April 14, 2017 No Comments

3 ways UGA housing is moving toward sustainability

With Earth Day approaching on April 22nd, there is no better month to celebrate going green. The University of Georgia is taking several actions to promote a green lifestyle for students—especially with the programs they implemented within campus housing. Here are a few of the programs the residence halls have incorporated:


UGA has 22 different residence halls within eight communities. From each of the eight communities a student who is passionate about environmental conservations is elected to serve as that community’s EcoRep. Each EcoRep is responsible for attending hall council meetings and promoting a green lifestyle on his or her residence hall. They create programs for the residents to learn about how the choices they make impact the environment. To find out who the EcoRep is for your residence hall and to get in contact with them, reach out to their advisor Jane Diener at jbdiener@uga.edu.

Recycling & composting

All residence halls provide residents with the opportunity to be green by recycling. The halls provide easy opportunities to recycle with each hall having a designated area to place both large recyclables and mixed recyclables. Residents can recycle paper, glass bottles/containers, aluminum, plastic containers and plastic bags. The on-campus communities are also moving toward the idea of composting as another option for residents to go green.

Environmental programs

On-campus communities provide different programs throughout the year to teach residents about sustainability. There are programs that teach residents methods of water conservation, such as keeping showers under 15 minutes and not leaving the water running while brushing teeth. Other programs encourage residents to use alternative methods of transportation, like the Athens Transit, instead of driving everywhere. A few of the programs that are included are “Dawgs Ditch the Dumpster and Donate,” a program that encourages residents to donate items they were considering throwing away when moving out, and “Let’s talk about food,” a program that inspires residents to pay attention to how the foods they eat affect the environment.

April 13, 2017 No Comments

Students mix art, science and hammers in UGA-aided project at Coile Middle School

Students in two Coile Middle School art classes are learning a little about design and building this week, with help from University of Georgia students and Chris McDowell, the materials reuse coordinator for the UGA College of Environment and Design.

Five basic wooden structures were arrayed on the school’s back lawn Tuesday morning, each one alike yet different — one would be a composting station, another a giant loom, while another would house a kind of giant game board.

It was the job of the gloved students to add the final touches, which the students got to design themselves in small teams.

Their projects include painting a garden scene on one of the structures, making wooden boxes to grow herbs, building a rough table for another and fashioning a huge wind chime of bamboo sticks hung beneath a plastic lead — all of it made with recycled building materials.

First, McDowell gave the students a brief safety lesson.


“What I want you guys to do is to be aware of what’s around you,” he told the sixth-graders, some wielding hammers, others driving home long wood screws with a power drill fitted with a screwdriver bit. Any sawing was done beforehand by adults.

Putting together something out of wood was a new experience for some students, like sixth-grader Derek Webb.

Besides McDowell, the students could get help from UGA undergraduates Abigail West or Janie Day Whitworth, art education graduate student Kira Hegeman or Ravisha Wijeweera, who was volunteering his time.

Classmate Navy Curry was more experienced. He’d built a tree house before this, he said.

If all goes as planned, the students will finish up their projects in a second round Thursday, said art teacher Samantha Barnum.

Barnum thought the project, funded by a grant from UGA’s Office of Sustainability, would let the students learn about the connections between science, technology, engineering, math and art — the so-called STEAM disciplines.

“You don’t get much more authentic than building something,” she said.

McDowell hoped the students would get a sense that they could design something and follow through on it.

“I don’t want them to think that they can’t learn to become designers,” said McDowell, who’s worked with area students, seniors and other folks on more than 100 projects, many of them school or community gardens.

 Written by: Lee Shearer
April 11, 2017 No Comments

Running toward sustainability: Fifth Annual Fun Run comes to the Botanical Gardens

The Fifth Annual Fun Run Toward Sustainability is coming to the State Botanical Gardens on Saturday, March 25 at 9 a.m. to bring awareness to the efforts students and Athens locals can do to maintain a sustainable lifestyle.

The University of Georgia’s Office of Sustainability and the Small Dreams Foundation have teamed up for the fifth year in a row to put on this event.

“It’s about taking better care of our earth,” said Kevin Fox, a co-founder of the Small Dreams Foundation.

Fox said the Small Dreams Foundation was created to honor his sister and UGA alumna Brittney Fox Watts, who passed away in 2011. Watts was known for trying to live sustainably as well as for her love of traveling.   

The Foundation partners with schools across Georgia and gives grants to those working on sustainability projects, such as butterfly gardens or school gardens. They also help local communities by participating in park clean-ups around the state.

In the past, they’ve partnered with the Office of Sustainability to create a bike-share program for UGA students called Bulldog Bikes.

Proceeds from the fun run will be allocated to the Brittney Fox Watts Endowment for Study Abroad in Sustainability. The scholarship is awarded to two students who want to travel and build sustainable lifestyles within their communities.

“[The scholarship] provides $500 to students who are passionate about travel, experiencing different cultures and embracing sustainable practices to address the health and well-being of individuals and communities around the globe,” said Andrew Lentini, a communications and outreach coordinator for the Office of Sustainability.

Visual education stations will be set up throughout the race, teaching participants about sustainable activities such as composting and collecting water. These include physical examples, such as rain barrels for collecting water and posters with more detailed information about sustainable activities.

“[They] show different things you can do to practice more sustainable living,” Fox said. “It’s really great for all ages.”

The 3.1 mile fun run has many eco-friendly aspects to it, such as recyclable race bibs, paperless registration and a station to recycle old tennis shoes.

“Sustainability doesn't come in one shape or form,” said Megan Bens, an events intern. “There are many facets to sustainability and there is one for everybody to participate and make an impact.”

Living sustainably doesn’t have to be difficult. Eating and buying locally-grown food, biking to class and using reusable grocery bags and cups are just some of the ways that students can practice sustainability in their day-to-day lives.

“We should all recognize that small actions add up,” Lentini said. “Behaviors as small as turning off the lights in a room can save dollars as well as natural resources.”

Tickets are $20–$30, and the price includes a T-shirt for the race.

Click here you're if interested in registering for the race.

April 11, 2017 No Comments

UGA professor teams up with national, local companies ‘to make waste obsolete’

In order to imagine the volume of the 8 million metric tons of plastic entering the ocean annually, just picture standing on the shore and seeing five grocery bags stuffed with plastic on every foot of coastline.

This image is how Dr. Jenna Jambeck, an environmental engineering professor in the University of Georgia’s New Materials Institute, helps people understand the gravity of the planet's pollution problem.

Plastic is not biodegradable, and like Styrofoam, it only fragments into smaller pieces overtime, which is especially problematic in oceans. 

“What we find mostly find [in the ocean] is smaller particles of plastic. The two biggest impacts to animals are entanglement and ingestion,” Jambeck said. “Even smaller particles can look like food, plastic bags look like jellyfish to turtles, and they eat plastic, and since it doesn’t biodegrade, it doesn’t digest, so they either have to regurgitate or they starve to death because they feel full but are provided no nutrition. 

The professor said plastic is now being seen at the bottom of the food chain in plankton, and scientists do not know the possible implications of plastic working its way up the food chain.

Jambeck is an expert on the subject. Her 2015 study of plastic pollution has sparked interest in companies hoping to curtail the yearly waste of 275 million metric tons of plastic.

One company, Norton Point, was inspired to make sunglasses out of plastic recovered from coastal areas. The founders consulted with Jambeck on how to recycle plastic they extracted, learning that polymer type must be consistent across production. Jambeck’s own pair is made from the polymer used in plastic jugs and detergent bottles found on the Haitian coast.

Jambeck also said Dell Inc. has consulted with her regarding alternative uses for ocean plastic and has begun making shipping trays made of 25 percent ocean plastic. Other companies like Unilever and Method have begun investigating ways to use and prevent ocean plastic waste.

In addition, Jambeck is partnering with local companies.

To get rid of the issue of plastic’s lack of biodegradability, the New Materials Institute is working with Georgia company Meredian Holdings Inc. to create a new biodegradable plastic called polyhydroxyalkanoate (PHA) out of canola oil, rather than the traditional source of petroleum.

Jambeck has received a $50,000 grant to test the biodegradability of PHA. She said her initial results have been promising and she expects to release her findings within the next year.

Jambeck’s research has also had an impact in the political arena. Data from her mobile app Marine Debris Tracker, was used to support a 2016 plastic bag ban in California. The app launched in 2011 with support from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and is designed to identify trends in pollution in coastal areas.

Since its launch, it has received one million submissions of litter in coastal areas and even attention from Apple as an “app we can’t live without.” 

“My goal is to make waste obsolete. I want us to think of [every material] as a resource and how we can keep its value and keep it cycling through our economy and utilizing it, so we don’t have waste and have to worry [about unintended consequences],” Jambeck said.

Written by: Olivia Adams

April 11, 2017 No Comments

UGA students help restore local trail and creek

On March 25, efforts to restore a neglected trail located in the wooded area behind Howard B. Stroud Elementary School in east Athens began. A group of close to 30 University of Georgia students and faculty gathered for a day of work to clean up the trails and woods around the elementary school.

Activities such as picking up trash, clearing invasive plants, removing fallen trees and planting a garden at the entrance to the trail were all part of the event’s work.

Dr. Marsha Thomas, the principal at Howard B. Stroud Elementary, says a restored and well-kept trail behind her school could yield benefits to both her students as well as the community as a whole.

“We thought this would be a wonderful opportunity, as we are always looking for ways to beautify the community,” Thomas said. “By making the trail accessible, we want to make use of it as an outdoor classroom to promote environmental education and help our students foster a better understanding of nature.”

