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When UofU Students Take the Initative, Green Happens

–by Whitney Williams, SCIF Coordinator, UofU Office of Sustainability

In 2009, U students developed the Sustainable Campus Initiative Fund, a competitive grant program for student projects focused on sustainability education and energy efficiency at the University of Utah. Each semester, students have the opportunity to receive funding to turn their “green” idea into a reality on campus. The first round of funding launched 15 successful projects including two innovative rain gardens, an organic cotton t-shirt business, and a pilot study of a 100% recyclable light bulb.

Students lay out the first rain garden on campus.

One of the rain gardens is successfully completed—stop by and check it out when you are walking by the Union—it’s just north of the Union across the parking lot. The second rain garden will be completed during the first week of school by two Civil and Environmental graduate students. Dasch Houdeshel and Thomas Walsh will install and test Native American Ollas clay pots and a self-designed drip system that uses donated capalene scraps from Patagonia to measure the soil moisture content and water the native plants. The results of the 18-month test will be part of their Ph D. dissertation and shared with the Grand Canyon National Park to assist with their irrigation plans.

Look, no sprinklers required

Another project launching this fall is the “Green Tee” initiative. After learning about the science behind climate change in one of his classes, Nate Nelson decided he wanted to raise funds for sustainability research. So he is starting the “Green Tee” business and will be selling 100% environmentally responsible t-shirts on campus and throughout the Salt Lake valley to help spread the message of sustainability. All proceeds will return to SCIF to allow for more student research projects in the future.

The idea behind the Union Lighting Project came about when Julie Henry was lying in her dorm-room bed and noticed the ancient lamp posts outside her window and thought about how much energy was being wasted with the old lights. Julie, a sophomore studying architecture, is now working on a pilot study of a 100% recyclable light bulb that is expected to last for 23 years. If the pilot study shows positive results, it could pave the way for more efficient outdoor lighting across campus. Julie, Nate, Dasch and Thomas are just a few of the many students involved with sustainability projects this year. More SCIF projects are underway and will be highlighted throughout the semester. If you would like to get involved with these green efforts, please visit the website at and click on “sustainability”.