By Maria Archibald, Sustainability Office
Have you ever looked around campus and had a creative idea, perhaps for an art installation or a landscaping initiative? A green building feature or collaborative research project? Or maybe an educational opportunity for students to learn about environmental justice and build appreciation for the natural world?
Fortunately, there are resources and money—even during the public health crisis—available for all students, staff, and faculty who dream of transforming the University of Utah into the most sustainable, resilient, and inclusive campus it can be.
The Sustainable Campus Initiative Fund (SCIF) is a grant program that funds a variety of sustainability initiatives at the U. The fund supports student-, staff-, or faculty-led projects that enrich student experiences while giving back to the campus community. SCIF is made possible by students; each student pays $2.50 per semester into the grant program.
“SCIF is a tool that can really elevate problems on campus and turn them into sustainable opportunities,” says SCIF Manager Emerson Andrews. “In the long term, we hope it makes campus a regenerative place. Not just a net zero place, but a regenerative place.”
Andrews explains that the SCIF framework is rooted in the university’s understanding of sustainability as “the work towards a future wherein we maintain environmental integrity, economic security, and social equity for future generations and for ourselves.” Any idea that fits within this framework could be a SCIF project.
SCIF, like many campus programs, is adjusting to the realities of COVID-19, but Andrews wants the U community to know that “SCIF work is still happening.” Although the pandemic challenges some traditional ways of practicing sustainability, it also offers a unique opportunity to be creative and rethink what sustainability can look like.
For example, in-person events are not currently receiving funding on account of social distancing guidelines; however grants focused on digital events, infrastructure projects, research, and countless other ways of practicing sustainability are encouraged. “A lot of research opportunities are open because of COVID,” Andrews says. “It’s really forced the world to rethink how we operate, and that’s the same space that sustainability has been in for some time.”
Andrews encourages students, staff, and faculty to explore the intersections between COVID and the environment and to propose projects that focus on “resilience and adaptivity.” The pandemic has unveiled the importance of sustainability, and Andrews hopes that the U community will use SCIF as a tool to discover ways that “we can continue to function as a society through disruptive events,” whether those events come from disease, climate change, or unknown challenges.
Above all, Andrews wants the campus community to know that SCIF is for everyone. “Sustainability really touches all aspects of our lives,” he says, and every student, staff, or faculty member has something to offer. “Engineers are very crucial, so are artists; people who understand policy are just as crucial as people who understand planning; people who understand communications are just as crucial as people who understand the science behind everything,” Andrews explains.
Whatever your skills, interests, and passions may be, consider applying for SCIF to make your ideas a reality. “This is for you,” Andrews says. “Let’s try something.”