Many of the UGA students participating in the restoration project said they also hoped the trail would help local children spend time outdoors and become interested in the environment.

“A lot of kids in this elementary school don’t get exposed to many outdoor activities, and maybe don’t know a lot about nature yet,” said Dawson Knicks, a senior ecology major. “We just hope the trail will introduce these things to them early on so that they get an appreciation of nature later on in life.”

Malcolm Barnard, also a senior ecology major, said he recognized the value in having an appreciation for the environment and hoped that the trail could help future generations of kids grow up environmentally aware like himself.

“Personally, by having access to nature when I was younger, it really sparked my interest in becoming a steward of the environment,” Barnard said. “I want others to experience that as well, and recognize that no matter what age you are, nature is a beautiful place to be.”

The goal of is to make the trail both an outdoor learning space and permanent community feature. Another of the project’s objectives is to highlight the importance of Trail Creek, which runs through the area of the trail, as a part of the Athens watershed.

Laurie Fowler, the Executive Director for Public Service and External Affairs at the Odum School of Ecology, was one of the key organizers of the event. Fowler said one of the long term goals of the restoration is to improve a part of Athens water resources.

“Eventually we want to restore the water quality of the stream, because Trail Creek is impaired, and has too much pollutants in it,” Fowler said. “We want to also make people aware that one the headwaters of that creek is located in this property and therefore what happens here affects everything downstream.”

Written by: Tyler Smith

April 10, 2017 No Comments

Green buildings rack up green savings for UGA

Matthew Becton and Nicholas Winter started experimenting last month with a heating and cooling system that could save energy costs in all buildings around the University of Georgia’s campus.

Becton, a second-year PhD engineering student from Savannah, and Winter, a first-year masters engineering student from McDonough, received a grant from the Office of Sustainability to test the model predictive control HVAC system which would predict and accommodate for changing temperatures in a building.

“We wouldn’t have asked for this grant or started researching it if there wasn’t such a big focus on sustainability at UGA,” Becton said. “With this, we can help the university, and the university looks very favorably on green projects and sustainability.”


UGA isn’t leaving sustainability projects all up to students, though.

The Office of University Architects for Facilities Planning, with the help of the Facilities Management Division, has been continuously integrating sustainability requirements into their Design and Construction Requirements and Standards.

According to the director of sustainability Kevin Kirsche, the Office of Sustainability, which is a part of the FMD, helped write and update the section of the standards that deals with facility performance requirements.

“That’s one of the ways we have an impact is participating in continuously updating the standards for design and construction,” Kirsche said. “Those standards are used internally when facilities management is renovating a space or office on campus, but it’s also specifically used by higher design consultants for major capital improvements.”

These regulations were written with the UGA 2020 Strategic Plan in mind, which outlines the goals of the university to reduce waste and to increase efficiency.

These sustainability standards are being integrated into the Terry Business Learning Community currently being built across from the Bolton Dining Commons.

“They’re looking at incorporating green roofs on that building, and there is a green roof on Correll Hall right now,” Kirsche said.

Kirsche said that these plans are subject to change based on the budget, but the buildings will still meet the standards set up by the Office of University Architects.

Jason Perry, the program coordinator and certified energy manager at the Office of Sustainability, said that UGA is trying to reach 20 percent better energy efficiency than required by state regulations.

Perry is one of the many people who overlook design plans for buildings on campus, and he focuses mainly on energy efficiency.

Depending on when the design and construction processes start for buildings, they may be working with old standards. Perry said that when he overlooks the plans, he makes note to recommend accommodating for the new standards if the project budget allows.

“From 2007, UGA has added 15 percent to our building footprint, but our energy consumption has actually gone down slightly,” Perry said. “We keep adding new buildings but the energy use stays the same, which means the average energy consumption stays the same.”

Perry said that the most recent phases of the Terry Business Learning Community are the first buildings on campus to transition completely from fluorescent lighting to the more energy-efficient LED lighting.

Perry said there’s currently another project going on in the Journalism Building to replace the fluorescent lighting to LED lighting, which will have an 18-month payback period.

“At that point, we’re basically printing money in the form of energy savings,” Perry said.

These sustainable improvements can be made as long as the cost of the projects are not changed, Perry said.

Since the project budgets are usually pretty firm and decided sometimes years in advance, some higher-costing sustainability features have the potential to be cut, despite long-term savings, Perry said.

Depending on the payback period of the sustainable feature, Kirsche said the university may seek additional funding to save more money over time.

“I think we can argue that these types of practices are economically sustainable as well,” Kirsche said.

The Office of University Architects standards also deal with waste management during the construction process.

“It’s a fairly aggressive plan, looking at all the various construction debris when you build a building, from drywall to carpet to wood,” Kirsche said. “It requires a specific plan delineating all those waste streams and what the contractor will do with it to the extent that that’s possible and reasonably practical.”

Kirsche said that Terry management and information systems students will be able to measure utility savings in the Business Learning Community while science students are taking a more ecological approach on sustainability in the Science Learning Center.

With sustainable landscaping and indoor energy savings like lights that dim with a lot of daylight, the SLC is the newest finished capital improvement to campus that highlights sustainability efforts in construction.

“The building, in a small way, is functioning as a living laboratory where those sustainable design features are not just for passive learning but active learning for students studying those systems,” Kirsche said.

Callie Oldfield, a first-year graduate student from Nashville, TN, received a grant to research the effectiveness of rain gardens at the SLC.

“There are very thoughtful, sustainable stormwater designs around [the SLC] that most people don’t know about,” Oldfield said.

The three rain gardens and a terrace around the SLC are used to increase water infiltration into the soil, and Oldfield will measure their effectiveness by comparing them to landscapes without rain gardens.


“This [SLC] is a huge impermeable surface that was just put into the landscape,” Oldfield said. “The rooftop is enormous, so you can imagine the amount of water running off into the surface. They have to manage that stormwater impact.”

Alfred Vick, professor of environmental ethics, said that the Jackson St Building, renovated in 2012 and an example for sustainable building on campus, has porous concrete, native plants and a 28,000 gallon cistern.

The cistern captures stormwater from the roof and recycles the water to flush the toilets in the building.

Vick said the renovation of the Jackson Street Building is used as a case study for other potential renovations in similar older buildings around campus, like chemistry or physics.

The Jackson St Building also produces two percent of the building’s total energy load through solar panels on the south side of the building’s roof.

Vick said there have been some feasibility studies with putting solar panels on top of parking desks but nothing is concrete.

“Energy conservation yields water conservation, in a lot of cases,” Perry said.

Perry said that heating and cooling systems, which use a lot of energy, have become more efficient in new buildings in general.

“The basics of a green building should come at no additional costs,” Vick said. “You can do that at the same price as any conventional building, maybe even cheaper. You get some additional costs when you start looking at more advanced features.”

Vick said the decision to add some of those features comes from the length of the payback period.

Perry said the newer HVAC systems use demand control ventilation to change the airflow in a room depending on its occupancy, which saves energy.

“In the old days, there was no way to control that,” Perry said. “You would design a classroom to be maximum exhaust all the time so when it was full of people it would be okay.”

Perry said that people should be able to tell that the HVAC system is working more efficiently in the SLC because there is no building noise.

Between more efficient technology and economic benefits, Kirsche said that most everyone involved in the design and construction projects on campus are using sustainable measures.

“All of our buildings generally are going to incorporate sustainable design because that’s how we design and build buildings on campus,” Kirsche said. “So whether it’s a science building or a business learning community or a dining hall, it’s going to be a high-performance building incorporating sustainable site design.”

Written by: Erin Schilling

April 4, 2017 No Comments

The New Split Dumpsters

Diversified Plastics Inc. is a company in Union Point, Georgia that recycles plastic and incorporates recycled products in the production of the molded injection plastics business. The company makes an assortment of different sized dumpsters, including split dumpsters with both trash and recycling compartments.

Juan Jimenez and Scott Oaks, owner of the company, donated two of these split dumpsters to the University of Georgia. These particular dumpsters have a total capacity of 8 cubic yards with a divider in the center. They are made out of plastic, but have metal reinforcements to keep the lids from bending and opening when tipped to one side or the other.

One of the dumpsters is located on the Recreational Sports Complex and one is located at the Visitors Center. Diversified Plastics Inc. has provided a good warranty plan on the dumpsters and checks on them regularly to ensure upkeep.

“They don’t leave enough space for trash dumpsters and recycle dumpsters to sit next to each other in a lot of the facilities,” says Bill Silman, sanitation & labor foreman at UGA. “This gave us an opportunity to try this new split dumpster. What it means for everybody is that they have a new option available that the visitor’s center didn’t have before.”

The recycling and solid waste program at UGA has discussed purchasing options with the company looking forward for the areas on campus where they are needed. For example, University Housing produces plenty of recycling, but only has room for one dumpster outside of each dorm, not two.

“It’s saving us a lot of road miles for one thing because we can go by there with another truck and pick this up instead of having labor and the truck go pick up inside the building like they were doing before. So, it’s reducing the carbon footprint for the university. It’s saving gas, fuel, time, and labor by using these instead of picking it up manually,” said Silman.

Recycling is expected to improve in areas around campus that have been asking for recycling bins, but have not had room to implement them. The split dumpster responds to the need for a more convenient way to recycle around UGA’s campus.


March 21, 2017 No Comments

Students give back with nonprofit startups

While most 12-year-olds were solely focused on the trials and tribulations of middle school, Charles Orgborn III, a senior environmental economics and management major from Dacula, was busy creating the nonprofit Greening Forward. 

While their paths vary, Orgborn is among many University of Georgia students who have started and maintained nonprofits. These leaders shared how they got their starts and how they keep their organizations going.

