The Challenge to Make a More Sustainable Campus
April 21, 2014 | by Elizabeth Wason
Suppose you want to bike to the grocery store, but you’re unsure about how to get your groceries home without smashing the bananas and splattering the eggs. If you’re not a fan of dangling your heavy tote bag from the handlebars, you can use the solution LSA senior Libby O’Connell proposed through this year’s Abrams Environmental Action Challenge, sponsored by LSA’s Program in the Environment (PitE): O’Connell teamed with U-M’s Outdoor Adventures to start a program that rents out bicycle trailers designed to carry groceries and other heavy loads. She shared this year’s $1,700 prize with the Greek Life Sustainability Team (GLiST), which works to increase sustainability in Greek houses.
The award was conceived and funded by Wendy Abrams—founder of the international public art exhibition “Cool Globes,” which confronts the problems and solutions associated with climate change—along with her husband, Jim. Winners are awarded the seed funding to implement their community sustainability project.
“Anybody who understands the science of climate change, I think, has a sense of urgency [about sustainability],” Abrams says. “We want to think about these issues that will affect our lives. What better place to do it than at a university?”
PitE launched the first Abrams Environmental Action Challenge in 2012. The winners were Kill-A-Watt, which hosts annual competitions to see which residence hall can save the most energy; and TREES (Taking Responsibility for the Earth and Environment Subcommittee of the LSA Student Government), which used its award to provide students with environmentally friendly cleaning kits.
“PitE is all about engaged and applied learning,” says Gregg Crane, PitE program director and a professor of English language and literature. “I am thrilled and very grateful that the Abrams Environmental Action Challenge gives students a hands-on opportunity to put their learning into environmental practice.”
Cover photo: courtesy of Kill-A-Watt. Top photo: courtesy of U-M Student Life.