2020 Sustainability, Innovation and Engagement Fund Awards Announced

Nine projects have received a total of more than $29,000 in grants from the Sustainability, Innovation and Engagement Fund for its 2019-20 funding cycle. Established in August 2013, the fund is designed to foster a strong culture of sustainability on our campus by providing financial support to student, faculty and staff projects.

This year’s funded projects look to solutions for climate change, investigate innovative solutions for sustainable food production, eliminating waste and recycling, and work to make the campus greener and improve wellness in our community.

  • Digging the Past– The UMass Renaissance Center will redesign and expand the existing Renaissance kitchen garden and orchard to develop and unveil a series of international research collaborations, undergraduate and graduate courses, integrative learning workshops, conferences, keynotes,and public-facing arts programming oriented around the central theme: The Renaissance of the Earth where scholars will be challenged to consider how early modern habits of thought and practice might aid in imagining alternative forms of sustainability and cultivation of the earth.
  • Creative Women Leading Climate Action (CWLCA)- CWLCA will organize a one-day symposium and a public event that provides access, support and opportunity for UMass Amherst students by facilitating the opportunity for students and alumnae to connect with professionals, faculty, and staff in their field. The symposium focuses on engaging women (e.g. transgender, cisgender, gender non-conforming) in building a network towards the shared goal of creative climate action. 
  • A Pilot-Scale Biodigester: Engineering Campus Sustainability Via Anaerobic Processes – Students and faculty from the iCons Program will construct a pilot-scale biodigester to generate useful experimental data, rationalized via mathematical models, that support a proposal for the implementation of a large-scale bioreactor on campus. The technology will improve campus sustainability by continuously recycling organic waste into useful fertilizer and biofuel. The pilot-scale biodigester will also represent an educational opportunity for UMass students — it will leverage academic groups from the iCons program to research teams across departments in the College of Natural Sciences, College of Engineering and Stockbridge School of Agriculture that may require larger-scale bioreactors with which to conduct experiments on.
  • Woodland Pork Production– Students and faculty at the Agricultural Learning Center (ALC) will expand the animal husbandry program to include sustainable pork production.  The program aims to raise 5 pigs in a secured woodlot at the ALC.  Undergraduate students will take part in the vast majority of the work required to raise the animals under the guided mentorship of Stockbridge School of Agriculture's animal husbandry instructor over a five to six-month period.
  • Project Leafcare– A student business that was created for making zero waste sustainable soap bars that help replace shampoo and body wash bars and reduce single use plastic packaging. All bars are small batch handmade and body bars contain upcycled coffee grounds or tea leaves.  The student entrepreneur will engage student peers in helping them make their own products through campus workshops.
  • CompostCorps and Greening Your Meetings- A UMass faculty member and librarian have teamed up to create and facilitate education and behavior change around campus and in offices/centers that can carry over to practices in residence halls, dining halls and other offices.  They will provide infrastructure and students to provide composting assistance at campus events ultimately producing sustainable behavioral and financial benefits, while directly and indirectly educating the campus community about the importance and responsibility of daily waste management and the necessity to build life-giving soil.  
  • ReGreening UMass– The UMass/Waugh Arboretum Committee teamed up with UMass facilities and campus services , as well as landscape management, to create a sustainable, long-term tree replacement program for the university. Within this goal, the specific objectives are to purchase trees to plant in the existing UMass landscape management nursery and transplant trees from the nursery to locations throughout the campus as needed, resulting in a sustainable campus landscape that will sequester and store atmospheric carbon dioxide, reduce air and water pollution, reduce erosion, reduce building energy needs and provide the many other benefits of community trees.
  • Environmental Community Outreach Club– The UMass Environmental Community Outreach Club, a student-founded volunteering-based team with a focus on sustainability and fellowship, will hold six volunteer events with the purpose of providing civic engagement to build and enhance community wellness in the Pioneer Valley. Student volunteers will connect with local organizations like Kestrel Land trust, The Trustees of Reservation, Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary, the Hitchcock Center, Not Bread Alone, Woodbanks and more.
  • The UMass Sustainability Makerspace Program: Developing a Computer Repair New2U Program– Students and faculty from the UMass All Campus Makerspace are working to establish a student-driven computer recycling effort on campus in an effort to keep computers, and ultimately other electronics, out of landfills. Examples of surplus might be functioning personal laptops and computers, tablets or computer peripherals.

For further information on this year’s projects and future application and award cycles contact Ezra Small at esmall@umass.edu or (413) 545-0799.