Becoming Empowered 

Akilah Blount is a junior public relations and women’s studies major from Atlanta, who is CEO of Becoming Empowered through Education, Inc., also known as B.E.E. Club. After not getting into another organization at school, she started her organization as a senior in high school. She wanted a space where young women could build a community outside the classroom. 

“I realized that I don’t necessarily think there are unintelligent and intelligent students,” Blount said. “I feel like we all go through different situations in our lives, and a lot of people don’t know how to deal with things ... [That could] affect academia or how much you’re involved.”

She wanted to create a club that encouraged sisterhood and began a mentorship program that paired incoming freshmen with seniors. She based her idea on bee colonies, wanting members to work together for survival and developing bonds and connections that would never go away. After her first interest meeting, where she invited 25 freshmen and over 50 showed up, she said it was something that was needed and decided to go through with making it an official organization.

Greening Forward 

Orgborn started Greening Forward at a young age because he was not old enough to volunteer for most nonprofits. 

“One of the reasons I started my organization is that I remember filling out applications for organizations that I wanted to volunteer for, and at 12 years old, I wasn’t able to,” Orgborn said.

Because his school required a service project, he decided to pick one that required cleaning up litter. He felt it was an easy one to do and one that allowed him to focus on the environment. Then, he began questioning why it wasn’t a project that was done widely and how to change that.

"One of the reasons I started my organization is that I remember filling out applications for organizations that I wanted to volunteer for, and at 12 years old, I wasn’t able to."

– Charles Orgborn III

“I started some environmental things on my school campus. I started asking, ‘Why can’t every school have a club or a group of young people dedicated to sustainability work on school campuses, and how can we support them?’ That’s where the idea of funding and training young people came about,” Orgborn said.

When he first started his nonprofit, it was mostly done online and with limited outside feedback. Now, it is a fully operational nonprofit that provides funds, training, grants and conferences to young people. He has a team of college and high school students working alongside him in his executive board and has youth groups centered around environmental work throughout the country. 

Books for Keeps

This issue with developing staff is a common one, even among other older nonprofits. Books for Keeps, a nonprofit that provides books to children from low-income schools, was founded by Athens resident Melaney Smith in 2009. However, she did not hire her first staff member until 2013: executive director Leslie Hale. As the first staff member, Hale had to fulfill a variety of roles, whether that was sitting in on board meetings or operating a forklift. 

“Adaptability and flexibility are really important because of the nature of nonprofits and as I’ve said, the nature of the work sort of requiring that everyone be willing to pitch in and do a little bit of everything,” Hale said.

Hale said it’s important for organizations to look into free resources, such as finding pro bono legal help for liability protection.

The Backpack Project

Zack Leitz is a junior finance and management major from Dunwoody who serves as the executive director of The Backpack Project. He began his nonprofit after seeing the problem of homelessness in Atlanta and Athens. After watching a video of a couple filling backpacks with supplies and giving them to homeless people, he said he decided to replicate the experiment. 

Leitz called family and friends to raise $450, then began making backpacks and giving them out in Atlanta and Athens. After he finished, he realized he wanted to make what started as a weekend project into something bigger. He then established The Backpack Project into a 501-c(3) nonprofit and went through the process of building it from an operational standpoint.

Since he had four years of nonprofit experience with an organization called Angel Flight Soars in Atlanta, he had the confidence to run his own. It was officially founded in April 2015 and is funded by a combination of grants, corporate partnerships, donations and events. For Leitz, part of building that legacy was making sure to create a part of The Backpack Project that was an official student organization.

“When I graduate from UGA, I am not going to continue to be the executive director of The Backpack Project,” Leitz said. “The reason for that is one of the most important things to me about this organization is the fact that we’re run entirely by students in the University of Georgia.”

Breaking the Shackles

Cameron Harris, a senior marketing major and president and founder of the nonprofit Breaking the Shackles, started his organization during his senior year of high school. He said he wanted to host an event with a cause. After he decided to do a concert, he began researching lesser known causes and came across modern day slavery. When he found out sex-trafficking occurred in Georgia, he made raising awareness of that his cause.

Harris didn’t decide to turn Breaking the Shackles into an official student organization until after years of hosting different concerts in his hometown. Once he brought the concert idea to Athens and involved other UGA friends, they came to the conclusion they could have a bigger influence if they were a nonprofit and UGA organization. For Harris, being patient about the process of his organization has been a challenge considering it didn’t became an official nonprofit until the summer of 2015. 

Despite this challenge, Harris said he hopes to continue nonprofit work in the future, especially as it pertains to Breaking the Shackles.

“I don’t really know what the future of Breaking the Shackles is, but I definitely will continue to be involved in terms of governing it. Whether that’s as executive director or chairman of the board—whatever that role is, I will continue to be in contact and grow relationships with nonprofits,” Harris said.

Much like Harris, Blount said she also wants nonprofit work to remain a large part of her life. One of her challenges has been getting others to see it as a viable career. 

Blount said balance running B.E.E. Club and her studies at school is doable because she sees B.E.E. Club as a priority.

“I use the classes and the courses as enrichment. As far as the organization goes, that’s more like what I do in my free time,” Blount said. “Because I have a bigger vision and because I had it so young, I’m not really bothered by it—I’m trying my best to just rise to the occasion.”

The business side

Janet Rechtman, a senior public service associate at the J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership Development at UGA, said it is important to balance “an altruistic mission” with the “business bottom line.”

“The challenge is nonprofits are businesses. They have to run like a business,” Rechtman said. “They have to run with a solid bottom line. If they run out of money, then they’re out of business.”

Rechtman co-leads nonprofit and organizational leadership development and has experience with other students who have run nonprofits while still enrolled in college. 

“I do think the kind of experiences UGA students who are running nonprofits are having are not what they would expect to find when they go out into the marketplace,” Rechtman said.

"Our organization is actually set up so that it will continue to be run by students at UGA into perpetuity."

– Zach Leitz

Unlike Harris and Blount, Leitz will focus more on the natural order of succession to keep The Backpack Project running after he graduates. 

“Our organization is actually set up so that it will continue to be run by students at UGA into perpetuity. Every year when a class of seniors graduate, we hire freshmen from the incoming class to take their place, pick up the torch and continue advancing our mission forward,” Leitz said. 

Orgbon said activism has been a part of his life and will continue to be. Since starting his nonprofit at 12, he has grown up with mentors and made new friends through his work. 

“Giving back and those moments where I am seeing the impact that we’re creating is so incredible, so life affirming. I think activism, as Alice Walker said, ‘is my rent for living on the planet,’” Orgborn said.


Written by: Danny McArthur

March 21, 2017 No Comments

Karma Coffee: Where payment for coffee is an act of kindness

Jaren Mendel, a sophomore at UGA, founded Karma Coffee in November of 2015. The organization works to manufacture kindness by giving away free cups of coffee with one small catch: the receiver of the coffee has to do an act of kindness. To date, Karma Coffee has served 2,470 cups.

Mendel’s inspiration came from seeing the interactions between strangers on campus, namely between students and staff members, such as janitors, cooks and desk workers. Coming from a small high school, UGA was a big change for Mendel.

“[My freshman year was] the first time I guess that I had been exposed to strangers. I saw an opportunity to expand and improve those interactions and was motivated to find a way to do that more systematically,” Mendel said.


Karma Coffee has come a long way since its first event at Tate in 2015. Just eight days after he had the idea, Jaren set up a booth.

“It was a real show—we tripped a breaker, the electricity was off, the percolator was broken and this coffee was cold because it was sitting out, and this person didn’t show. It was a mess,” Mendel said.

While Karma Coffee events don’t always go smoothly, Jaren sells t-shirts and also receives enough donations, both from Jittery Joes Roaster and from individuals, to run booths regularly. In addition, Jaren is working with a student at Georgia Tech to open a branch on Tech’s campus.

“The vision has always been to have a parent Karma Coffee and then have branches at different schools,” Mendel said.

Mendel is currently working to make Karma Coffee more systematically organized to make it easier to both run and grow to other locations. However, starting by borrowing creamer from the dining halls to expanding to other campuses hasn’t been easy.

“The main problem was and continues to be finding how I fit into the role of Karma Coffee,” Mendel said.

He said he has started moving from doing everything himself to delegating different roles to others.

“I can sprint to the wall and really go for it but that’s not the way to run Karma Coffee for years,” Mendel said. “Its’s really hard… allowing people to work on a project that you feel so attached to.”

Karma Coffee’s is unusual as it is an organization dedicated to spreading kindness.

“The idea of the organization brings compassion more to the forefronts of peoples’ minds… that’s the main way Karma Coffee can affect people,” Mendel said.

For some, the fact that an organization focused solely on kindness is enough in itself.


“[Karma Coffee] makes me more aware of opportunities of small acts of kindness,” said Savannah Mabry, a coordinator for volunteers at Karma Coffee. “When I pass a maintenance staff member, I often think of karma, and make sure to know their names and wish them a happy day.”

Mendel has also been impacted by thinking of Karma Coffee, and trying to be an example of kindness.

“I can’t walk past a UGA Miracle fundraiser without donating to it now—I make a more conscious effort to be kind,” Mendel said.

In addition, Karma Coffee is having an impact on the organizations that it runs booths for. During the fall 2015 semester, Karma Coffee held a booth at UGA Home’s first event, a 5k that fundraised for a scholarship.  

“Not only was Karma Coffee beneficial to the 5K itself, but it contributed to the lighthearted environment and joy of giving back,” said Rachael Dier, a member of UGA Homes. “It made the 5K bigger than one act of kindness—it fostered the desire to do more.”

