GCSC Seminar: Awakening an Audience with Environmental Theater

By Maria Archibald, Sustainability Office

Thinking about climate change can be so overwhelming that we might, at times, wish to look away. Some aren’t willing to look at all. Phantom Limb Company invites us to consider our relationship to the natural world through a different lens—one that is mesmerizing, emotional, and beautiful.

On Tuesday, April 20 at 4 p.m., co-founder and artistic director of Phantom Limb Company Jessica Grindstaff will give her GCSC seminar, “Storytelling, Imagism and Empathy: Awakening an Audience,” which explores puppetry and performing arts as methods of generating emotion and action around environmental issues and climate change. Three virtual performances by Phantom Limb are also offered through UtahPresents, with the final screening on April 22. Ticket holders will be able to view all three performances through April 30.

Jessica Grindstaff began her career as a visual artist, and arrived in the theater industry through an unexpected twist of events. “I can’t really explain how we ended up where we have,” she says of her journey with co-founder, Erik Sanko. “We had a visual art show together, and then the gallerist wanted him to do a little performance with the puppets that he was exhibiting.”

“We just accidentally ended up making this play,” Grindstaff says. “It was supposed to run for a couple of weeks in downtown New York, and then the New York Times wrote it up and it ended up running for three months.”

The show was a huge success. After it closed, a producer approached Grindstaff and Sanko and asked what they hoped to do next. “We both had been big fans of the Shackleton story, so we said let’s make a play about that,” Grindstaff reflects. They received a grant to fund their idea, and soon found themselves in Antarctica researching Ernest Shackleton’s 1914 Trans-Antarctic Expedition. “I would say that it was actually there where it started to become real for me,” Grindstaff says. “I started to understand what I wanted to do”

In Antarctica, Grindstaff and Sanko met and worked with scientists whose research centered on climate change and melting ice. “The majority of their work [was]… in one way or another cataloging the effects of climate change on the ice, on the land, on the animals that live there,” Grindstaff explains. “So, rather than the play just being about Ernest Shackleton, we introduced a component to the piece that was about the future of Antarctica and climate change.”

It became important to Grindstaff and Sanko that their work include a social and environmental message. “And so, we decided to make a trilogy,” Grindstaff says. “We would spend the next 10 years making a trilogy that was related to people’s relationships to the environment and nature, and how that was changing,”

The second piece in the trilogy, Memory Rings, is about the Methuselah—the world’s oldest living tree. “We were looking at the timeline of that tree’s life and everything that happened from germination until now, and looking for stories of people’s relationship to the forest or wood over that time,” Grindstaff says. The final piece in the trilogy, Falling Out, takes place in Fukushima and examines the aftermath of the 2011 tsunami and subsequent nuclear meltdown—a natural disaster paired with a manmade disaster.

Phantom Limb’s plays rarely have words, focusing instead on movement and imagery. “On stage, we’re placing images near one another and then ask an audience to make their own connections,” Grindstaff says. “Especially when you’re talking about things like climate—issues that are overly described to us in society in very specific ways that are often around fear, or guilt, or what we should personally be doing—I think leaving space for people in that conversation to find out who they are, and what their role and what their thoughts are in it and their emotions are in it, is really important and it’s really powerful.”

Grindstaff and Sanko use puppets, in part because they are an effective medium for generating emotion. “For a puppet to work, someone has to empathize,” Grindstaff explains. “The puppet is nothing. It’s a piece of wood or a papier-mache. An audience member has to engage in the work on an empathetic level, they have to put themselves inside of it. And I think around the topics of climate and climate change and our roles in our communities, that that is a great thing to do.”

The results of their art are hard to measure, Grindstaff says, but audience members often tell her that they feel moved and leave the theater thinking about their own roles within these complex issues. “They walked out looking at themselves, which is a goal, I think, in our work.”

Register for Grindstaff’s talk on Tuesday, April 20 at 4 p.m. to learn more about Phantom Limb Company’s work, and how environmental art moves hearts and minds.

Searching for ‘Soul’-utions

“Imagining Sustainable Futures: Collaborative ‘Soul’-utions for Earthly Survival.”

The Global Change and Sustainability Center (GCSC) seminar series presents a lecture by Giovanna Di Chiro, Lang Professor for Issues of Social Change at Swarthmore College.

By Nicholas Apodaca, graduate assistant, Sustainability Office

When we talk about sustainability, we might assume that progressive science policy would naturally uplift and strengthen all communities. Yet in the scientific and political discourse around sustainable practices, many marginalized groups are ignored, despite often being the most vulnerable in our current climate crises. If we are going to fight climate change and build a sustainable world, we need to analyze the contemporary environmental discourse and seek social justice for those most affected.

