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Students encouraged to launch campus sustainability initiatives

Students turn one of the College's two commercial-sized composting units.
Students turn one of the College's two commercial-sized composting units.

Connecticut College students have a long history of environmental activism, and now a new grant program is helping them turn more of their ideas into reality. The Student Sustainability Grant Program, launched last fall by President Leo I. Higdon Jr., funds student-designed projects that will aid sustainability efforts at the College.

"Our students are passionate and ambitious, and this program allows us to fast-track their initiatives," Higdon said. "They get to experience the entire process - from idea to proposal to implementation - and make a lasting impact on our campus."

Approximately $25,000 in grants is available each year. Students must work with a faculty sponsor and the College's sustainability manager to develop a proposal - complete with a budget - and apply by one of four deadlines throughout the year.

The program is already a success, with six projects funded so far. They are:

- TEDxConnecticutCollege: During the 2011-12 academic year, a group of students produced a TEDx conference, an offshoot of the popular TED conferences hosted by the nonprofit organization of the same name. The conference - themed "Rethinking Progress" - had connections to the sustainability efforts at the College. Students received $4,000 to support the event, which they have pledged to hold each year.

- Sprout Organic Garden: The strong leadership of Sprout, the student garden organization, led to efforts to expand the existing organic garden into a highly visible symbol of the College's commitment to sustainability. The $4,200 in support granted through the program will help pay for tools and supplies necessary to enhance the productivity and community interest in the garden. (This project also received funding from the Bennack-Polan Foundation.)

- Composting Program: Established in Spring 2012, the Composting Program was a collaboration among students and the physical plant, dining services and sustainability departments to collect a portion of the campus's food waste for composting and use in the Sprout garden. The project received $4,500 in grant funding.

- Community Organizers for Sustainability Transformation (COST) Program: Also established during the spring semester, the COST Program aims to educate interested students about sustainability leadership. Funding in the amount of $3,250 was provided to support the program's upcoming first full year of operations.

- Summer Sustainability Fellow: A sustainability leader on campus proposed the creation of a summer position for a student to work on expanding the College's waste diversion efforts, continue development of the COST Program, and establish new collaborations with government and nonprofit organizations to support the growth of the College's sustainability efforts. The proposal received $4,210 in grant funding.

- Oliva Hall Lighting Upgrades: A group of theater students proposed a project to improve the quality of the lighting in Oliva Hall while reducing its energy consumption. The grant will provide $5,300 for the installation of cutting-edge LED light fixtures.

The next deadline for proposals is Oct. 15. For more information, students are encouraged to contact Manager of Sustainability Josh Stoffel at

September 7, 2012