Jaren hopes to turn Karma Coffee into a sustainable living one day, but for now, he’s focused on spreading two of the best things in life: coffee and kindness.

“One, it’s not all me. Two, it never works as planned,” said Mendel referring to what Karma Coffee has taught him.

March 13, 2017 No Comments

Middle school gardens grow, with some help from UGA

When Wick Prichard arrived at Clarke Middle School in 2014, his goal as an AmeriCorps VISTA with the University of Georgia was to turn the sustainability lessons he’d been teaching at summer camps into a daily curriculum.

Just three years later, Prichard is a full-time university employee, coordinating garden programs at Clarke’s four middle schools, including the farm-to-table operation, “Grow It Know It,” that he worked with the UGArden to create at Clarke Middle.

This Thursday, the public is invited to join Prichard and middle school students for Meals in the Middle, a multi-course made-from-scratch dinner planned, prepared and served by the sixth- to eighth-grade students.

The meal, which includes produce from the UGA student-run UGArden, raises money for local nonprofit organizations. The three previous Meals in the Middle have raised an average of $1,500 each, with proceeds going to the Athens Area Homeless Shelter, U-Lead Athens and the Interfaith Hospitality Network. This one will benefit Experience UGA, a partnership between UGA and the Clarke County School District that brings every CCSD student to campus for a field trip each year.

Prichard, who works for UGA Office of Service-Learning with support from UGA Cooperative Extension and CCSD, sees the dinners as a “startup company with kids,” one that builds on the education about recycling, composting, nutrition and food insecurity that the middle school students are getting through their agriscience programs

“We are making the program as we go, and the students get to participate in that process,” Prichard said. “I think there’s a general excitement felt by everyone. People love this program. It’s incredible.”

UGA’s partnerships with CCSD have led to many new opportunities for pre-K through 12th-grade students in Athens-Clarke County. A program piloted in 2009 and expanded to all Clarke County schools in 2011, brought UGA College of Education faculty into the schools to serve as professors-in-residence or on-site instructors, offering onsite guidance and mentoring to College of Education students—Georgia’s future teachers.

The school gardens sustainability program at CMS became a model for the system under Prichard’s direction and now there are AmeriCorps VISTA volunteers in all four middle schools.

“Wick’s work here has been transformative,” said Tad McMillan, CMS principal. “If our kids are not healthy, we’re not doing them any favors.”

High obesity rates make programs focusing on health and nutrition a must, McMillan said. More than 17 percent of adolescents and 35 percent of adults in Georgia are overweight, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

Part of each school’s agriscience curriculum, the garden programs are a way for the students to learn about nutrition and health while having fun.

Anna Gay, now an eighth-grader at CMS, said Prichard taught her how to use a rototiller when he was the school’s VISTA volunteer.

“He’s helped me have a bigger appreciation for agriculture and gardening,” Anna said.

The March 16 Meals in the Middle will be held at the Athens Community Career Academy, 440 Dearing St. Extension, Building #1 and will benefit Experience UGA. Local chef Manny Stone, a teacher at the ACCA, will help students prepare the Italian-themed meal, using produce from UGArden, a student run garden at UGA. Tickets for the meal are $40 and can be purchased online at http://mealsinthemiddle.brownpapertickets.com/.


Writer: Christopher James, 706-542-3631, chtjames@uga.edu
Contact: Wick Prichard, 706-542-8924, warwickp@uga.edu

Note to editors: Photos are online at http://multimedia.uga.edu/media/images/PSO-Meals_in_the_Middle.jpg and http://multimedia.uga.edu/media/images/PSO-Food_at_Clarke_Middle.jpg.


March 13, 2017 No Comments

Students adopt discarded objects in name of sustainability

Over 50 adoptions took place on February 22 on the Tate Student Center Lawn. These adoptions were not of living creatures, but instead the re-homing of discarded objects at Athens Home for Discarded Objects.

“I can’t really say there’s much of a process so much as something here is going to speak to me,” said Corey Klawunder, a University of Georgia student.

The dozens of objects, most in a state of considerable disrepair, were gathered just over a week prior to the event during a collaborative river cleanup.

Kira Hegeman, an artist in residence with the Office of Sustainability, said that WatershedUGA did a river clean up earlier in February at Tanyard Creek and the student club Bag the Bag did a clean up at Barnett Shoals.

Later, WatershedUGA asked her to create a work of art with the intention of creating an emotional link between passersby and objects and provoking more thought regarding waste.

“I think one of the problems with waste and recycling is ‘out of sight, out of mind,’” Hegeman said. “Once it’s gone you don’t think about what happens to it, you don’t think about the life cycle, what it could be turned into, where it came from.”

All the objects, once adopted and given a story, were given an adoption number and placed on a bookshelf at the event to show that they had been not only been reclaimed but given significance by a person, including a name, a history and a future.

“Stories help us connect to things, right?” Hegeman said. “The more people imagine different situations and stories, the more they might imagine new possibilities.”

Jason Perry, a sustainability specialist with the Office of Sustainability, helped set up the art exhibit and provided general support. Although he was not directly involved with the planning of the demonstration, he was impressed with the creativity of students involved.

“I knew this was happening… I had no idea this is what it was going to be looking like,” Perry said.

After thoroughly examining the many objects in front of him and gravitating towards several, Klawunder finally settled on a crumbling stone pedestal that he said “had an ego.”

When asked to devise a story for the object before officially adopting it, Klawunder quickly created its lore and scribbled down the story onto the adoption certificate.

“Obviously, this sat at the apex of Tanyard Creek and held a bust of Jere Morehead himself, lost to the ages long ago, well before he was even born,” Klawunder said.

March 13, 2017 No Comments

How to have a sustainable spring break

Spring break is here, and students can hardly wait for the moment when they can pack up, drive off, and be worry-free for a full week. While they have earned this much needed break from school, the places that students go over spring break are also subjected to this “worry-free” mindset. However, when students leave those places, the people there are left to clean up the mess. From the items students buy to the food they eat, everything has an impact on the world around them.

“It’s easy to use vacation as an excuse to be wasteful,” said Kevin Kirsche, UGA’s Director of Sustainability. “Instead of an excuse to be wasteful, you should look at this vacation time as a challenge to be extra conscientious and respectful of that place.”

The best way to combat waste begins before the trip. Before students purchase items to use on their trip, they should consider if they really need it, and if it will harm the environment they’re visiting. If the item is something that must be bought, students can make sure that it can be reused or recycled.

“If you’re buying a drink in a glass bottle at the store, choose aluminum instead, because it’s endlessly recyclable,” Kirsche said. “If you’re taking a cooler, make sure it’s reusable instead of styrofoam.”

Students also use spring break as a time to shop. Whether it’s new clothes or a gift for a friend, there are ways to make sure that purchase doesn’t harm the environment and community they’re in. Choosing local shops instead of large chains increases the livelihood of the people who live there while also increasing the chance that the items were made ethically.

“Spend your money at local shops and restaurants, and buy handmade products,” Kirsche said. “That will help you have a unique experience and support the people who are invested locally.”

While these actions may seem small, choosing sustainability over waste goes a long way. One of the most important ways to be sustainable is in food choice. When one person chooses to eat a vegetarian or vegan diet, the planet sees that impact immediately. The same goes for eating produce that is in season and using reusable utensils.

“Most people shy away from it, but a lot of people find great health and environmental benefits through a vegetarian and vegan diet,” Kirsche said. “This, in addition to eating seasonally and carrying reusable cups, is a great place to start.”

Students are notorious for leaving trash and waste on the places they visit, and too much of this can have lasting effects on the health of that environment. Everyone wants to have a good time, but it’s important to understand the impact it can have on others.

“If you’re going there, you value that place and it’s beautiful,” Kirsche said. “Instead of trashing it, you can choose to respect the people and natural beauty of the place you’re in.”

March 9, 2017 No Comments

Zero Waste UGA

It's an all-too-common sight: banana peels, coffee grounds and other organic waste going straight into the trash bin in offices across the University of Georgia campus.

That doesn't have to be the case, though. The Campus Composting project makes it easy to turn food scraps into fertilizer for campus plants, trees and flowerbeds.

"It's pretty much taking waste that would usually go to a landfill, letting it decompose, and turning it into compost for soil," said Melissa Gurevitch, a senior environmental engineering major and intern with the UGA Office of Sustainability.

The program is part of Zero Waste UGA, an effort to send 65 percent less waste to the landfill in 2020 than the campus did in 2010, which is part of UGA's Strategic Plan.

Through this and other sustainability programs, UGA diverts about 10,000 cubic yards of organic material from the landfill each year. Food scraps from the compost bins ultimately go to the Bioconversion Center on Whitehall Road to become compost. After about a year, facilities management can use the scrap mixture to enhance the soil on campus grounds.

About 30 buildings on campus participate in the departmental composting program, which usually collects between 200 and 300 pounds of food waste a week. In 2016, 6,000 pounds of compost were collected from departments across campus.

Green composting bins lined with compostable brown bags are set up in participating buildings' break rooms — near where people put their lunches and trash. An Office of Sustainability intern collects the bins once a week.

This spring, the composting program is also trying out a new bike program for pickup and delivery. Kevin Kirsche, UGA Sustainability's director and a landscape architect, and Jason Perry, a sustainability specialist in the Office of Sustainability who manages the bike program, designed a wagon to carry the compost that is pulled behind an electric bike.

Produce such as apple cores and cucumber peels, grains like leftover bagels and coffee grounds are ideal for composting. "Coffee grounds are fantastic because they are high in nitrogen content and biodegrade easier than other scraps," said Tommy Lehner, a junior journalism major and sustainability intern who is currently collecting the bins. "And if you've ever held coffee grounds in your hands, they already feel like dirt, and smell like coffee."

