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Sustainable Campus Initiative Fund: Year in Review (2020-21)

By Emerson Andrews, Sustainable Campus Initiative Fund manager

Despite the global pandemic, the Sustainable Campus Initiative Fund (SCIF) funded 14 projects during the 2020-21 academic year. The grants totaled $132,527, the most funding provided in one year in the grant program’s 12-year history. The projects covered a wide range of issues, from re-usable menstrual cup distribution to community-involved air quality monitoring. Project funding is approved by an allocation committee of students, staff, and faculty.


Sustainability Kits Distribution, $880

Project Manager: Alex Farley  |  Project Advisor: Erica Anderson

The ASUU Sustainability Board partnered with the Feed U Pantry and child care centers at the University of Utah to distribute sustainability kits to traditionally underserved populations. The sustainability kits, which included water bottles, food storage containers, and reusable sandwich bags, were distributed to people who frequented the Feed U Pantry and childcare centers throughout the year.

Youth, Environment, and Belonging, $958

Project Managers: Meghan Burrows, Melissa Paulsen, Lauren Swidnicki  |  Project Advisor: Adrienne Cachelin

This project explores the intersections of environmental justice and how middle and high school participants in underserved communities understand “environment” and what they value in their own communities. The research explores youth perceptions of environment across race, class, and gender. The project also provided a structure for participants to develop community asset maps, which will help community-based researchers more easily build on these assets to address community needs and improve social and ecological health. Additionally, the maps provide an outline for the University of Utah to respectfully and productively engage with community members.

Sustainable Produce Packaging, $380

Project Manager: Avery Durham  |  Project Advisor: Jessica Kemper

In partnership with the Edible Campus Gardens and the Feed U Pantry, sustainable packaging was purchased to distribute free produce to students. The pulp containers, brown paper bags, and plastic bins aim to make the produce easily accessible for students during the pandemic.

Low-Mow Conversion Pilot, $985

Project Manager: Bridgette Webb  |  Project Advisor: Jennifer Fayre

Staff in the Facilities Management Landscape Department received funding to plant a variety of pollinator-friendly, low-mow grasses in a struggling area. The project manager identified a plot of turf damaged by years of nitrogen testing and the stress of mowing in the housing district as the ideal location for piloting various grasses. The hope is that once these grasses mature, the area can become a living exhibition of the native transition from the Wasatch foothills to the semi-arid lowlands of Salt Lake Valley.


Tree Planting: A Campus Restoration Project with the MUSS, $9,850

Project Manager: Eadan McCarthy  |  Project Advisor: Sue Pope

The MUSS received funding to plant new trees on the University of Utah campus to help replace those lost in the windstorm on Sept. 8, 2020. The majority of the funds were used to purchase the necessary and desired saplings as identified by the Landscape Department and Open Space Facility Manager Sue Pope. Trees were planted in the same location as those lost or in a nearby site. Funds were also used to purchase gloves and shovels to enable student participation, as well as funding the labor cost of preparing the planting sites prior to the day of the event and clean them up in the days following.

Edible Campus Gardens Revamped Irrigation System, $3,238

Project Manager: Kaila Balch  |  Project Advisor: Jessica Kemper

This project implemented a new irrigation system at the western garden of the Edible Campus Gardens. The old irrigation system, prone to leaking, was replaced with new valve boxes, valve switches, a smart-control clock (by donation), blank tubing, and high-quality, four-season, drip irrigation. The idea for this project arose after garden staff noticed frequent leaks and garden-bed flooding from the old drip irrigation system. The investment in a more technologically-advanced irrigation system reduces water waste.

Menstrual Cup Distribution, $10,000

Project Manager: Olivia Kavapalu  |  Project Advisor: Alison Mortensen-Hayes

The Menstrual Cup Distribution project aimed to address two problems within our campus community: 1) The contribution to landfill waste of disposable period products; and 2) The inaccessibility of menstrual cups due to high costs and a lack of education surrounding the topic. The project addressed both issues by selling menstrual cups for $5—the retail cost is generally cost $20—and providing education with each cup.

