GSU Goes Green, Growing Greener

Matt Sowell

When plans were made to build a new biology building, Georgia Southern University had one goal in mind: make it energy efficient. The same plan helped create the Recreation Activities Center and the renovation of Lakeside Dining Commons.

The university as a whole has received national attention for their efforts in creating a more ecologically friendly environment for students. The Center for Sustainability is thriving, constantly coming up with new and innovative ways to make GSU a green place.

According to Doctor Lissa Leege, the director of the Center for Sustainability, it all started in 2012 when students of GSU voted to create a sustainability fee. The entire project was student lead, from the proposal to the voting.

“There was a 75 percent majority in favor, which is incredible,” Leege said . “It was the highest majority of anything else being voted on at the time. Since then, we’ve been able to allocate funds to all kinds of sustainability projects around campus.”

Leege explained that when students pay the $10 green fee, the money is split in two ways. Half of the funds are used specifically to support the Center for Sustainability. The other half goes to sustainability grant projects.

“Any student, employee, or staff member can apply for a grant to take-on a sustainability project. In our first year we allocated $428,000 to campus projects, which is just mind blowing” Leege said.

Some of the money went to make some adjustments to the electric golf carts on campus. They were upgraded with solar panels so that they can charge while they are driven. Another portion of the money went to a new “storm water park” located near Forest Drive. The area collects rain water runoff to protect the watersheds from various toxins. There’s even a new bridge to make it aesthetically pleasing.

“A lot of planning goes into all of this, especially the buildings,” Leege said. “Our architects have worked hard to make these buildings as sustainable as possible. They produce as little construction waste as possible, recycle waste, buy materials from nearby radiuses, choosing sites that aren’t knocking down forest, specific lighting, choosing materials that don’t release toxins inside of the buildings, water conservation geared bathrooms, even the landscaping.”

In October, the Center for Sustainability will celebrate Greenfest, a celebration of all things sustainable held in downtown Statesboro. Melanie Sparrow, a graduate assistant for the center, is planning this year’s event.

“It’s our sustainability event, it’s gotten bigger and better every year,” Sparrow said. “We’re hoping to have at least 30 vendors this year.”

The event happens in tandem with the farmer’s market, which makes for an exciting Saturday morning in downtown Statesboro.

One of the draws of this year’s Greenfest is the “Pallet Challenge.” A competition to see who can make the most impressive innovation out of used wooden pallets. Guests are invited to form teams of five to participate, entry is free and prizes will be given to the winners.

Another exciting event put together by the Center for Sustainability is the new Student Community Garden, located across from the Williams Center.

“The idea started with the Green Ambassadors and CFS. Scott Blair and volunteers over the summer started the process of the garden,” Alexcia Taylor, an intern with the Center for Sustainability, said.

“It works by Scott and I choosing seasonal seeds for the garden. CFS sends out emails to volunteers and we have a work day of planting and maintaining the garden. The weeds or vines clipped are added to the mini compost bin beside the greenhouse. The garden is important to campus because students are able to be a part of their food. They get to see it from the beginning as a seed and then harvest it. It also provides a shorter route to enjoy local food. Students can get involved by contacting CFS through email or looking out for the cfs Instagram,” she explained.

The Center for Sustainability isn’t slowing down, with new projects beginning soon, they will continue to make the Georgia Southern campus a greener place for everyone.