In general, foods or items that are biodegradable, or can broken down safely into raw materials and disappear into soil, are OK for the bins.  "We're putting up signs above the bins that say what you can and can't put in," Lehner said.

Sandrika Walker, an administrative specialist in the Carl Vinson Institute of Government, said she likes that the compost helps UGArden, a student-run organic farm that shares produce with families in need in the Athens community. Her office has been composting for two years, donating old bread, egg shells, coffee grounds, collard green stems, fruit and much more.

She often brings food scraps from home, and she and her co-workers compete to see who can collect the most. Her office won the first departmental competition last year and received a custom tin of Jittery Joe's coffee called "Green Beans." 

"If anyone wants to compost or send their food scraps to us, we'll happily take them," Lehner said. "If we can create solutions that are easy and that everyone can do, then we're moving forward."

To request a bin for your office or building, contact the Office of Sustainability at compost@uga.edu.

For more information on Campus Compost's activities and events, visit https://sustainability.uga.edu/operations/recycling-and-compost/.

— Saleen Martin, UGA Marketing & Communications

March 7, 2017 No Comments

UGA-led research consortium presents finalists from ocean-themed short film contest at the ‘Ripple Effect Blue Carpet Premiere’ event in Athens

Finalist films from the 2017 Ripple Effect Film Project ocean-themed video contest will be showcased at the historic Morton Theatre in Athens at 5 p.m. on Saturday March 25, 2017.

The contest was launched last fall as a partnership between a team of University of Georgia-based marine scientists and several local and statewide conservation agencies to promote increased understanding of the connection between human activities and ocean health.

The research consortium Ecosystem Impacts of Oil and Gas Inputs to the Gulf includes 29 researchers from 15 institutions and is led by Samantha Joye, Athletic Association Professor in Arts and Sciences in UGA’s department of marine sciences. In addition to cutting-edge scientific research on the Gulf of Mexico, a primary goal of the consortium is to engage with the public about the group’s scientific activities and the importance of healthy ocean systems.

Filmmakers from around the state were asked to submit short films on a broad range of topics that connect human behavior to the health of the world’s oceans, including transportation choices, clean waterways, and the impact of our choices around food, water, and energy consumption.

“We’re excited to co-present with Ripple Effect—an important part of our work is to engage with the public about our research and the importance of ocean health and sustainability—not just for the Gulf of Mexico but for all oceans,” Joye said.

The Ripple Effect Film Project was founded in 2013 by the Athens-Clarke County Office of Water Conservation in conjunction with EcoFocus Film Festival. Since then hundreds of filmmakers have had their films included in the annual “Blue Carpet Premiere” event in Athens. In addition to ECOGIG and Athens-Clarke County Water Conservation, presenting partners include Athens-Clarke County Stormwater Division and Keep Athens-Clarke County Beautiful.

Tickets to the event $5 and are available for advance purchase at www.mortontheatre.tix.com

Further information about ECOGIG and Ripple Effect Film Project may be found at www.ecogig.org and www.rippleeffectfilmproject.org.

March 2, 2017 No Comments

Shades of Green: Scientists and engineers help turn ocean plastic into new products

Athens, Ga. – Two years ago, socially conscious entrepreneurs Rob Ianelli and Ryan Schoenike founded their company, Norton Point, to manufacture sunglasses made from the huge amounts of plastic cleaned up from ocean coastlines.

Their goal was to be a part of the solution to one of the planet’s greatest challenges: the 8 million tons of plastic entering Earth’s oceans each year. Moreover, they wanted to reinvest their profits in research, education and development efforts that help reduce the impact of ocean plastic.

Now, engineers and polymer scientists with the University of Georgia’s New Materials Institute are helping Norton Point, which is based in Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, with testing of its “ocean plastics” products and finding new product applications.

“Packaging represents about half of all plastics produced, and single-use plastic items make up the majority of what is found on beaches,” said Jenna Jambeck, associate professor of engineering and director of Center for Circular Materials Management in the New Materials Institute.

Her study of ocean plastics, published in the journal Science in 2015, quantified for the first time the amount of plastics flowing into the earth’s oceans, drawing worldwide attention to the issue.

Jambeck’s study was published at an opportune time for the Norton Point founders, who had been exploring the idea of manufacturing sunglasses from ocean plastics. “But we were concerned about doing it right,” said Schoenike. 

They connected for the first time with Jambeck last year at an Oceans conference, and since then, Schoenike said, the New Materials Institute has “moved our goals and the issue forward” together.

Jambeck explained that one of the plastics used in single-use plastic products is high-density polyethylene, or HDPE, which doesn’t biodegrade. “It only breaks down in the environment by creating smaller and smaller fragments,” she said.

Jambeck said we need to ask how we can recapture the valuable resources in materials like littered plastics—that is, repurpose them into new products.

“By changing the way we think about waste,” she said, “valuing the management of it, collecting, capturing and containing it, we can open up new jobs and opportunities for economic innovation, and in addition, improve the living conditions and health for millions of people around the world and protect our oceans.”

New Materials Institute researchers will work with Norton Point to help make “green” products from re-purposed plastics obtained from locations around the globe.

“Norton Point wants to know how the recycled materials respond to different manufacturing processes like extrusion and injection molding, and how they compare with virgin petroleum-based high-density polyethylene in terms of qualities like impact-resistance, toughness and durability,” said Jason Locklin, director of UGA’s New Materials Institute and associate professor of chemistry and engineering at UGA.

The institute also is looking to help Norton Point identify new types of products that make the best use of the material properties of ocean plastics.

In the same way that claims on other types of post-consumer waste are regulated, the New Materials Institute plans to explore the potential for certification and labeling of ocean plastics.




Writer: Terry Marie Hastings, thasting@uga.edu, 706-542-5941
Contact: Jenna Jambeck, jjambeck@uga.edu, 706-542-6454


Note to editors: The following photos are available online:


Cutline: Each pair of sunglasses manufactured by Norton Point bears the latitude and longitude of its ocean plastic’s origin. In addition to Haiti, the company has identified ocean plastics from Indonesia and Hong Kong as potential collection streams (Credit: Amy Ware).


Cutline: Jenna Jambeck and Jason Locklin of UGA’s New Materials Institute help companies develop sustainable materials and practices based on green engineering principles (Credit: Amy Ware).

This release is available online at https://news.uga.edu/releases/article/ocean-plastic-into-new-products/.

February 28, 2017 No Comments

UGA law school’s Red Clay conference to focus on emerging issues in environmental law

 “Emerging Issues in Environmental Law” is the title of the 29th Annual Red Clay Conference to be held March 24 in the University of Georgia School of Law’s Larry Walker Room in Dean Rusk Hall.

The daylong program will include three panel discussions focusing on the management of coal ash in the wake of changes to Environmental Protection Agency and Environmental Protection Division rules pertaining to solid waste management, transboundary water issues stemming from the Florida v. Georgia litigation, and the future of the Clean Power Plan and other air regulatory matters.

Judson H. “Jud” Turner, the former director of the Georgia Environmental Protection Division, will deliver the keynote address. Community Newspapers, Inc. President Dink NeSmith will also provide a special address.

Turner, who is currently a practitioner in residence at Georgia Law, completed his service as director of the EPD, the state’s chief environmental regulator, in June 2016. He has also worked as director of the Governor’s Office of Interagency Coordination and Management of Water Resources, and he presently serves as special assistant attorney general in Florida v. Georgia and in other matters involving the state’s shared river basins. In 2008, Turner founded the law firm Turner, Bachman & Garrett specializing in administrative and regulatory law, governmental affairs and litigation, with a focus on water resources law, as well as environmental and education law. In addition, Turner was a founding partner of Georgia360, a multidisciplinary government relations firm. From 2005 to 2008, he served initially as deputy and then as executive counsel to Gov. Sonny Perdue. He earned his undergraduate degree from UGA and his law degree from the University of Virginia.

The conference, which runs from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and includes breakfast and lunch for registered attendees, is open to the public and is free for members of the UGA community. The cost for non-UGA members is $10. For attorneys seeking continuing legal education credits of 5 hours, the cost is $60. 

The annual Red Clay Conference aims to increase public awareness of environmental issues of regional, national and international significance through a series of educational presentations and open forum discussions. It is entirely student-organized by members of the law school’s Environmental Law Association.

For more information or to register for the conference, please visit www.law.uga.edu/environmental-law-association.




Writer: Lona Panter, 706-542-5172, lonap@uga.edu
Contact: Ethan Morris, em01833@uga.edu


UGA School of Law
Consistently regarded as one of the nation’s top public law schools, Georgia Law was established in 1859. Its accomplished faculty includes authors of some of the country’s leading legal scholarship. The school offers three degrees – the Juris Doctor, the Master of Laws and the Master in the Study of Law – and is home to the Dean Rusk International Law Center. Georgia Law is proud of its long-standing commitment of providing first-rate legal training for future leaders who will serve state and nation in both the public and private sectors. For more information, see www.law.uga.edu.

February 28, 2017 No Comments

Athens to begin installing ‘purple pipes’ for water reuse program

While still experiencing the effects of the level two drought, Athens-Clarke County has allocated funds to implement a water reuse program through the Athens Water Conservation Office.

Marilyn Hall, water conservation coordinator at WCO, said she is hopeful that purple pipes, which are used for reused water, will begin the installation process within a year.

“In general, we’re looking at running a pipeline to the northeast toward our industrial areas,” Hall said. “That will help replace demands on our drinking water system from industrial uses.”

Hall said in the future, the effects of a drought may have more influence on the community economically as well as environmentally.

