The University of Massachusetts Amherst

Sustainability Spotlight: Calling All Innovators!


Do you ever wish that fresh, ultra-local food could be more affordable for students, or that you could donate some of the housewares, furniture, and appliances that you don’t want after spring move-out so that other students could make use of them? 

It turns out that these programs already exist, all thanks to the UMass Sustainability, Innovation, and Engagement Fund, or SIEF! Indeed, the Student Farm Food Access Initiative, an idea that received funding from SIEF, was implemented in the fall of 2019, making food grown and distributed by the UMass Student Farm Enterprise more financially accessible to the campus community. The New2U Reuse Tag Sale & Move-Out Collection is another initiative that was funded through SIEF, keeping hundreds of thousands of items out of landfills and putting them back in the hands of UMass students at affordable prices. 

These and dozens of other programs, including the UMass Minute Riders Compost Pick-Up Service, the student-run UMass Grape Vineyard, and the Paperbark Literary Magazine, have been made possible through SIEF. While these ideas have come from students of all departments and experiential backgrounds, they have one thing in common: each is impactful in contributing to the campus climate surrounding our awareness of and commitment to sustainability. 

As a student, it is easy to feel like we have little say in changing the systems that form the communities of which we are a part. Behind every organization or institution, however, are the people that run it, meaning that we have the power to make changes as members of these institutions – including our own university! 

Maybe you’re passionate about eliminating food waste on campus, or perhaps you have an innovative approach to disincentivizing single-occupancy drivers from commuting to and from campus. Whatever your idea is, the Sustainability Department wants to hear it. And, if selected, your proposal could receive up to $8,000 for project funding! Proposals can be made by individuals or groups of students, faculty, and staff. 

Apply here by Friday, February 14, to have your project considered. More information about the application process can be found on the Sustainability Department’s SIEF page. No idea is too small or too ambitious to be submitted; if Elon Musk’s cybertruck can become a reality, so can your idea for making UMass a more environmentally-conscious community.