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Campus & Community

Grants for Going Green

Sustainability Fund Awards Over $400K to 10 Campus Projects

By Annie Krakower

reACT house

Photo by Dennis Schroeder/US Department of Energy Solar Decathlon

A $120,000 grant from the Sustainability Fund will allow the Terp-designed and -built reACT house to be relocated from near the Xfinity Center to outside the Architecture Building and reopened as the reACT ThinkTank. The project is one of 10 awarded $405,065 this academic year—the second-highest amount the fund has ever distributed.

The university’s award-winning entry in the 2017 U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon will have a new home—and a second act.

Thanks to a $120,000 grant from the Sustainability Fund, the Terp-designed and -built reACT house will be relocated from near the Xfinity Center to outside the Architecture Building and reopened as the reACT ThinkTank, a campuswide hub for sustainability research, service and education. 

“This initiative will work to not only cultivate innovative strategies to combat climate change, but to bring those strategies to all Maryland communities, particularly those that have historically been left out of the conversation,” said Donald Linebaugh, dean of the School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation.

The project is one of 10 awarded $405,065 this academic year—the second-highest amount the Sustainability Fund has ever distributed. 

Since 2011, the Sustainability Fund, supported by student fees, has given around $3.2 million to 156 such projects, which help improve the environmental performance of campus operations, bolster opportunities for Terps to learn about sustainability, and contribute to research on how to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, decrease waste and more. 

“Our campus sustainability efforts would not be where they are today without the Sustainability Fund,” said Scott Lupin, Office of Sustainability director. “(It) has been just incredibly effective at creating opportunity, benefiting the campus and changing the campus culture to adopt sustainability as part of who we are.”

Students on the Sustainability Fund Review Committee sift through applications and submit their recommendations to the Sustainability Council, which decides which projects to fund. In addition to the reACT Living Laboratory, here are the other nine projects that received awards this year:

Office of Sustainability COVID-19 Support 
Office of Sustainability | $65,000
This funding will help the Office of Sustainability maintain staffing and programming despite budget cuts that have occurred during the pandemic. That includes retaining an associate and four paid internship positions that help with UMD’s sustainability data collection, analysis and student outreach programs. “We don’t want to see these programs backtrack,” Lupin said. “These are very critical to the overall campus sustainability effort.”

Green Dining COVID-19 Support 
Dining Services | $62,800
Also offsetting budget reductions, this grant will support student staff positions at Terp Farm—which provides fresh produce for dining halls, catering, the Campus Pantry and more—and will help provide sustainable menu options through the Cool Food Pledge. “Even during a public health crisis … students living on campus are still eating,” said Bart Hipple, assistant director of Dining Services. “We need to be able to continue with our sustainable initiatives.”

Campus Creek Restoration Phase 2 
Facilities Management | $50,000
The restoration project to address stormwater runoff and erosion within the Campus Creek will begin Phase 2, from University Boulevard to the stream’s junction with the Paint Branch. Finishing the remaining 2,329 feet will help slow the water down to prevent eroded banks, improving the water quality and restoring the stream to its natural setting, said Kris Phillips, director of facilities planning.

Mobile Sustainability Outreach Center 
Office of Sustainability | $30,172
This grant will outfit a new electric vehicle with green features and educational displays to help with sustainability outreach on campus. “It takes a lot of effort to load and unload all this material for outreach activities,” said Sustainability Manager Mark Stewart. “So being able to stage it all in the vehicle that can be easily moved around campus and set up also has some operational efficiencies for us.” 

Including Estimates of Campus Forest Carbon in UMD’s Climate Action Plan (renewal) 
Geographical Sciences | $26,453
After a successful first year of this three-year research project, a team from the Department of Geographical Sciences will use its new funding to complete carbon sequestration calculations in UMD-owned forests and trees. The group will also join with state partners to develop an innovative carbon offset program. 

Virtual Global Sustainability Internships
School of Public Health | $22,100
The School of Public Health recently launched an internship program with international organizations and researchers to provide more virtual experiences for students amid the pandemic. This grant will bolster the program and create a focus on sustainability projects, using the UN Sustainable Development Goals as a guide.

Global Citizenship Program
Education Abroad | $17,550
Similarly, this grant will allow 100 students to take part in a new three-week online leadership development course where participants can collaborate with an international network focused on achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Engineering for One Planet 
A. James Clark School of Engineering | $5,990
This project would develop a library or store of used parts from past end-of-semester engineering projects, making the materials available to future students. The effort would also minimize waste and help undergrads consider reusing or recycling as an integral part of their design process.

Gemstone Team PISO
Gemstone | $5,000
This research team in the Honors College program is working to develop a kind of flooring that can collect clean energy from foot traffic. The students aim to refine current technology to create a working prototype of a piezoelectric generator, which would harvest power out of the force of passersby’s footsteps. 

Maggie Haslam contributed to this story. 

The Sustainability Fund projects represent just some of the steps Terps are taking to tackle climate change, as university President Darryll J. Pines encourages the UMD community to address this grand challenge. See how else students, faculty and staff are creating climate solutions:

Schools & Departments:

Office of Sustainability

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