“There are going to be big economic impacts if we have another severe drought,” Hall said. “Enhancing our water conservation program, and implementing a water reuse system will help us be more resilient if there is a drought.”

Mayor Nancy Denson said she approved the concept of the water reuse program in order to ensure that citizens have access to adequate water in the event that there is a severe drought in the future.

“The long-term plan, it’s not something that will happen immediately, is that we would create a pool or reservoir or collection for what a lot of people refer to as gray water, that’s not drinkable,” Denson said.

Denson said while the project may finish after she is no longer mayor, she thinks the implementing a water reuse program will be beneficial for Athens citizens.

“In a circumstance where there was drought, or some time in the future as a water saving measure, the water could be piped to plants or areas of landscaping that potable water isn’t necessary," she said. "It would extend the life of the water we have that's drinkable.”

Hall said WCO conducted a risk-based assessment to predict the likely water usage for the next few decades.

“There’s a 25 percent chance that our monthly average withdrawal limit from the reservoir will be exceeded by the year 2020, and a 50 percent chance it will be exceeded by the year 2029,” Hall said. “That means that we’re at risk of not having enough water if there was a drought.”

Scott Connelly, an assistant professor of ecology at UGA, said one problem with the way we use water today is not factoring in times of drought into our levels of consumption.

“One of the big problems with the way we allocate water is that we don’t consider the dry periods into our consumption,” Connelly said. “We just think about the wet periods and consume water with that in mind, and then don’t have enough water when we need it.”

Hall said that as the population in Athens rises and the drought continues, WCO is working hard to continue to use water as efficiently as possible.

“We continually strive to bring down out per-capita water use, but we need to implement this reuse program as part of it.”

Connelly said it is important to consider the growing population when looking for solutions to save water.

“One of the problems that we do have, is that when we come up with technologies like that to help solve a problem, what you really also have to do is acknowledge what the bigger problem is,” Connelly said.

Connelly said one of his biggest concerns with the water shortage in Athens is rapid growth the city is experiencing.

“If you look at Athens, we have a huge amount of new housing going in,” Connelly said. “You really have to wonder if we have the technology to support that.

Despite feeling that water overuse in Athens is a real problem, Connelly said considerations need to be made about other factors, especially population growth.

“It’s great that we’re coming up with technology to reuse water and use this gray water, but we need to be looking at population growth at the same time that we’re looking at this new technology.

Connelly said the project is a step in the right direction, but not a good long-term solution for the water shortage problem.

“It’s a good idea, but if people think it’s going to save the day, they’re being a little bit overly optimistic. We have to combine that with other things, and one of those is the knowledge of what sustainable growth really is.”


Written by: Amy Scott

February 28, 2017 No Comments

5 ways to eat more sustainably at the dining halls

Food production accounts for 25 percent of the energy consumed by U. S. citizens. We funnel some of our most valuable resources—fossil fuels, fresh water and arable land—into the vast business of agriculture. This practice, like many, is hardly sustainable; that is, it cannot be continued at its current rate indefinitely.

Sustainable eating will become a necessity as these resources become more scarce and the number of people on Earth that need to be fed continues to grow. With that in mind, here are five ways to eat sustainably in the dining halls here at UGA.

1) Take only as much as you’ll eat

It’s easy to overestimate a serving size in the buffet-style dining halls and just as easy to just send leftovers away into the depths of the dish return. However, according to the United States Department of Agriculture, food waste is the single largest contributor to landfills in the United States, emitting significant quantities of methane, a chief greenhouse gas.

Additionally, the energy consumed in the transportation and processing of uneaten food contributes to the global carbon footprint. To reduce this impact, take only as much food as you think you’ll eat. It minimizes waste and gives you an excuse to go back for seconds.

2) Eat seasonally

The dining hall provides a convenient variety of fruits and vegetables. However, not all may be in season. Unseasonal produce must be shipped from milder climates by truck, expending a huge amount of energy in the form of fossil fuels.

According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, the gasoline burned by shipping vehicles emits greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide and hydrofluorocarbon. Research which fruits and vegetables are in season and make an effort to avoid those that aren’t. This time of year, brussels sprouts, carrots, kale and collard greens are seasonally available in Georgia.


3) Eat more veggies

Your mother’s nagging has come back to haunt you for an environmental cause. Livestock ranching requires large amounts of open land, often created by clearing forests. This deforestation destroys forest habitats and damages surrounding land via increased erosion and depleted soil nutrients.

Additionally, growing produce requires considerably less water than growing livestock. Fresh water is a rapidly decreasing resource and its proper allocation is becoming more important.  

4) Eat less meat

While vegetarianism is a personal lifestyle choice, there are undeniable environmental benefits to reducing meat intake, if not giving it up entirely. Consumers retain only 10 percent of the energy of the trophic level from they consume.

So a cow or pig only retains 10 percent of the energy of the plant matter it easts, and a human retains only 10 percent of the energy contained in that pig or cow. Eating lower on the trophic chain maximizes the amount of energy available to you in the most efficient manner. Even giving up steak for tofu once a week can make a difference, so give meatless Monday a chance.

5) Be willing to put in the effort

These changes are by no means easy, especially as a college student with what seems like a hundred different causes vying for your attention. The last thing you would think you’d have to worry about is what you’re eating at the dining halls.

However, developing sustainable habits can never hurt, no matter how unnecessary they may seem. Make an effort to consider what’s on your plate, how it was produced and where it came from.

Consider the resources that went into its production, where those resources came from and if those resources will be readily available in the future. Even the smallest changes—opting not to sprinkle bacon on your salad or putting back the roll you know you won’t finish—can make a difference.

We only have one Earth, so trEAT it well.

Written by: Gemma DiCarlo

February 23, 2017 No Comments

Rabun County’s Ladybug Farms awarded UGA students’ latest tiny house

Georgia Organics, UGA team up again to provide housing to young Georgia farmers

Athens, Ga. – It’s only 175 square feet, but it’s cozy, clean and makes all the difference in the world to a young farmer who is learning to work the land.

It’s a tiny house built by students taking a University of Georgia sustainable building course and donated to a Georgia farmer as part of Georgia Organics’ organizational push for farmer prosperity. 

Rabun County farmer Terri Jagger Blincoe of Ladybug Farms in Clayton received the keys to the tiny house in a ceremony Saturday, Feb. 18, at Georgia Organics’ 20th annual conference in Atlanta. The house will be delivered to the farm the first week of March during UGA’s spring break.

This is the second tiny house that UGA students have donated to a Georgia farmer through Georgia Organics. “Green Building and the Tiny House Movement,” a course offered jointly through the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences and the College of Family and Consumer Sciences, launched in fall 2015.

During the class, which is co-taught by FACS assistant professor Kim Skobba, housing management and policy department, and CAES associate professor David Berle, of the horticulture department, students learn about land planning and building code issues facing American cities. They also design and build a tiny house. Georgia Organics helps to fund the construction, then selects a farmer to receive the house, one who pledges to use the house to help train a younger farmer.

“This project would not happen without UGA and their sustainable building class, who designed and built the tiny house,” said Alice Rolls, executive director of Georgia Organics. “We give a valuable asset to a farmer, but it’s also an amazing educational opportunity for students to learn sustainable design.”

A Georgia Organics selection committee received several applications from farmers interested in receiving the tiny house. The farmers wrote essays explaining how they would use the house if they were to win.

Blincoe stood out because she was an established farmer with a history of hosting younger, apprentice farmers, Berle said.

Ladybug Farms distributes produce to restaurants around metro Atlanta and through a community-supported agriculture program in Atlanta’s Cabbagetown neighborhood. The farm is also active in the Northeast Georgia Farm to School program and serves as an apprenticeship site for UGA’s Journeyman Farmer Certificate Program.

“They have a unique outreach model that fit well with our purposes and with those of Georgia Organics,” Berle said.

Tiny houses enable young people to learn how to farm from older farmers or even to start farming because they solve a critical problem—the lack of on-farm housing, Berle said.

“There’s a need on many farms for housing, especially for young farmers, for interns, for apprentices,” Berle said. “There are a lot of people who are willing to share their knowledge, but [there is] not always a place for apprentices to live. And in many cases, there are farms that people would let a young farmer use, but the owners are still living in the farmhouse. Building a tiny house fills that need.”

For more information about the sustainable building class’s latest project — a trailer-based catering kitchen and accessible bathroom for use at UGArden — visit tinydawghouse.com. This latest project will be built with lumber cut on site from storm-damaged trees.




Writer: J. Merritt Melancon, jmerritt@uga.edu, 706-410-0202
Contact: David Berle, dberle@uga.edu   Kim Skobba, kskobba@uga.edu, 706-542-4951

Note to editors: The following photos are available online at


Caption: The tiny house built by University of Georgia students as part of “Green Building and the Tiny House Movement” will be delivered to Ladybug Farms in Rabun County over spring break. 


Caption: Rabun County farmer Terri Jagger Blincoe holds the ceremonial “key” to a tiny house funded by Georgia Organics and built by students in UGA’s course on “Green Building and the Tiny House Movement.” Georgia Organics Executive Director Alice Rolls, far left, UGA student Emma Courson and UGA associate professor of horticulture David Berle congratulate her. (Credit: Tom Brodnax)


Caption: Reilly Megee, a student in “Green Building and the Tiny House Movement,” saws into a piece of plywood during a workday at UGArden.


February 23, 2017 No Comments

Worn Wear tour comes to UGA to promote sustainability

Delia, the Patagonia Worn Wear truck packed with clothing repair supplies and equipment, took to the highways over the weekend for the Patagonia Worn Wear College Tour and parked in front of the University of Georgia’s Tate Student Center and the campus bookstore at 8 a.m. Tuesday morning.