Giovanna Di Chiro, the Lang Professor for Issues of Social Change at Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania, has dedicated her career to intersectional scholarship on environmental justice, sustainability and public policy. On February 12, as part of the Global Change and Sustainability Center’s Seminar Series, Professor Di Chiro will share her innovative work in her lecture, “Imagining Sustainable Futures: Collaborative ‘Soul’-utions for Earthly Survival.”

Di Chiro began her academic career in biology, then pivoted towards social issues and completed an interdisciplinary Ph.D.  in Environment, Health, and Development at the University of California Santa Cruz. Since then, she has worked in marine and tropical biology, but has always pursued innovative interdisciplinary methods of connecting social justice to science and policy.

Teaching plays an important role in Di Chiro’s work. Drawing on her own experiences as a graduate student, Di Chiro approaches the classroom as a space for cooperation and dialogue. She draws on the pedagogy of Paulo Freire, a radical Brazilian priest who saw the classroom as a space for cultivating intellectuals through critical exploration of inequality and justice. Di Chiro has brought her innovative teaching to universities from Australia to California to Massachusetts, guiding students in community-based learning methods that revolve around those impacted by environmental injustice and creating inclusive spaces for marginalized voices in the classroom.

Di Chiro’s research has often focused on the critical intersection of science policy and social justice. Her first book, Appropriating Technology: Vernacular Science and Social Power, was published in 2004 to critical acclaim. The book traced various case studies around the appropriation of technologies for social justice efforts by activists and marginalized communities.

Currently De Chiro is working on an exciting project titled Embodied Ecologies: Building a Different World on Earth, which draws on feminist theory and activism to explore the lack of inclusion of marginalized peoples and community advocacy in contemporary environmental science and policy discussions.

Outside the classroom, Di Chiro has a long-standing commitment to working with underprivileged communities. While teaching at Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts, she partnered with Nuestras Raíces, supporting the environmental justice organization’s mission through grant writing and developing local training programs around sustainable development, community agriculture and environmental health. Di Chiro was part of a community partnership that founded Energia, a community-based energy services corporation committed to the “triple bottom line:” employing low income community members, developing a management structure centered on a workers’ cooperative, and promoting energy conservation and general sustainability.

In Pennsylvania, Di Chiro has been working closely with community leaders in North Philadelphia to meet the sustainability needs of underserved and marginalized communities. This has led to the Serenity Soul-ar Collaborative, a unique partnership that pursues environmental justice for predominantly Black, low-income residents in the transition to sustainable green energy in the rapidly gentrifying North Philadelphia. By pushing for sustainable development that is locally-owned and tied to the strong cultural history of black communities in the area, the Serenity Soul-ar Collaborative intends to keep the “soul” in the transition to renewable energy sources.

In her lecture for the Global Change and Sustainability Center’s Seminar Series, “Imagining Sustainable Futures: Collaborative ‘Soul-tions for Earthly Survival,” Di Chiro will explore the challenges, successes, and lessons of her work in sustainability and social justice, and what it means for the future of our world. Come by ASB 210 on February 12 from 4 – 5 PM to learn more.



Originally posted on @theU on August 10, 2018

“My artwork is focused on wildlife and ecology. I am inspired by my encounters with wildlife—how I react, what biases come up.

Friends of Red Butte Creek and the Global Change & Sustainability Center awarded me a grant to create art of the wildlife in the Red Butte Creek area and I was able to combine that with my master’s degree project. I spent a year working in the Research Natural Area above Red Butte Garden, and the creek below it.

I wanted to know what the wildlife I encountered thought of me, but there wasn’t a way to do that. So, I paid attention to the emotions and feelings I had and worked to capture that.

One day I came across a snake. I’ve always been afraid of snakes, even non-venomous snakes. This snake’s eyes reminded me of my cat’s eyes. Given this familiarity, I felt affection toward the snake. I considered why I feel differently about a cat versus a snake. Is it the way it looks? The way it moves? It shifted the way I view snakes.

Another time I was working along the edge of the creek in Research Park. To avoid poison ivy, I ended up walking in the creek. I was photographing an insect egg structure when two fawns came down behind me to drink water. They were surprised, very curious and aggressive for fawns. I wondered if I was the first human they had seen, which was bizarre and exciting, and may have informed their odd behavior.

Through this project I considered what it would be like to be another species and challenged my biases toward particular species.”

— Claire Taylor, BFA ’07, M.S. ’16. Claire’s artwork will be featured on the U’s 2018-19 sustainability events calendar.

Exploring the Politics of Space

Bianca Greeff, Graduate Assistant.

Growing up in Los Angeles, Sarah Kanouse was aware of the ways Los Angeles transformed from a desert community to a bustling city by building water and power structure. Later, when Kanouse found herself in “small college communities surrounded by cornfields,” she began to realize that rural landscapes are not as bucolic as they are portrayed.

“Being a person curious about where I am and what is surrounding me made me realize that the idealized landscape of rural America was heavily industrialized and engineered,” said Kanouse. “It is just as engineered as the city of Los Angeles.”