Outdoor Program for SLC Refugees, $7,625

Project Manager: Tiffanie Fogel  |  Project Advisor: Jim Sibthorp   

This project established a program specifically for the Salt Lake City refugee population to participate in outdoor recreation experiences unique to Utah. This program introduces Salt Lake City’s refugee population to outdoor recreation opportunities to increase equity and access in outdoor experiences. The program used the funds to pay for facility use, climbing guides, and transportation.

Red Butte Creek Native Vegetation, $9,902

Project Manager: Justyna Kaniewska, Carrie Ann Marsh  |  Project Advisor: Sarah Hinners

In alignment with the Red Butte Creek Strategic Vision, students in the Department of City & Metropolitan Planning green infrastructure class received funding to plant native vegetation alongside the Red Butte Creek corridor. This project was initiated in conjunction with the larger Arapeen Trail Project and aims to restore the riparian ecosystem by plating native water and wildlife resistant vegetation.

Red Butte Creek Human Access, $5,400

Project Manager: Emily Meadows, Laurin Hoadley  |  Project Advisor: Sarah Hinners

Another group of students in the green infrastructure class received funding to integrate human access into the Arapeen Trail Project by funding stream adjacent seating and stairway access to Red Butte Creek. The students’ goal is to encourage human activity near Red Butte Creek by facilitating safe access and community use with low-impact trails, stairs, benches, and signage.

Pollinator Garden Interpretive Signage, $2,275

Project Manager: Amalia Friess  |  Project Advisor: Amy Sibul

In 2019, the Architecture Building Pollinator Garden was installed as part of an interdisciplinary effort to create a pollinator corridor at the University of Utah that also utilizes green infrastructure to fix flooding problems that impact the building. As a final piece to that effort, members of the original project team received funding to design and install interpretive signage at the pollinator garden. The informational sign helps passersby slow down and take a closer look at the garden and its pollinators, which provides place-based education and makes the university a more aesthetically pleasing place.


Cairns at the University of Utah, $10,000

Project Manager: Liz Ivkovich

UtahPresents, the University of Utah’s multidisciplinary arts presenter, used its SCIF grant to match funds for Cairns, an interdisciplinary working group that brings together scientists, artists, students, and community organizers. This project enabled people to collaborate on complex sustainability problems from the ground up, finding new and innovative ways to explore issues and find solutions. This grant was paired with support from the Global Change & Sustainability Center and UtahPresents to fund the program. Grant funds helped pay for artist fees and a small stipend for University of Utah participants to encourage investment of time and resources into this project.

Community-Based Educational Outreach to Address Air Pollution: A U-Community Partnership for Environmental Justice, $24,569

Project Manager: Casey Mullen  |  Project Advisor: Sara Grineski

Casey Mullen, a PhD candidate, received a grant to fund the sensors, incentives, and undergraduate/graduate research positions associated with the community air quality assessment research. This project aims to: (1) assess social inequities in the distribution of sensors from the AQ&U program, a non-governmental air quality monitoring network in Salt Lake County developed and overseen by the University of Utah; (2) use those results to provide fine particulate matter sensors to communities of concern with sparse air quality monitoring coverage in order to address inequities and examine residents’ experiences with participatory air quality sensing; and (3) deliver educational outreach about air pollution, Air Quality and U, and mitigation strategies to residents.

Electric Bus Air Quality Monitoring, $31,788

Project Manager: Daniel Mendoza

This project is a continuation of the air quality monitoring stations affixed to TRAX trains and stationary point sources throughout the Salt Lake Valley. The data collected by these stations has been invaluable to the air quality research and has informed important policy. This project expands monitoring stations to the new electric bus lines. Grant funds will also allow undergraduate students to participate in this research project and develop valuable skills in data collection, sustainability, and environmental justice work.