Every Sunday, Abby Bernhard ’18 walks around the eight eastside residence halls in search of leftover pizza, discarded salads and other remnants of students’ meals.
Bernhard is one of several students who empties and organizes the collected compost from the eastside dorms, helping make good use of some 45 pounds or more of waste food a week.
Launched in February, the composting pilot project was made possible by a grant from the Green Initiative Fund (GIF), along with another pilot eastside dorm recycling competition.
In spring 2014, Willamette undergraduate students agreed to an optional $25 per semester fee to fund the GIF, which advances social and environmental sustainability on campus. Of Willamette’s 2,000 undergraduates, all but about 350 have contributed to the fund.
The fees raised about $40,000 last semester, $10,000 of which was spent on the composting program and other projects. The remainder is being allocated this spring, along with fees collected this semester.
“The grants give all students a chance to make an impact on their community,” says Thao Tran ’18.
Opportunity for Students
Tran serves as one of the seven student committee members for the fund. Although it’s available to all faculty and staff, she says the GIF provides a unique and important opportunity to students in particular.
“The grants honor sustainability through education, environment, equity and economics, which allows students to think outside the box when creating their proposals,” she says.
Whether through the new composting program, improved recycling, or safer storage for bikes, the fund has already started to impact the Willamette community.
“Since it’s a fee students pay, it needs to be something that benefits the students,” says Joe Abraham, director of the Sustainability Institute and GIF committee member. “It needs to impact change, and the committee has done a good job of focusing on this point.”
While working at the University of Arizona, Abraham started a similar grant program. He says such programs are increasingly common at universities and offer invaluable benefits to the students and the university as a whole.
“Ultimately, the way we should measure the value of the fund is by how it creates opportunities for students,” he says. “It’s really about [enabling] students to learn about a more sustainable future at this university, in this community and around the world.”
According to the GIF website, from March 1 the committee will start accepting proposals for funds ranging from $150. The committee plans to allocate approximately $50,000.
Complete proposals — consisting of proposal forms, budget spreadsheets and any supporting letters/documentation — may be submitted via email at firstname.lastname@example.org until 11:59 p.m. on March 30.
Funding decisions will be announced during a public meeting in April. The committee aims to make funding for approved proposals available as soon as possible.