Landscapes, both urban and rural, are actively produced. Sarah Kanouse, Department of Art + Design at Northeastern University, works towards uncovering the historical, material, and social processes that have shaped a landscape through a range of artistic mediums.

Kanouse will present several of her recent works that address the ways in which environment and society influence one another at the GCSC Seminar Series on Tuesday, Feb. 20, 4-5 p.m. in 210 ASB.

Kanouse identifies with an emerging area of creative work known as artistic research or practice-based research. A single medium does not define this artistic practice, rather it is defined by ones’ inquiry.

“For artistic research, the media you select needs to align with the set of ideas you are working with,” explained Kanouse. “Artistic design realizes that mediums are not neutral carriers of meaning. They have legacies that can be used productively, critically, or skeptically in your work.”

Kanouse’s artistic research is focused on the social production of landscape. The social production of a landscape recognizes the social and cultural processes that have shaped our ecological surroundings—sometimes in overlapping and conflicting ways. Kanouse researches these social landscapes by looking both at the way we create pictures of the land, but also the social practices that shape how we and perceive it. 

“Both the art genre [of landscape painting] and social expectations tend to make landscapes seem monumental and eternal. They generally conceal the ways [landscapes] are the product of historical, material, and ecological processes that have been going on for a long time,” said Kanouse.

This inquiry inspired Kanouse to create a film titled Around Crab Orchard—which she will share clips from in her presentation. Kanouse, along with many others, enjoyed spending time in Crab Orchard as a place of recreation. Crab Orchard is the only wildlife refuge in the United States who hosts active industry. What began as defense contracting site in WWII has evolved over time to address the economic needs the community and the state’s desire to open a maximum-security prison, said Kanouse.

The Monsanto Hearings by Sarah Kanouse. Used with permission.

“The film weaves together all these different stories of Crab Orchard that are usually told separately, or not at all,” said Kanouse. “It does so in a way that unpacks how the visual manifestation of recreation, hiking, and camping conceals all of the other aspects of this space.”

Kanouse’s work often alternates between solo projects and collaborative socially engaged projects. In the collaborative projects, Kanouse takes on the role of a facilitator who enables the creative expression and participation of people who may not identify as artists. One socially engaged project Kanouse has facilitated is The Monsanto Hearings. In this performative series, the courtroom became a stage for small communities dependent on agriculture to share their stories.

“We created this space for people to present evidence about how the decade-long practices of Monsanto had negatively impacted their community,” said Kanouse.

To learn more, attend Sarah Kanouse’s lecture, “Entanglements: artistic strategies for complex ecologies” on Tuesday, Feb. 20 at 4 p.m. in 210 ASB.


Cover Photo: Around Crab Orchard by Sarah Kanouse. Used with permission. 

Embodied Sustainability

By: Bianca Greeff, Graduate Assistant

As a socially engaged artistic process, dance can be a powerful medium for communicating the ideas, facts, and figures of sustainability and environmental justice. Engaging with these ideas on a physical level can lead to a new perspective of the interconnections between our bodies and the environment.

Dr. Ananya Chatterjea, professor in the University of Minnesota’s Department of Theatre Arts & Dance and founder/artistic director of Ananya Dance Theatre, will explain how dance can connect and ground us at the GCSC Seminar Series on Tuesday, October 24, 4-5 p.m. in 210 ASB.

For Chatterjea, the body is both at the center of her work and in the middle of the environmental justice movement. Through dance, Chatterjea has been able to understand her connectivity to the world and engage with environmental justice in a different way than she would have without art.

 “Everything ultimately filters through the body,” Chatterjea explained. “When you cannot breathe in the way you need to, or when the food you eat or the water you drink does not refresh or rejuvenate your physical body, your humanity begins to diminish.”

Dance is a way to connect with our bodies to help us understand ourselves and how we interact with others. Chatterjea knows that for some, the idea of dancing may seem intimidating.

“Dance has been taken over by this idea that only people with highly able and fit bodies are the people who can dance,” Chatterjea noted.

Pushing against the way dance has been taken over by reality shows and single body types, Chatterjea works to create a form of dance that allows for femininity and resistance by embracing the body’s strength and beauty. In her dances, Chatterjea layers Odissi — a classical Indian dance form — the martial art form Chhau, and vinyasa and pranayama yoga.

All these different movement forms are connected through the idea of being grounded. While each form brings different ideas and aesthetics to the piece, weaving them together creates a language that allows for a powerful feminist presence.

“Women are constantly doing beautiful work,” Chatterjea said. “They are the sustainers of humanity, but a lot of their work doesn’t go down into ‘history’ with a capital H. We have to tell these stories and archive them through our bodies.”

The narrative arc Chatterjea creates in each dance is partly remembered, partly researched, and partly imagined. The stories told in the choreography come from a collective voice. Chatterjea describes her choreographic process as collecting stories. Sometimes through story circles or workshops, voices come together to create a collaborative, connected narrative.

