Student Projects Promote a Sustainable Campus
Students in the UA Honors College presented dozens of ideas on ways to boost campus sustainability the same day the University's Green Fund opened a campus-wide call for funding requests regarding sustainability-related efforts.

By La Monica Everett-Haynes, University Communications
Dec. 9, 2010

Envisioning a more sustainable campus, a group of students have posed ideas for renovating and retrofitting buildings, installing shower timers, promoting educational smartphone applications and incorporating gym equipment that converts movement into energy while users burn calories.

More than 130 University of Arizona students in the Honors College presented these ideas and others during Thursday's MIS 111 Honors Project Showcase, held at the UA's Eller College of Management.

The judged showcase coincided with the UA Green Fund opening its campus-wide call for funding requests for projects centered on sustainability and strong student involvement.

"This is a testament to the creativity embodied in the students and great ideas to improve campus sustainability," said Lon Huber, the Green Fund chair, said about the forum.

All told, nearly three dozen projects were presented during the symposium. This year's winning teams are:

  • "Big Belly Trashcans," which would use solar energy to compact stored trash, enabling more storage and less need for frequent emptying while keeping pests out of the bins. 
  • "EcoCat Boxes" would serve to incorporate the use of reusable to-go containers at campus dining areas. The boxes could then be returned to Dining Services to be cleaned and sanitized for further use. 
  • "I Heart Tap Water" would involve testing tap water against bottled water while encouraging people to refill rather than replace water bottles. 

Huber, who attended the forum along with other Green Fund committee members, said the Green Fund committee would be providing seed funding to the "best ideas" from across campus.

Students who participated in Thursday's symposium are welcome to apply for funding, along with other members of the campus community – so long as students are involved in a "meaningful" way, he said.

"Some of the ideas are outside of the box and really interesting," Huber, also a UA graduate student in business administration, said about the symposium projects.

The symposium was the culmination of a semester-long course for pre-business students, the majority of them freshmen.

William T. Neumann has been teaching the management and information systems course for Honors College students for the last five years.

But, in the last three years, he has restructured the course, wanting to create a stronger connection between the students' instruction and practical, business-oriented applications.

"There is a lot of team work and a lot of thinking and innovation involved," said Neumann, one of Eller's senior lecturers and also the director of projects and undergraduate and master's programs.

That includes working effectively with colleagues, learning how to create and defend a business proposal, speaking publically and formally while also developing that all-important elevator pitch. 

During the semester, students worked in rotating groups on different projects before spending the last month in teams to develop ideas for sustainability projects and initiatives on campus.

Other student project proposals included:

  • "ConserveCat," which would allow members of the campus community to track their energy usage. 
  • "Eco-Tinting" would involve placing a film on the windows of UA buildings that would enable visible light to shine though while deflecting the majority of infrared and ultraviolet rays.
  • Students also promoted the "Naturally Recycling Food Through Vermicomposting" project to be utilized throughout campus. Vermicomposting is a process by which food waste breaks down into fertilizer without much management required. 
  • "Energize your Exercise" suggests incorporating ReRev, exercise equipment on campus. The equipment generates renewable energy through kinetic motion. 

"Sustainability is such an important focus on campus," Neumann added, noting that he opted to partner with Joseph Abraham, who directs the UA's Office of Sustainability. 

One team focused on an area important to most – the wallet, said Brian Wilka, a pre-business major working on his second degree.

"I'm not going to buy a $400 shower head, but I want my money to go where it's green," Wilka said.

Called "Greensquare: Sustainability Turned Social," the project would create a "green" version of the increasingly popular Foursquare mobile application. Greensquare, however, would match green-conscious users with businesses that value and promote sustainability practices.

The group intends to pursue Green Fund money for the project with plans to develop a local following before connecting Foursquare for a potential collaboration.

The team said that by involving campus-area businesses, the project provides a strong incentive to involve both the on campus and off campus communities. 

Scott Buscemi, a member of the team, said it is the type of project that could go viral. 

"We want to start this at the UA so that when other schools decide to come on, we can say it came from the UA," Buscemi said.

"We are expecting at least 800 people to sign up on day one," he added, "so you never know how far this could go, but it is a business that could grow on its own."

Extra info

The UA Green Fund committee has released its request for funding proposals. The campus community is welcome to apply though Feb. 7 for student-supported grant funding for sustainability-oriented projects. 


The funding amount available for grants for the 2010-11 year is about $400,000 and was included in tuition and fees set by the Arizona Board of Regents in March. To learn more, contact Joseph Abraham at 520-621-2711 or


Resources for the media

Joseph Abraham

UA Office of Sustainability