The Rincon Heights Neighborhood has teamed up with the UA to build a 60-bed community garden that doubles as an outdoor, hands-on learning laboratory for students. With the help of two UA interns, the UA Masters of Public Administration Student Association, and the UA Compost Cats, neighborhood residents have prepared 36 garden beds, planted two fig trees and acquired a cache of shovels and other gardening tools. The group plans to plant 10 more fruit trees and finish another 28 garden beds, several of which will be raised and made wheelchair accessible. There are also plans for a rainwater harvesting system, a solar food dehydrator, a small greenhouse and even a composting outhouse.
In 2012, the UA made a decision to support sustainability by officially encouraging departments to buy “greener” goods and services. Through a series of staff trainings, student gatherings and residence hall meetings, the Office of Sustainability and Residence Life are spreading the word about this initiative, while educating their own staff on simple ways to buy less, use less and buy green. In collaboration with Office Depot, the standard UA order form for office supplies is even undergoing a revision to highlight greener options.
With support from the UA Green Fund, and under the guidance of faculty members from the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, a graduate student is developing a trio of new green experiments, one of which involves chemically recycling the polymer PETE (#1)—a.k.a. plastic bottles. These three new experiments produce minimal waste and require students to use minimally hazardous materials, which makes them more environmentally friendly and safer than o-chem labs of the past. With nearly 1,000 students participating in o-chem labs each semester, these changes have the potential to significantly shrink the UA’s environmental footprint.
The Green Degree Guide, along with the Green Course, Green Career, and Green Engagement guides, helps students discover and pursue environment- and sustainability-related opportunities around campus, and even after graduation. The Green Degree Guide details all degree and certificate programs on campus at the UA featuring environmental or sustainable tracks or components. Organized by college and department, this information will be available through the campus-wide Environment and Sustainability Portal website.
Building on the success of a test crop of gourmet mushrooms grown in 2013, UA students and researchers are partnering with Tucson Village Farm and the UA Controlled Environment Agricultural Center to produce large quantities of mushrooms from discarded landscaping and consumer waste. Together, they are creating a simple production-recycling program at the UA that can easily be copied by anyone interested in converting this type of waste into tasty and nutritious fungi.
Residence Life at the University of Arizona is expanding EcoPower, its groundbreaking “virtual room” software application, to include off-campus apartments. EcoPower is designed to educate students and employees about the impact of their energy use. The software will be advertised at off-campus housing fairs, seminars for students preparing to make the big leap out of the residence halls, and even on the Facebook pages of apartments listed around campus.
In collaboration with UA Parking & Transportation Services (PTS), SolarCats is launching a pilot project to see if a pair of golf carts can be successfully retrofitted with solar power, and whether the system saves the university on maintenance costs. The panels are expected to double the life of the carts’ batteries, which typically need to be replaced every two years at a cost of up to $180 each. With 30 carts in the fleet, these panels could lead to big savings for the UA.
Facilities Management plans to install power management software on 2,250 computers around campus. This software establishes uniform power settings, and will help the team track usage throughout the year—allowing the UA to make smarter decisions when it comes to leaving workstation computers on, or turning them off. This one-year pilot project is designed to test the system, and after helping with the initial installation, an undergraduate student employee will continue to monitor the results. The next step is to connect half the workstations on campus to this energy-saving system. This move is expected to trim the university’s carbon footprint by 560,250 pounds every twelve months.
This project involves University of Arizona students harvesting edible fruits, nuts and seed pods from trees in the campus arboretum. The goal is to promote the many benefits of trees and show the UA community how the urban landscape can contribute to food security and sustainability. The organizers will encourage interested UA students and members of the Tucson community to come out and help with harvests. Plans also call for a series of publications documenting best practices—so next season you can do it yourself.
Set atop Mingus Mountain, near Prescott, the James 4-H Camp is the flagship camp and conference center for Arizona 4-H. This project involves sustainable improvements for the camp including solar-powered LED lighting systems, a solar hot water heater for showers, a gray water recycling system, low flow toilets, and a composting toilet. UA professor Ed Franklin’s agricultural education students were recruited to help install the solar panels. The James 4-H camp is available to UA student- and faculty-run organizations for leadership development retreats, training, and for recreation ($20/person/night).
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