Bringing different voices and bodies into dance is at the core of the Ananya Dance Theatre’s work. The company is comprised of women artists of color who create socially engaged, embodied art.

“I want to fill dance with the most unlikely bodies and the most unlikely of faces and to see dance everywhere,” Chatterjea said.

To hear more about how embodied art can be resistance, attend Chatterjea’s seminar, “Choreographies of Resistance: Dancing Ecosystems” on Tuesday, October 24, 4-5 pm in 210 ASB. The entire company will perform their latest work, “Shyamali: Sprouting Words” as part of UtahPresents’ 2017-18 season on Saturday, October 28, 7:30 pm. 


Burned Out Art Installation, $262.14

Project manager: Lya Yang  |  Project advisor: Wendy Wischer

Lya Yang created an interactive sculpture installation to talk about energy use and indirectly bring awareness to carbon dioxide emissions created by power plants that generate electricity by burning fossil fuels. The piece consisted of black structures to evoke factory plants and handles placed at varying points, which viewers could engage with. Four different people cranking all four handles caused a portion of the sculpture to light up. The lights served as both a warning about non-renewable consumption of electricity and a beacon of hope in the search for a solution that can only be achieved if the collective works together.

Cowspiracy Screening, Panel, and Information Fair, $210

Project manager: Jayla Lundstrom  |  Project advisor: Howard Lehman

Eating sustainably can be one of the most effective ways for individuals to reduce their environmental impact. The screening of the 2014 documentary “Cowspiracy” about the footprint of animal agriculture, facilitated thoughtful reflection and discussion and ignited student action and involvement. The screening was followed by a panel discussion with professors and community members who have expertise in sustainability fields. An information fair after the event offered students and community members the ability to connect with sustainable campus organizations and local groups. Attendees gained an understanding of how their actions impact the environment and how they can make a difference.

Solar Car Cooler, $754.09

Project manager: Beau Healey  |  Project advisor: Meredith Metzger

When parked vehicles heat up in hot weather, energy is wasted to run air conditioning to cool them to comfortable levels. Therefore, students developed a 3-D printed, solar powered, forced convection cooling system for cars. Testing was conducted to evaluate the amount of reduction in carbon emissions as well as consumer fuel savings. This device circulates ambient air throughout the vehicle, while forcing the hot air out. The final Solar Car Cooler prototype is able to lower the inside vehicle temperature to the ambient temperature outside the vehicle, successfully maintaining the inside vehicle temperature at a safe temperature.

Winterizing the Wildlife Society at the U, $540

Project manager: Amy Sibul

Caretakers of the beekeeping and kestrel nest boxes utilize a golf cart purchased through SCIF in the past, and it has proven to be incredibly useful. It allows for the transportation of ladders, equipment, hive materials, and more. In winter weather, maintenance of the cart is necessary. Funding for this project purchased a protective cover for the cart, as well as rugged tires that are better able to handle trail access needs. The cart is now better suited for winter weather so that it can continue to support beekeeping and kestrel nest box efforts.

Cradle-to-Cradle Coffee Maker, $2,613.77

Project manager: Marie Vandervliet  |  Project advisor: Roseanne Warren

Cradle-to-Cradle is a design philosophy emphasizing life-cycle sustainability of a product. This project created a coffee maker that could operate solely from the user’s input, rather than electricity. The user operates the coffee maker by riding a bicycle, which spins a circular plate of magnets beneath a copper water tube. The spinning magnets create a magnetic field that generates a current through the copper tube, creating heat. This project represents a successful example of how a human could reasonably spin magnets to brew coffee, without the need for a battery or other electrical source.

Food Recovery Network Operations Coordinator, $4,953.05

Project manager: Julia Maciunas  |  Project advisor: Shannon Jones

The United States wastes nearly 30-40% of all food produced. In an effort to combat that, the Food Recovery Network (FRN) reduces food waste from one of the most prominent and sizeable waste streams on campus and diverts potential edible food waste to feed food insecure students and other community members. The establishment of a paid FRN Operations Coordinator, funded by SCIF, helps to create a viable organizational model for the FRN and guarantees a functional transition plan for student leadership turnover. Ultimately, the position helps to engage students on a campus-wide level to realize the impacts of the university’s food system.

The Dying Spirit: Intermedia Sculpture, $4,287.07

Project manager: Darby DeHart  |  Project advisor: Wendy Wischer

“The Dying Spirit” is a sculptural piece created to increase awareness about the erosion of the Bonneville Salt Flats. The sculpture depicts Ab Jenkins, 24th Salt Lake City Mayor and Bonneville race car driver, positioned mid-run. His left hand is stretched out in front of him, but the salt on his body is disintegrating to reveal the soil underneath. The piece was temporarily displayed on the Salt Flats as well as in the Marriott Library during peak weeks.

