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Grants allow creative sustainability and social justice projects across campus to expand
vegetables cooking

Newly awarded grants related to sustainability and social justice support projects ranging from utilizing more efficient chemical reactions in research labs to events that focus on accessing and cooking with local produce.

— Kay Hinton / Emory Photo Video

From monitoring indoor air quality to starting conversations around sustainably-sourced food, Emory's students, staff and faculty are implementing exciting new sustainability- and justice-related projects this year. 

The projects are funded through the Office of Sustainability Initiatives’ (OSI) General Sustainability and Social Justice, Green Labs and Green Office Incentives Funds, which offer small grants that encourage the Emory community to find innovative and creative solutions that drive positive, cultural change throughout Emory University and Emory Healthcare.

“OSI’s 2022 class of applicants is proof that sustainability principles and initiatives are not bound to a specific field or group of people. Engaging with these innovative approaches to real-life challenges from all levels of academia was inspiring,” says Cleo Lyles, a grant review committee member and the program coordinator for student-led community engagement in the Center for Civic and Community Engagement. 

This year’s grant recipients include projects to utilize more efficient chemical reactions in research labs, incentivize reusable utensils and water bottles, and events that focus on accessing and cooking with local produce. 

The teams also address multiple aspects of sustainability, such as the project “Assessing Indoor Air Quality Across Emory’s Campus.” As team leader Eva Li says, "We want to focus on measuring indoor air pollution because we know that it can impose many detrimental effects on both physical and mental well-being. Therefore, we aim to reduce the lack of knowledge or data on the current state of indoor air pollution around Emory’s campus, which will hopefully lead to a more widespread awareness of how indoor air pollution can be a hidden, yet dangerous, presence among us.”

The OSI Incentives Fund supports three focus areas:

  • The General Sustainability and Social Justice Incentives Fund is open to all Emory students, faculty and staff, and provides up to $3,000 for projects that promote sustainable behavior, conduct research or make campus improvements focused on sustainability or social justice.
  • The Green Offices and Green Labs Funds are open to all Certified Green Offices or Certified Green Labs within Emory University and Emory Healthcare and provide up to $5,000 to implement sustainable improvements or promote cultural change in offices and labs. (Learn more about certifying an office or lab.)

An interdisciplinary committee of faculty, staff and students reviewed applications for alignment with Emory’s 2025 Sustainability Vision and Strategic Plan and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Project feasibility, creativity and impact also were considered.

“Reading the Incentives Fund Grant applications has helped me to acknowledge and appreciate the vast number of sustainability advocates on Emory’s campus,” says Lydia Stubbs, OSI sustainability and social justice fellow. “I am positive the funded projects this year will make a palpable impact at Emory, and I am proud to be a part of the 15th year of this program.” 

This year’s newly-funded projects include:

General Sustainability and Social Justice Incentives Fund

  • Oxford Campus Garden (team leader, Lydia King; faculty advisor, Melissa Hage): Constructing two garden beds to provide Oxford College students an opportunity to garden on a small scale and create a communal gathering space. 
  • Assessing Indoor Air Quality Across Emory’s Campus (team leader, Eva Li; faculty advisor, Shaunna Donaher): Using air quality monitors to measure indoor carbon dioxide, volatile organic carbons, particular matter and humidity (which is related to mold prevalence) at four sites across the Atlanta campus to determine if there are indoor air quality risks for student, staff and faculty health. 
  • Cooking Conversations (team leader, Sabrina Li; faculty advisor, Jill Welkley): Hosting a monthly cooking demonstration at the Emory Farmers Market showing how to prepare simple dishes that center on local, seasonal vegetables, with a special emphasis on inviting and building appreciation for the people engaged in preparing food throughout Emory, such as Bon Appetit staff. 
  • Outdoor Emory Sustainable Exploration Initiative (team leader, Julia Marquis; staff advisor, Kristin Sliger): Purchase reusable camping dishware sets that can be checked out to reduce the prevalence of single-use plastics on Outdoor Emory trips. 
  • Dorm Room Weatherization (team leader, Patrick Latting; faculty advisor, Justin Thomas): Establishing a pilot installation of window films and thermometers in student dorm rooms to determine if energy usage is reduced in a cost-effective manner when thermostat use is determined by student habits.
  • Emory Helps Guatemala–Community Development (team leader, Kiara Vazquez; faculty advisor, Rachel Hall-Clifford): Purchase twelve ONIL cooking stoves and water filters from HELPS International to replace open-air cooking stoves for households in Guatemala. Reducing smoke inhalation and filtering water significantly reduces health risks, and the improved firewood efficiency frees up household income and reduces deforestation pressure. The project team will host on-campus events throughout the year to raise awareness and engage the Emory community. 

Green Labs Incentives Fund

  • Green Reaction Development with Photochemistry (team leader, Eleda Plouch; faculty advisor, Simon Blakey): Investing in a photoreactor to expand research in best practices for photochemical reactions, which can reduce the generation of hazardous and non-hazardous waste, reduce energy use and utilize more sustainable solvents as compared to traditional synthetic reactions. 
  • DAR Bike Fleet (team leader, Deborah Mook; staff advisor, Maya Meeks): Purchase of pilot fleet bikes to provide sustainable, on-campus commute options for the Division of Animal Resources, whose staff is responsible for the care and welfare of research animals distributed throughout nine facilities across the Atlanta campus. 
  • Sustainable Heating and Cooling for Organic Synthesis (team leader, Carter Brzezinski; faculty advisor, Bill Wuest): Piloting aluminum heating blocks to replace silicone oil baths to reduce the use of hazardous and toxic materials and increase energy efficiency for heating organic reactions. Installing larger and more efficient dry ice storage to reduce loss of dry ice from evaporation and reduce the frequency of deliveries. 

Green Offices Incentives Fund

  • Energy Reduction at the Carlos Museum with Motion Detectors for Overhead Lights (team leader, Jennifer Long): Installing eleven motion-detector light sensors in common areas and bathrooms to reduce overhead light energy consumption. 

For more updates on these grant projects and the work of OSI, subscribe to OSI’s weekly newsletter or follow OSI on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.

Members of the OSI Incentives Fund Selection Committee with some of this year’s grant recipients at the 2022 Incentives Fund Luncheon.

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