sustainability

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. — Southern Illinois University Carbondale celebrated Earth Day this week by awarding almost $173,000 in Green Fund grants to 15 diverse project. The projects run the gamut, from establishing a pawpaw research orchard to creating a multipurpose butterfly garden to adding more water bottle refill stations to improving energy efficiency.

The Green Fund Grant Committee, chaired by a student and including three additional students, a staff member and a faculty member, reviewed 18 proposals, said Aimee Lemrise, sustainability director.

“We look forward to this time of year as we elevate our Imagine 2030 strategic plan and its sustainability pillar,” she said. “We are thankful to all who submitted proposals and were excited to see the interest from those taking action toward the opportunities this Green Fund program offers the campus community in reaching its goals to lead and rank in sustainability achievements. We were very impressed with the number of applications submitted this year as well as the proposals themselves.

“There are many with energy efficiency improvements, research toward capturing energy loss through innovative modeling and a wide range of unique projects, with many involving student engagement. We encourage the campus community to already begin thinking ahead about ideas for creative sustainability changes they can propose for campus and plan to apply for green fund grants in the future.”

Grant recipients

The 2024 projects are receiving a total of $172,994, officials announced on Earth Day, April 22. With the addition of the latest round of funding, the university has now awarded nearly $3.64 million to 340 sustainability projects. The funding for the grants comes from a student Green Fee of about $10 per semester, adopted in 2009 as the result of a student-led initiative.

Sustainability projects chosen for Green Fund grants this spring are:

  • Sustainable agriculture collaboration and education initiative, Rachel Miller, Student Sustainable Farm manager/researcher, $39,288. The funding will ensure the farm has year-round management to maintain its educational, functional and collaborative efforts, missions and goals.
  • Oxygen generator and natural gas booster system installation/connection, Jiyong Lee, glass program in the School of Art and Design, $31,000. As part of ongoing efforts to make improvements in the operation of the high-energy-use glass-blowing studio, the funds will be used to install an oxygen generator and natural gas booster in the space in the Pulliam Education Building, allowing the glass studio to eliminate the purchase of oxygen and propane gas and delivery and to reduce energy costs.
  • Development of sustainable laboratory setups for Robotics and Control Laboratory, Arash Komaee, associate professor in the School of Electrical, Computer and Biomedical Engineering, $17,400. Komaee will lead a team including three undergraduate students and a doctoral student in designing a collection of laboratory setups with minimal use of non-eco-friendly materials and to manufacture them with biodegradable 3D printing materials for research and instructional purposes.
  • Living wall regeneration, Karen Midden, horticulture professor emerita, and Jennifer Z. Matthews, assistant instructor in interior design, $15,800 to replace the worn living wall system in the Agriculture Building with a new, simpler system. The current wall was created by Midden and installed by students in 2012 as a Green Fund project with guidance from two New York professionals, but the felt-style system needs to be replaced, and the new modular, grid-based tray system will be easier to maintain.
  • SIU Bike Fix It additions and repair, Andrew White, geography and environmental resources major, $10,200. The grant will be used to add two new bike repair stations to campus and make repairs at existing stations.
  • Simulation of in-campus power distribution network at SIU, Bishal Lamichhane, doctoral student in the School of Electrical, Computer and Biomedical Engineering, $10,000. Lamichhane will use a hardware in the loop (HIL) simulation of a medium voltage power distribution network for SIU to access the status of protection coordination and power flows for the distribution lines to identify any potential loss-incurring sections.
  • Digital twin model of SIU water distribution system for sustainable water asset management, Sangmin Shin, assistant professor in the School of Civil, Environmental and Infrastructure Engineering, $9,804. The funds will improve the water and energy efficiency at SIU’S Evergreen Terrace water distribution system by mapping and providing a digital twin model to simulate and visualize the system’s performance for water flow, pressure, pipe aging and energy use, thus advancing the information and monitoring capacity of SIU’s Facilities and Energy Management.
  • Native pawpaw orchard with living mulch ground cover, Kaitlyn Lamaster, horticulture instructor in the School of Forestry and Horticulture, $9,273. The pawpaw is the largest native fruit in North America, and this grant will fund groundbreaking research and trial work to gauge the potential for commercial productivity via a pawpaw cultivar trial at the SIU Student Sustainable Farm.
  • Student Center LED spotlight conversion, Jonathan Newlin, Student Center technical director, $8,549. The grant will allow the replacement of old, inefficient, halogen spotlights in the Student Center ballrooms with new, energy-efficient LED lighting.
  • (Sustainable) Saluki Food Pantry, Olivia Stearns, graduate assistant for the food pantry and Master of Public Health student, $7,577. The grant will be used to help the pantry in its goal of addressing food insecurity by creating a more sustainable framework by reducing food waste through increased electronic documentation and promoting the use of reusable bags.
  • Bottle filling stations – two grants have been approved to add or upgrade stations on campus to reduce the use of plastic water bottles.
    • At the Student Center, four existing traditional water drinking fountains will be upgraded to feature water bottle refill stations, and two refill stations will be placed in the John Corker Lounge, which services the ballrooms, Kent Epplin, Student Center director, $5,790.
    • New station in the School of Electrical, Computer and Biomedical Engineering, Shannon Oxendine, office manager, $2,400.
  • Touch of Nature Outdoor Education Center trail graduate assistant, Erik Oberg, program director of logistics, $3,500. The funding will provide for hiring a graduate student to identify, coordinate and implement sustainable trail maintenance and improvement projects and coordinate volunteer opportunities and projects related to TON trails and programs.
  • Sustainable farming and butterfly garden, Students Embracing Nature, Sustainability and the Environment (SENSE) registered student organization, Morgan Schmitt, a senior geography and environmental resources major, and Marsen Fisher, a senior zoology major, $1,575. The Student Sustainable Farm gave SENSE eight raised beds to plant and grow sustainable crops beginning this fall, and the group plans to use the grant to plant a butterfly garden around the beds as well as to increase awareness and education about the ecosystem of sustainable farming.
  • Papermaking with recycled materials, Stephanie Dukat, Craft Shop coordinator, $838. The Student Center Craft Shop will use the grant for a papermaking workshop series using recycled materials and the Craft Shop’s Hollander beater and paper press to allow participants to create handmade paper for personal stationery or art making by upcycling materials such as cotton, denim, scrap paper and cardboard.

Additional awards

The sustainability celebration also included the presentation of awards to recognize SIU’s 2024 Environmental Ambassadors. SIU students earn this award by donating at least 30 hours for community service to environment-related endeavors:

SENSE was also honored for its dedication, work and efforts.

In addition, the Sustainability Office recognized several other people from campus and the community for their assistance and efforts to promote SIU “green” efforts:

To learn more about SIU’s award-winning commitment to sustainability and green initiatives, visit