(In)visible Interactive Art Piece, $300

Project managers: Ciria Alvarez, Maria Olsen, Uyen Hoang  |  Project advisor: Wendy Wischer

This project brought awareness to Red Butte Creek, which runs primarily underground throughout Salt Lake and the University of Utah. The art piece consisted of a river made out of wood and painted with chalkboard paint at Library Plaza. The art piece posed questions about the creek, the importance of water, and environmental justice that students could discuss by writing on the river. The project brought attention to the water sources we use and often take for granted, thereby making the “invisible” visible. It also brought out the voice of the surrounding community to potentially aid the preservation of the creek.

(In)visible Outreach Mailing, $206.70

Project managers: LeAnne Hodges, Morgan Crowley, Derek Rennicke  |  Project advisor: Wendy Wischer

This smaller piece of the bigger (In)visible project to raise awareness about Red Butte Creek involved sending letters to students to share personal stories about the creek. Even though the creek runs through campus, little awareness about it exists on campus. By appealing to students emotionally through the letters, students raised awareness for the creek and encouraged people at the University of Utah to be more conscious of how they may harm the watershed. After receiving one of these letters, which includes a map and photo of the creek, students could write their own letters and pass it on to others.

(In)visible Plaza Food, $470

Project manager: Katie Barber  |  Project advisor: Wendy Wischer

This project consisted of an event on Library Plaza with themed food and discussion to raise awareness about Red Butte Creek and other lesser-known watersheds. The event encouraged students to actively participate in learning about Red Butte Creek’s importance, and the correlation between the food and the watershed emphasized the immediacy of the Red Butte Creek’s impact on the students themselves. Discussion centered around the growing need to acknowledge the systems through which Red Butte Creek is affected by campus activity.

(In)visible T-Shirt, $200

Project manager: Emma Wardle  |  Project advisor: Wendy Wischer

This aspect of the (In)visible project consisted of a walk through campus to raise awareness about Red Butte Creek in which blue t-shirts were given out. When perceived as a group, the students walking together in blue t-shirts gave the impression of a river moving through campus, as Red Butte Creek does. The t-shirts also drew attention to the project, created incentive for students to join, and allowed the project to have a lasting impact by extending the conversation beyond the campus walk.

Air Quality Ambassadors, $735

Project manager: Kimberly Kernan  |  Project advisor: Brenda Bowen

The Air Quality Ambassadors aimed to bring air quality science to K-8 students in demographic populations not typically targeted by other organizations. The ambassadors designed lesson modules that expanded upon the work currently being done by AIRU and BreatheUtah to broaden the scope of education already occurring. Through the modules, they created a hands-on science experience related to Salt Lake Valley’s air pollution and relating it to weather and geography. They also introduced students to the health effects from air pollution and discussed the multiple ways to improve air quality including personal choices and involvement with state and local regulators.

Composting Improvements, $668

Project managers: Amber Henshaw and Myrna Groomer  |  Project advisor: Kathleen Nicoll

The Edible Campus Gardens currently partner with University Dining Services to compost food waste. This group’s 8-bin wire compost system located within the University of Utah’s Pioneer Garden was experiencing numerous operational problems. Therefore, with SCIF funding, students purchased two “Compost Twin” tumblers. Through this project, students were able to reduce campus greenhouse gas emissions and campus landfill waste loads, increase compost operation efficiency, increase soil health profiles and soil reserves for holistic planting within the garden, and increase student opportunities for sustainable community building, volunteering, leadership, and education around the University of Utah’s compost integration.

Earth Week Film Screening, $481

Project manager: Jonathon Kuntz  |  Project advisor: Tasha Myers

For University of Utah’s annual Earth Week, students hosted a screening of the film “How to Let Go of the World and Love All the Things Climate Can’t Change”. The film examines the interwoven forces that create climate change and the people globally working against them. Earth Week educates faculty, staff, students, and the public about different ways the university is working toward a more sustainable future. It is important to educate people about Earth Week’s mission so they may change even a small part of their lives to aid environmental efforts.

Park Water Bottle Filling Stations, $1,068

Project manager: Jack Hattaway

The south approach to the Park Building is a high-traffic zone for student pedestrians headed to and from classes on Presidents Circle, campus shuttles, and mass transit. Given the building’s convenient location, a bottle filling station is an excellent student resource. This project purchased and installed water bottle retrofit kits for the basement floor water fountains in the Park building. These water bottle filling stations help to eliminate the dependence on external vendors such as Mount Olympus. They also reduce the need for single-use water bottles and provide a convenient place for students to fill their reusable bottles.

People’s Climate March Performance and Flyers, $420

Project manager: Colin Green  |  Project advisor: Stephen Goldsmith

The Utah People’s Climate March was an event that stood with the worldwide march on April 29, 2017. Two important groups of voices for climate change are youth and native people, so this project set out to get both involved in the Climate March. This grant provided funding for marketing materials that were spread around campus, as well as for a native drum group to perform during the march. Funding for these aspects of the rally demonstrate the university’s understanding of the role that native people and youth play in solving the climate crisis.

