Mason Towe
Mason Towe

Junior economics major Mason Towe was one of 11 students at UGA to receive a grant to improve the university through the Campus Sustainability Grants Program. The program, funded by student green fees, provides financial and staff resources to implement student-initiated projects that further the university's sustainability goals.

Towe, from Watkinsville, will work with the Lamar Dodd School of Art, the College of Environmental Design, the Office of University Architects, the Materials Reuse Program and Facilities Management to establish a program to reclaim and reuse art materials from faculty, staff and students. The project envisions developing a program and a storage facility that enables artists to conserve money and resources by reusing diverted, unused or wasted materials.

“Basically what we want to do is to create a small facility for reusing materials at the art school,” Towe said. “At the end of every semester a lot of materials go to the landfill, things like lumber and PVC pipe. And we’d like to cut down on that. A lot of art students prefer to reuse materials anyway; it saves them money and it’s a little more fun.”

Towe is using the $3,300 grant to outfit a shipping crate on campus to house resuable art supplies.

“The reason I’m involved is that I’m the Zero Waste Intern in the Office of Sustainability, and I’ve been focusing on any ways we can save the university money that is currently being spent on landfill fees,” Towe said. “Also, the university is trying to divert 65 percent of we send to the landfill by 2020. So composting, recycling, reusing — anything we can do to divert that material — is a good thing. It costs the university $43 per ton to send material to the landfill.”

Student projects that received funding align with UGA's 2020 Strategic Plan to promote stewardship of natural resources and advance sustainability research, education and service at UGA and beyond.

The Campus Sustainability Grants Program has helped foster several ongoing UGA initiatives. Since its inception in 2010, the Office of Sustainability has awarded a total of $130,000 to fund 37 student-initiated sustainability projects at UGA. This year, the program offered its most awards to date through a partnership with UGA's Ideas for Creative Exploration and increased operational funding announced by UGA President Jere W. Morehead.

Kevin Kirsche, director of the Office of Sustainability, said the program is a great way for students to learn valuable grant-writing skills and to make a tangible difference on campus and in the local community.

"The Campus Sustainability Grants Program is an opportunity for students to learn by doing," he said. "The program provides an avenue for UGA students from diverse academic backgrounds to work collaboratively and develop innovative ideas from concept to completion."