Grants awarded to student-centered sustainability projects


Two Student Life Sustainability programs have awarded more than $120,000 to 27 unique sustainability projects this academic year.

The Planet Blue Student Innovation Fund and the Social and Environmental Sustainability grant program saw a record number of applicants this year, at 42 projects, with a combined funding ask of just more than $250,000.

“Student creativity and ingenuity bring sustainability projects to life on campus that we would never have otherwise,” said Alex Bryan, director of Student Life Sustainability.

“By centering students at the heart of these grants, from the student groups applying to the student leaders deciding which projects to fund, we are able to support their self-determination in building the future they want.

“Campus is better for it, and the students are able to understand the different ways to make real and meaningful change to the community that they are a part of.”

Both programs provide support to student-centered projects that prioritize sustainability and increase student engagement with sustainability efforts campus-wide.

Projects receiving PBSIF funding this year include:

PLA Waste to 3D Printing Filament ($39,000)

This grant will allow for the collection, cleaning and recycling of polylactic acid waste, transforming it into high-quality 3D printing filament compatible with the printers found in maker spaces and labs around campus.

Additionally, the funding will establish PLA collection sites around the Ann Arbor campus, including various dining facilities where PLA bioplastic is single-use in the form of diningware and cups.

Campus Sawmill and Lumber Drying Kiln ($29,487)

This project will extend the use of removed, diseased, dead and dying trees through the establishment of a campus sawmill and solar drying kiln. Located near the U-M Grounds Services office, these facilities will enable salvaged timber to be made into viable and affordable lumber.

The sawmill will be purchased from Norwood Sawmills. The simple solar kiln will be built by students in the Design/Build Spring Course taught by Joseph Trumpey, associate professor of art at the Penny W. Stamps School of Art & Design; associate professor of natural resources in the School for Environment and Sustainability; and associate professor of Program in the Environment, run jointly by SEAS and LSA.

The lumber produced at the sawmill will be available to all members of the U-M community for projects related to U-M properties across Ann Arbor, Flint and Dearborn.

U-M CARES Compost and Recycle Education Station ($14,945)

Staff from Michigan Dining and the Office of Campus Sustainability will develop Diag-Compost and Recycle Education Stations.

Diag-CARES will be the first mass-education campaign on campus aimed at enhancing understanding of and appreciation for composting among students and faculty. This semi-permanent education and collection station will be positioned strategically on Central Campus, and will include three receptacles: one for recycling, one for compost and one for landfill waste.

In addition to PBSIF, the Student Sustainability Coalition funded $19,281 in Social and Environmental Sustainability grants of up to $2,500 to 14 small-scale projects and events.

This year, the U-M Sustainable Food Program has awarded $5,262 to nine projects through its Student Food Empowerment Fund. With revenue from the Campus Farm Stand, the SFEF offers grants of up to $1,000 for student projects that focus on food and social justice.

Between the fall and winter semesters, UMSFP supported initiatives like the Malaysian Student Association’s Malaysian Cultural Night, an event that showcased the diverse cultural elements of the country through a performance, an exhibition and food.

The BlueLab Dining Hall Waste Tracking Project is using SFEF funds to work with Michigan Dining on continuing efforts to track and manage food waste on campus. Other SFEF-supported projects include an April teach-in by Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Related Sciences that used science, poetry and history to focus in on ongoing environmental catastrophes.

This summer a group from the Pearl Project will use funds to conduct food-empowerment activities for children and their families at the Roseland Community “Good News” Daycare in Chicago’s South Side. In addition to SSC and UMSFP, U-M hosts approximately 120 campus sustainability groups.

In addition, more than 260 graduating students donned Excellence in Sustainability Honors Cords — made by students from sustainable Michigan-sourced materials — at recent commencement ceremonies.


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