Project Youth, $352.15

Project manager: Rena Adair  |  Project advisor: Bryce Williams

Project Youth is an annual event where fifth- and sixth-grade students from Salt Lake County are invited to the university to experience a taste of college life. This year over 1,000 students participated, as well as over 200 university volunteers. Students received a SCIF grant to purchase tumblers and pie tins for the event. These supplies allowed organizers to feed all of the students and volunteers lunch while eliminating a lot of waste. It was a wonderful day made better by students’ ability to help the environment as well.

Reusable Bags at the Feed U Pantry, $1,091.13

Project manager: Nick Knight  |  Project advisor: Shannon Jones

Feed U allows any University of Utah student, staff, or faculty member facing food insecurity to receive free food when they visit the Feed U Pantry. During each visit, plastic bags are provided to clients to collect and carry their food items. Providing these disposable plastic bags to clients causes budgetary strains on the Feed U program, causes an unnecessary waste of materials, as well as uses plastic bags that are not environmentally sustainable. SCIF funded screen-printed reusable bags that would decrease overall program costs, give clients a more sustainable option for carrying pantry food items, and reduce stigma.

Solar Ice Maker, $616

Project manager: Brandon Hammid  |  Project advisor: Kent Udell

Through this project, students designed and developed a solar-powered refrigeration unit that creates ice inside of a cooler. The use of solar and battery power makes the product independent of an electrical grid, and the electrical generation and storage generates no harmful carbon emissions. By assuming 75 hours of annual use by 100,000 units, 680,000 lbs CO2, 900 lbs NOx, and 450 lbs SO2 emissions are eliminated that would be generated during grid powered ice production. Furthermore, the ability to grow ice, and have reliable, grid independent food storage can extend shelf-life of perishable goods, vaccines, and more.

An educational sign on a tree in President's Circle at the University of Utah.

Tree Campus USA Promotions, $225

Project managers: Brianna Milot and Emma Bellan  |  Project advisor: Troy Bennett

Tree Campus, a national designation, recognizes the University of Utah’s dedication to its tree population and to ensuring a sustainable future. The trees on our campus are alive in part simply because people have cared to support them. In an effort to get more students involved in the Tree Campus Organization, this project hired a student to create promotional flyers that were distributed on campus and social media. Promoting Tree Campus will ensure that trees will always be an important part of the University of Utah. 

ADA Accessibility for Pioneer Gardens, $5,527

Project managers: Brianna Milot and Matthew Briggs  |  Project advisor: Jennifer Watt and James Ruff

This project secured ADA access for the Pioneer Garden, which is part of the Edible Campus Gardens, by adding an ADA compliant pathway east to west through the garden. The pathway included a wider semicircle area in the middle for a good turn-around point and extended the sidewalk on the west. This pathway allows access to the central part of the garden, where there will be seven ADA accessible gardening beds. This accessible pathway helps with the inclusion of people with disabilities into specific courses, academic programs, the campus community, and the physical location of the garden itself.

AEB Natural Playground, $10,000

Project managers: Kate Kausch and Rachel Carrillo

Staff in the ASUU Child Care Program created a sustainable outdoor classroom. They added a a flagstone path and retaining wall to their outdoor space, giving children a variety of surfaces to explore, and plant beds to include living plants specifically chosen to engage all of the senses. As a result of this project, children can engage in an all-natural playground and learn sustainability practices that they can take with them throughout their lives. Additionally, the parents are becoming involved in the maintenance of the playground and students can learn best practices for the field of early childhood education.

Centennial Valley Solar, $5,500

Project manager: Matt Angioli  |  Project advisor: Jennifer Watt

In this project, seven solar panels were installed at the Taft-Nicholson Environmental Humanities Center. The addition of solar panels to the center is a great update in energy solutions to protect against power outages and to lessen the impact of the center and the university on the environment. This project also sets a high precedent in green energy use as a research facility for other university satellite facilities and to visiting students alike.

Compost Heat Capture, $3,710

Project manager: Sean Lund  |  Project advisor: Marc Calaf

Students built a compost heat capturer to be used at the Edible Campus Gardens. Compost is a resource that generates thermal energy while providing nutrients and microbial activity to soils. This project helps to solve the thermal energy loss and complexity of use involved in composting. Additionally, this project improves local sustainability by processing organic waste created by U students. At the Mechanical Engineering Design Day, over 100 students visited this project. Additionally, a local community garden was ecstatic about the project and asked students to build another one for their other farm.