“We’re trying to go on the road and create awareness on the impact of what we buy and the impact that it has on the environment,” said Kern Ducote, content producer for Patagonia. “We’re trying to encourage people to fix what they already have instead of throwing it away.”

The tour crew opened Delia and set up sewing machines and racks of damaged Patagonia returned clothing, inviting students to start bringing clothes to be repaired at 10 a.m. or to repair and keep one of the damaged pieces for free.

“There’s a lot of passion and excitement among college students, especially for the brand,” Ducote said. “Anything that Patagonia is standing behind, a lot of people in the college demographic are going to come out for.”

Sonam Desai, a junior computer science major from Covington, stopped at the truck on her way to Barberitos. She waited an hour in line to repair a $400 Patagonia jacket.

“Most of them are just tears. We just had to put the sticker on this,” said Desai, pointing to a small bison sticker covering a tear on the bottom of the jacket.

Patagonia packed up when they ran out of items that needed repairs around 5 p.m.

The “What to Do, How to Live” activism lecture then began at 6:30 p.m. with free food in the Tate Grand Hall.

UGA Director of Sustainability Kevin Kirsche introduced the three lecturers who came at no cost to the university and celebrated today as the first-annual Zero Waste Extravaganza, which had 18 different sustainability organizations tabling at Tate from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Adam Werbach, an environmentalist and entrepreneur, walked up to the podium holding a guitar and singing. Through this, he introduced the other two speakers, Rick Ridgeway and Scott Briscoe.

Ridgeway, Patagonia’s vice president of environmental affairs, then took the microphone and talked about the purpose of the tour and Patagonia’s efforts toward sustainability in production and conservation.

Briscoe talked to the audience about Expedition Denali, a historic ascent of Mount Denali where the first predominantly African American team climbed the highest peak on the continent.

This is the fourth-annual Worn Wear tour, but the first that is geared toward colleges. Ridgeway said about 1,000 students lined up at Delia, and the crew fixed 500 pieces of clothing.

UGA was the second stop on the tour of 21 colleges, and Worn Wear Tour Manager Brandon Richards said the turnouts “have been insane.”

“After the last stop, we knew that since this was a way bigger school and the location of where we are, it would definitely be a huge success,” Richards said. “It’s cool to see how stoked everyone is.”


Patagonia paired up with Post-Landfill Action Network, an organization that focuses on educating students on zero-waste initiatives, for the first time this year.

“PLAN partners with a bunch of different socially responsible companies that we feel kind of fit our ethical partnership requirements and really take into account the environment and communities as well as economic stuff,” said Nim Dhillon, director of tours and events for PLAN.

Dhillon said the organization chose the colleges for the tour based on their involvement with sustainability.

According to PLAN, UGA was chosen because of the Office of Sustainability’s grant programs, the extensive composting program and waste-diversion efforts.

About 12 people and one dog are on this tour right now, taking Delia and a couple other vehicles coast to coast to different colleges. They’ll be going to Clemson University on Feb. 23.

“Every time PLAN goes on a road trip, we try to do the entire thing zero-waste,” Dhillon said. “When we go out to eat, we try to bring our own containers for leftovers. It’s definitely challenging, but it’s really eye-opening. It’s a fun social experiment to see where you’re able to do that and where you’re not able to do that.”

For Richards, he said he would only go on the tour if his five-year old dog Rudy could come, and he became the mascot for Worn Wear.


During the bustle of the Zero-Waste Extravaganza and the Worn Wear tour, Rudy took a nap in Delia’s window among piles of thread, patches and stickers used for repairs.

February 1, 2017 No Comments

Coal burning linked to toxic contaminants found in raccoons

Aiken, S.C. – Coal-burning power plants produce more than half of the electricity in the U.S., and they generate huge amounts of coal ash in the process. One type of coal ash is a fine, powdery particle called fly ash, which for many years was treated as waste and disposed of in landfills.

Now, researchers at the University of Georgia and University of Florida have shown that the toxic elements in fly ash accumulate in the livers of raccoons that forage for their food in and around the ponds containing the waste. Researchers say the study findings can inform communities located near the remnants of coal waste about its potential dangers to public health and the ecosystem.

Coal ash is one of the largest types of industrial waste in the U.S., according to the Environmental Protection Agency. In 2012, 470 coal-fired electric utilities generated about 110 million tons of coal ash.

University of Florida doctoral student Felipe Hernández examined raccoons from two distinct habitats: one contaminated, and the other, uncontaminated, both located on the U.S. Department of Energy’s Savannah River Site. He worked with James Beasley, an assistant professor at UGA’s Savannah River Ecology Laboratory and Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources.

Beasley explained that the contaminated habitat surrounds five pond-like basins that are currently undergoing remediation, or environmental cleanup procedures, but received coal waste from 1953-2012. During that time, these impoundments discharged waste into the surrounding landscape.

Hernández suspected that there would be a direct connection between the coal fly ash and what they would find in the systems of the raccoons captured from the contaminated site.

“Arsenic, selenium and lead are trace elements that are normally present in these animals at low concentrations, but we found significantly higher concentrations of these elements in the liver of the raccoons from the contaminated site,” said Hernández. “Toxic concentrations of arsenic and lead can impact the central nervous, blood, cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, urinary and reproductive systems in wildlife.”

Hernández said trace elements become toxic at variable concentrations in different species, but the researchers warn that contaminants in raccoons can transfer to higher-level predators through the food chain and to humans who consume game meat.

“Our results found concentrations were 18 to 125 percent higher in the raccoons from the contaminated site,” he said.

Beasley said that the team also observed lower red and white blood cell counts in the raccoons. However, he noted, “the levels are not high enough to have substantial effects that would prove detrimental to the health of this particular population.”

“Elevated levels of these trace elements, particularly arsenic and selenium, have been previously observed and documented in a wide range of species in these habitats,” he said. “Our study is further evidence that these surface impoundments, or coal ash basins, can be a significant source of contaminant exposure for wildlife.”

The research team said its study also proves raccoons are an ideal species for studying uptake of environmental contaminants.

“They are abundant, have small home ranges and an omnivorous diet,” said Hernández. “Their uptake of the contaminant is therefore going to represent their exposure, including their dietary habits: consuming aquatic and terrestrial vertebrates, invertebrates and vegetation surrounding the ash basins.”

“As a terrestrial species, these raccoons are not living in the coal ash basins,” Beasley said. “Yet, their accumulation of contaminants reflects those found in the coal combustion waste. Most likely, they are using the impoundments as a source of food and water.”

The study, “Raccoons as Sentinels of Trace Element Contamination and Physiological Effect of Exposure to Coal Fly,” is available at http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00244-016-0340-2.




Writer: Vicky L. Sutton-Jackson, 803-725-2752, vsuttonj@srel.uga.edu

Contacts: James C. Beasley, 803-725-5113, beasley@srel.uga.edu

                Felipe Hernández, 352-278-1470, fhernandez2180@ufl.edu


Note to editors: Photos of a raccoon and the Upper Three Runs Creek are available at



Cutline: Researchers at the University of Georgia and University of Florida have shown that the toxic elements in coal ash accumulate in the livers of raccoons that forage for their food in and around ponds containing the waste. Credit: Felipe Hernández; UFL.

Cutline: The water body of Upper Three Runs Creek. Credit: V. Sutton-Jackson.


Savannah River Ecology Laboratory

The Savannah River Ecology Laboratory is a research unit of the University of Georgia located on the U.S. Department of Energy’s Savannah River Site near Aiken, S.C. The lab pursues basic and applied research in the independent investigation of impacts from environmental factors on the SRS, around the region, the U.S., and around the globe.

Additional members on the collaboration include Samantha M. Wisely, School of Natural Resources and Environment, and Lisa Farina, Department of Infectious Diseases and Pathology, College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Florida; Ricki Oldenkamp and Sarah Webster, UGA Savannah River Ecology Laboratory and the Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources.

January 31, 2017 No Comments

Student Affairs grants encourage innovative faculty research partnerships

Three University of Georgia research projects have been named as the inaugural recipients of the Student Affairs Faculty Research Grant. The grants encourage the use of Student Affairs programs and facilities as a principal laboratory for research, enhancing the role of the division in campus research.

The recipients include projects that will assess the social and financial impact of the UGA Food Scholarship, examine family relationships when students transition to college and investigate plans to improve water quality. 

Erin Richman, director of Student Affairs academic partnerships and initiatives, explains that incentivizing partnerships between Student Affairs and faculty benefits both students and researchers.

“The grants encourage researchers to access the many campus resources using our robust facilities,” said Richman. “Ultimately, we not only create innovative partnerships, but we maximize the impact of scarce research dollars.”

Recipients of the 2017 Student Affairs Faculty Research Grants are:

An Exploration of How the UGA Food Scholarship Affects Students’ Social and Financial Success in College

Georgianna L. Martin, assistant professor in the department of counseling and human development services, College of Education

Parent-Child Relationships across Students’ Transitions to College

Katie Ehrlich, assistant professor in the department of psychology and the Center for Family Research, and Anne Shaffer, associate professor in the department of psychology, Franklin College of Arts and Sciences

Concept Plans to Improve Water Quality

Jon Calabria, associate professor in the College of Environment and Design, in partnership with the Office of Sustainability

Katie Ehrlich, a grant recipient, said that Student Affairs departments have unique access to students on campus, and she looks forward to sharing the results of her research to enhance campus programming.

“By establishing a formal partnership with Student Affairs, we hope to open the dialogue about what resources on campus are most beneficial as students enter college,” said Ehrlich.

