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The Office of Environmental Stewardship announced the three recipients of the first-ever Green Fund on Monday. Winners included a project about water conservation, a plan to save energy at next year's Bacchanal, and a project focused on waste reduction at SIPA.

Water conservation, turning Bacchanal green, and reducing coffee cup waste are the three projects that the first-ever Green Fund recipients will take on next year. 

The Columbia Aquanauts, Corey Hammond, CC '16, and Winston Berkman, SIPA '15, were named the recipients of the Office of Environmental Stewardship's Green Fund on Monday. Each will be awarded between $5,000 and $10,000 to implement their project ideas over the course of the coming academic year. 

The idea has been kicked around for a number of years and the Office of Environmental Stewardship introduced the Green Fund last September, pooling together $25,000 from Columbia Dining, Columbia Housing, and University Event Management. Students submitted applications in February, and the Green Fund Selection committee, comprised of students, faculty, and staff, selected the three winners out of six applicants.

“We were looking for projects where the scope was really realistic,” Jessica Prata, the assistant vice president of the OES, said. “Some of the projects we received were really strong ideas, but given the complexity of Columbia, we felt needed a little more massaging as far as being able to be seriously considered.”

“The diversity was important, the fact that it was measurable was important,” Prata added. “We looked at what kind of awareness elements that the project would have—if we're going to do a water audit, how are we going to use those findings to educate the larger community.”

With their share of the Green Fund, the Aquanauts—a student group that focuses on clean water and water availability—will conduct a water audit that looks to improve water conservation in campus buildings, starting with McBain. Next year, they'll attach sensors to the building's water intakes, measure the efficiency of various features like faucets and shower heads, and conduct student surveys to get a broader understanding of students' water consumption, according to Aquanauts president Nelson Dove, a graduate student at SEAS.

“Undergrads really take our facilities for granted. People don't really care how much water they use—some people shower for an hour,” Aquanauts board member Kevin Chen, CC '15, said. “We're trying to make students aware of how much they're using because with awareness comes action. Right now we don't know anything.”

The Aquanauts also hope to eventually expand their efforts to a wider campaign to educate students and faculty about the consequences of their water use.

“We're hopeful this will push Columbia to the forefront of being sustainable,” said Alex VandenBroek, SCE '15.

Meanwhile, Hammond hopes to bring energy conservation awareness to next year's Bacchanal concert with a number of stationary bicycles that will generate energy when pedalled. The energy will be shunted into the University's power grid or stored in batteries, helping to power the concert in either way.

“I'm not just trying to produce energy, I'm also trying to give students a way to see things first-hand,” Hammond said. “Doing this project during Bacchanal at Low Steps will let students see how much energy they need to put into a bike workout to produce enough energy to even power an iPhone.”

Hammond said his project was first inspired by the trees on College Walk. 

“I was seeing them putting up lights and thinking about how they use so much energy to keep those lights on,” Hammond said. “My first thought was we could use bikes to power them, but then I remembered that it's freezing cold out.”

Hammond also hopes his project will unite students. 

“I'm always trying to think of ways to increase community, and I think giving people something to work with rather than just talking really helps.”

Finally, Winston Berkman plans to help the School of International and Public Affairs go green by doing regular waste audits and starting an education campaign to teach students the best ways to recycle their trash, especially coffee cups.

“You can learn a lot about people's activities based on their waste habits,” said Berkman, who said his group's goal is to get people engaged in thinking about how they throw stuff away. Berkman's group decided to focus on proper disposal of paper coffee cups because of the ubiquitous and relatable nature of the issue. 

Berkman's group hopes not only to educate SIPA students but to help them come together to collaborate on collective sustainability. 

“Not everyone needs to be a leader,” he said. “I think the projects that are the most successful are that ones that ensure it's easy to make the kinds of small changes that can have a big impact on our campus carbon footprint.”

All full-time students were encouraged to submit applications to the Green Fund, which looked specifically for ideas that would “directly contribute to the environmental sustainability of Columbia's operations, have a defined and measurable outcome, and include components that raise greater awareness of sustainability initiatives on campus,” according to the OES website. 

The winners will have a chance to celebrate and mingle with the departments they will be working with at a luncheon on Wednesday afternoon.

“It's very exciting,” Scott Wright, vice president of Campus Services, said. “We can't wait to see what they come up with.”  |  @ebbogz

Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated Scott Wright's title. Spectator regrets the error.

Office of Environmental Stewardship Green Fund sustainability Scott Wright Jessica Prata
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