Mathematics Bike Racks, $10,779

Project manager: Della Rae Riker

The University of Utah Climate Action Plan and Bicycle Master Plan support an increase in the number of people commuting to campus by bicycle. The increased use of bicycles requires an increase in bike parking. In this project, bike racks were installed on the east end of LeRoy E. Cowles Building on Presidents Circle. Using the campus standard of the Varsity Rack by Ground Control Systems, enough racks were added to store 26 bikes. The Varsity Racks provide stability for the bikes to remain upright. This almost doubled the existing capacity in that area of Presidents Circle.

FASB Dyson airblades, $4,740

Project manager: Lily Wetterlin  |  Project advisor: Brenda Bowen

The Fredrick Sutton Building (FASB) is home to the Department of Geology and Geophysics. In this project, students replaced six of the current enMotion paper towel dispensers in the bathrooms of FASB with six Dyson Airblade V hand dryers. This project not only saves money for FASB and reduces carbon emissions and paper waste, it serves as a stepping stone for buildings all over campus to take initiative in switching to more sustainable products and inspiring future purchases to revolve around sustainability.

Sprouting words, $6,500

Project manager: Sierra Govett  |  Project advisor: Jennifer Weber

Ananya Dance Theatre is the leading creator of contemporary Indian American Dance in the global arts and social justice movement. In “Shyamali, Sprouting Words,” the company draws from the work of women of color, including acclaimed scientist and environmental justice activist Vandana Shiva, to explore how dissent creates resilient and sustainable communities.

In this project, students organized week-long interdisciplinary student intensive, a high school workshop, and a public audience empowerment workshop offered by Ananya Dance Theatre in conjunction with their performance. This project intersected sustainability, social justice, and dance-making to foster a resilient campus community.

ASCE Conference Sustainability, $1,500

Project manager: Jenny Calderon  |  Project advisor: Christine Pomeroy

The American Society of Civil Engineering (ASCE) 2017 Rocky Mountain Regional Student Conference took place April 6-8, 2017. Students incorporating sustainability measures throughout the conference. A service project was arranged at Red Butte Gardens. All printed materials were on recycled paper and name badges were placed in compostable name badge holders. A design competition took place in which students had to create a structure while considering material conservation. Recycling bins were placed at all events, resulting in about twenty 50-gallon bags of recyclable waste. The keynote speaker discussed sustainability extensively, and sustainability was included in conference logos.

EEJMRB water bottle filling stations, $1,500

Project manager: Amanda Mixon  |  Project advisor: Paul Sigala

With SCIF funding and matching funds provided by the departments of Biochemistry and Pathology, students installed water bottle filling stations on each of the five floors of the Emma Eccles Jones Medical Research Building at the School of Medicine. This project supports refillable water bottle use by the 200 students, postdocs, faculty, and staff who work in this building and thus substantially reduce disposable plastic consumption.

Sustainable Tech for DBB, $35,535

Project manager: Julia Warner  |  Project advisor: José Galarza

DesignBuildBLUFF is a 501(c)(3) administered out of the University of Utah that exists to promote applied research in contemporary rural architecture, cultural survival, and appropriate sustainable technology. With SCIF funding, students first installed Solar Photovoltaic Panel System for Cedar Hall, a multiuse space in Bluff. Next, they obtained a Compressed Earth Block Press to create compressed earth blocks, which create a sustainable, affordable, and durable building system. Students hosted a series of workshops to educate about the press. Lastly, students installed a Dense-Pack Fiber Cellulose Hopper, which creates an insulation material composed of 75-85% recycled paper fiber.

Social Equity in Transit, $8,560

Project manager: Torrey Lyons  |  Project advisor: Reid Ewing

Students used a combination of statistical and GIS analysis tools to evaluate regions with respect to social equity provisions by transit. A systematic evaluation was used to create a transit equity index (TEI). Regions’ TEI were then compared to determine how the Utah Transit Authority and our region compare to others throughout the country. This project produced a comprehensive report. It included a literature review, detailed methods, analysis, and results sections with specific conclusions discussing the project’s insight to campus and regional transit management. A research article was also submitted to a leading transportation planning journal.

Animating Sustainability

Bianca Greeff, Graduate Assistant

Lien Fan Shen is an Associate Professor in the Film & Media Arts Department at the University of Utah. She has published five manga (Japanese-styled graphic novels) in Taiwan, was awarded The Best Romantic Comic in Taiwan, and has won several international awards for her animation. Shen participated in the Wasatch Experience in 2015, and last month shared how she integrates sustainability into her courses at the interdisciplinary Sustainability Faculty Learning Community, a joint initiative of the Sustainability Office and the Center for Teaching and Learning Excellence.

I sat down with Lien after her presentation to discuss current projects, teaching strategies, and what the Wasatch Experience has to do with it.

The Ukiyo-e landscape print “The Great Wave” by Katsushika Hokusai is considered an icon of world art. What inspired your current project of using 3D technology to create Ukiyo-e style prints of Utah’s polluted landscapes?

I am interested in Japanese prints. But, I am not a printmaking artist. I have a very limited knowledge in terms of producing printmaking artworks. I’m a 3D animator, therefore I am wondering about new ways to utilize 3D printing technology actually connecting to the form of art.

Historically Japanese woodblock prints were more like popular art than high art, such as comic books and movie posters today. They were produced for the general public. One major subject matter in Japanese woodblock prints are landscapes. At the time, people weren’t able to travel around. So, if they wanted to see something from somewhere else, they would look at prints, just like we look at landscape photos today.

At the same time, I love Utah. I have traveled many places in Utah, and I think the environmental issues in Utah are huge. We have such amazing landscapes but often they present complex environmental issues. I thought about how landscapes are such a big subject in Japanese woodblock prints and thought “Why don’t I bring Utah’s landscape to that medium of art with new ways of making?”

Utah does have some magnificent landscapes. I am always disappointed when I can’t see the Oquirrh Mountains or Wasatch during the inversion. What role do you see the digital arts, or the digital artist, having in sustainability conversations?

All artists are trying to do something that hasn’t been done before. I don’t think that is something specific to the digital arts. And what is not “digital” now anyway? I think it is some driving force to try something new by connecting us to, more importantly, the new idea of the human interaction with the computer.

I am not aware of any other computer animation artists trying to build a connection between computer animation and sustainability. I have seen a lot of digital photography about sustainability, but not 3D technology and computer generated arts.  Computer generated images are often built upon a virtual world. When we talk about sustainability, we are talking about a lot of real issues in reality. We often separate the two—the real and the virtual world. I think this is a direction we should work on. We should connect the virtual world with the real world.

3D technology has been used widely in the issue of sustainability—as data-driven visual representation, serving specific scientific purposes, I would like to utilize this technology to incite some kind of feelings, expressions, emotions, that raises awareness of or challenges the unsustainable norms we have in society.

That is interesting idea—blending virtual and physical reality through sustainability. How do you incorporate sustainability into your animation courses?

In my animation production course, the students must learn the skills to make animation shorts. For our midterm project, I asked them to find a place that is significant for them and create an animation about it. Their final project is to create an interactive animation about a sustainability issue. To prepare, the students look for and analyze animation examples. What is the characters’ view of the environment surrounding them? What are the different points of view presented in this particular example of animation? I want them to see the complexity of issues in sustainability.

Animation/Film/Art is always about something. I try to design a project for students to get interested in the topics related to the environment. When I teach, I don’t call it sustainability. I get them interested in the environment and connect them with their environment.

Have you found any surprising connections to sustainability in your teaching?

I told them the idea of sustainability is open to your interpretation as long as you can convince me. I have some students working on the more personal side of sustainability. One project was about an eating disorder and more about sustaining herself as an individual. Another project was about depression. They argued it is about sustainable lives. One student did a great animation of silly/funny fights among characters. They were all shouting the word “sustainability” but they  weren’t really doing anything. I don’t want to limit them, so I let them do all kinds of projects as long as they present a case of their view .

In the end, I always have something that is quite fun and interesting

What challenges have you faced incorporating sustainability into your courses?

The learning objectives of my animation courses are to learn how to make animation. I don’t have a lot of time to discuss the issues, impacts, and why these issues are complicated. I asked my students to do their own research, but during the class time, we spend the majority of our time on learning animation techniques.

The class I incorporated the topic of sustainability in is actually a freshman/fundamental technique course. It is our basic course for animation students. So, I really hope we can have a more in-depth course where students already have the skills so they don’t have to spend too much time in terms of learning how to make animation and thus we can spend more time on investigating the issues they are engaged in their animations. So that is one of the challenges I am facing.

How has your involvement with the Wasatch Experience impacted your teaching?

By going through the Wasatch Experience, workshops, and chatting with folks, I received a lot of help in designing this course project. For example, I always have an assignment of animation analyses. I ask my students to analyze the techniques, story, character design, art styles, and other elements in order to understand the medium (animation) better. But after the Wasatch Experience workshop, I ask them to focus on the topics of sustainability while analyzing animation techniques, styles, character development, and other stuff. That was the idea from one of my Wasatch Experience peers during a group discussion. Implementing this made this particular assignment more solid and I think my students’ analyses now are more focused than before.

Also, my Wasatch Experience peers gave me a lot of accessible readings that I was able to incorporate into my assignments. I am not an expert on sustainability or environmental studies. I think not only I learned a great deal from others, but also now I am backed up with the network and resources for my teaching and research projects.

What advice do you have for faculty and teaching assistants who want to incorporate sustainability into their courses?

I think if someone wants to teach sustainability, the best approach is trying to not say the word. For a lot of students, this word becomes a barrier. In a way, you want to gradually bring them into what you want them to learn. Instead of telling them this big word that, in a sense, may mean nothing to them, my idea is always to think about how I can make them aware of their environment.

Image of Lien Fan Shen via the Utah Daily Chronicle article further highlighting her creative research and art-making.