Ehrlich said that the grant also played a role in expediting a new faculty collaboration with colleague Anne Shaffer, associate professor in the department of psychology.

“Had it not been for this award, Anne and I likely would have had a slower start to starting a joint project,” she said.

Vice President for Student Affairs Victor K. Wilson, whose office funds the grants, points to the program as rounding out his division’s support of the university’s three-part mission: teaching, research and service.

“We are proud of the excellent learning experiences and service opportunities Student Affairs offers,” Wilson said. “We have always been very supportive of research, and these grants clearly communicate Student Affairs’ desire to be a full partner in faculty research.”

The call for proposals for the 2017-2018 cycle will go out in early March with a submission deadline in May. Visit partner.studentaffairs.uga.edu for more information.




Writer: Stan Jackson, 706-542-1793, ugastan@uga.edu 
Contact: Erin Richman, 706-542-3564, erichman@uga.edu



Student Affairs Academic Partnerships and Initiatives

Academic Partnerships & Initiatives serves as a nexus between colleagues at the University of Georgia and the 18 departments of the Division of Student Affairs—including Student Affairs’ many natural laboratories, facilities, co-curricular programs, and university-wide Centers. API seeks to enhance and enrich the tripartite mission of UGA by building mutually-beneficial relationships between units that have not historically worked together, and by innovating how students, faculty and staff employ the readily available resources within the university. For more information, see partner.studentaffairs.uga.edu.


UGA Student Affairs

The Division of Student Affairs comprises 18 campus departments that enhance the learning environment for students at the University of Georgia by stimulating the learning process, integrating the in-class and out-of-class experiences, promoting an environment conducive to growth and discovery and facilitating intellectual, spiritual, social, occupational, physical, cultural and emotional development. For more information, see studentaffairs.uga.edu.

January 30, 2017 No Comments

Study identifies the Southeast’s most diverse and imperiled waterways

Athens, Ga. – After more than a year of data collection, analysis and mapping, the University of Georgia River Basin Center and the Tennessee Aquarium Conservation Institute recently published a comprehensive survey of Southeastern watersheds and the diverse aquatic wildlife that live in these freshwater ecosystems. 

The study’s creators say they hope it will serve as a master plan to guide research and conservation work that will ensure the long-term survival of these waterways, which have suffered from intensive human development.

“Rivers and streams in the U.S. are the arteries that flow through our landscape, and they carry a measure of the health of the landscape with them,” said Tennessee Aquarium Conservation Institute Director Anna George. “Right now, those rivers are having heart attacks.

“What we're doing is like visiting a doctor to learn how to take better care of the health of our rivers. We’ve identified some of the most important places to start a small change in our habits and how we take care of our waters.” 

Scientists scored each watershed based on three characteristics: the number of species it contained, the conservation status of those species and how widespread each species was. Areas containing a greater variety of species, large numbers of endangered or threatened species or species found in few or no other locations were ranked higher.

According to the study, the 10 highest-priority watersheds are:   

— Pickwick Lake in middle Tennessee and northern Alabama
— Wheeler Lake in middle Tennessee and northern Alabama
— Cahaba in central Alabama
— Upper Clinch in northeast Tennessee and southwest Virginia
— Middle Coosa in northeast Alabama
— Lower Duck in middle Tennessee
— Conasauga in southeast Tennessee and northwest Georgia
— Lower Coosa in central Alabama
— Etowah in northwest Georgia
— Caney in middle Tennessee

The report uses colored heat maps to represent the variety of species in a given area—warmer colors indicating greater diversity—and are based on the distribution of more than 1,000 fish, crayfish and mussel species in almost 300 watersheds spanning 11 states. The vivid red-and-orange bull’s-eye centered on middle and southeast Tennessee, northwest Georgia and northern Alabama shows why this region is so biologically significant.

Experts place the region’s plethora of aquatic wildlife on equal footing with that of species-rich tropical ecosystems. More than 1,400 species reside in waterways within a 500-mile radius of Chattanooga, including about three-quarters of all native fish species in the United States. More than 90 percent of all American mussel and crayfish species live within that same area.

“The Southeast’s rich aquatic communities are globally significant,” said Duncan Elkins, the study’s coordinator and a postdoctoral research associate at the University of Georgia River Basin Center, based in the Odum School of Ecology. “There’s nothing else like our biodiversity anywhere else on the continent or anywhere else in the temperate world.”

More than a quarter of the species included in the study are unique to the region, and some of them are struggling. Twenty-eight percent of Southeastern fish species, for example, are considered imperiled, more than doubling during the last 20 years.

The publication of the Tennessee Aquarium Conservation Institute and River Basin Center study, which was funded by a National Fish and Wildlife Foundation grant, comes at a crucial time for Southeastern aquatic ecosystems.

Efforts to study and safeguard freshwater species in the region continue to struggle due to anemic funding and a lack of federally protected lands, especially compared to less-diverse regions, such as the Western United States.

“The Southeast has an incredible number of species, and it’s really important that we focus our attention on protecting places where we can get the most bang for our buck,” George said. “This project allows us to visualize, across the Southeast, where those places are that are so critically important for our water and wildlife.”

A full version of the study is available online at http://southeastfreshwater.org/prioritization.




Contact: Duncan Elkins, 706-623-2254, delkins@uga.edu

Note to editors: A heat map showing the watershed priority scores for the Southeast is available online at  http://multimedia.uga.edu/media/images/rbc-tnaci-priority-map.jpg.

January 25, 2017 No Comments

Tate Student Center adds private room for nursing mothers

The University of Georgia’s Tate Student Center has added a designated private room for nursing mothers.

 The space is one of 14 lactation rooms on the main campus, with others located at the Veterinary Teaching Hospital and on the Health Sciences Campus. A map of UGA lactation rooms is online at http://hrdocs.uga.edu/map-campus-lactation-rooms.pdf.

 Tate’s lactation room is located on the fourth level adjacent to the Student Veterans Resource Center. Access is available through a keypad lock; users may get the code by visiting or calling the Office of the Dean of Students. 

“Previously, we would accommodate nursing mothers by making temporary space available on an as-needed basis,” said Jan Barham, associate dean of students and director of the Tate Student Center. “We’re pleased to join the university’s efforts to enhance resources for women by designating a permanent lactation room.”

The Tate Student Center is a department within UGA Student Affairs. For more information, call 706-542-7774 or see http://tate.uga.edu. For information about women’s resources on the UGA campus, see http://women.uga.edu.





Writer: Don Reagin, 706-542-7774, dreagin@uga.edu
Contact: Jan Barham, 706-542-7774, davisjk@uga.edu



UGA Student Affairs

The Division of Student Affairs comprises 18 campus departments that enhance the learning environment for students at the University of Georgia by stimulating the learning process; integrating in-class and out-of-class experiences; promoting an environment conducive to growth and discovery; and facilitating intellectual, spiritual, social, occupational, physical, cultural and emotional development. For more information, see http://studentaffairs.uga.edu.

January 24, 2017 No Comments

5 things you didn’t know about recycling in Athens

Given the abundance of green and black garbage bins planted on UGA’s campus, it’s surprising how little students know about local recycling. In fact, the recycling program is a point of pride for the University of Georgia. Athens has a nationally recognized recycling program and was the first municipal residential curbside pickup in Georgia.

While students recognize that recycling is important, few would be able to list what can and cannot be recycled in Athens, or where materials go after they have been thrown in a bin. Listed below are a few facts about local recycling that the UGA Office of Sustainability wishes you knew.

1. Recyclables are called materials, not waste


Those involved in waste management programs in Athens cite that it’s essential for those on campus to stop thinking about recyclables as waste. Instead, students should consider these items to be materials with potential to be re-used as valuable recourses.

“It bothers me when recycled material is called waste, because it’s only wasted if you aren’t recycling it,” said Mason Towe, a Zero Waste Team Coordinator for the Office of Sustainability.

2. Don't recycle soiled material

Recycled material is only valuable to the recycling facility when food and other non-recyclables aren’t mixed in with the load. 

Since it's costly and time consuming to sort through a batch of contaminated recyclables, the entire load will be driven from the facility to a landfill whether most of it is contaminated or not. When a load of recyclables has to be driven from the recycling center to a dump, not only does it waste all the non-contaminated materials, it wastes fuel and labor too.

The three main forms of recycling contamination are food, styrofoam and film which refer to plastic bags. If these materials are allowed to enter the inner-workings of the recycling facility, they may tear up expensive machinery and slow down the recycling process.

Out of these, food is the most common way a load of recyclables is ruined. It’s imperative to ensure that no liquid or solid food is heading to the recyclable bin along with your trash. When in doubt, throw it out. 

3. Jittery Joe's disposable coffee cups can’t be recycled

The list of acceptable recyclable material differs for each community. Knowing what you can and cannot recycle is the first step to avoiding contamination.

If you’re unsure, the best idea is to look on the Recycling & Waste Reduction website for Athens-Clarke County or UGA’s Office of Sustainability website to make sure you aren’t soiling an entire batch of recyclables with an item meant for the landfill.  

A short list of recyclables within Athens includes glass, non-shredded paper, water bottles, metal, solo cups and cardboard. However, you can’t recycle disposable cups, styrofoam, paper towels, straws or plastic bags.

4. It's only a few steps from the recycling bin to re-manufacturing

Usually when you throw an item in a bin on campus, your thought process about the materials you threw away ends quickly. However, it’s important to know that your actions have a direct impact on what happens next.


A service worker picks up the bin and takes the materials to a dumpster and then facilities management comes to collect the materials in dump trucks. From there, the goods travel directly to either the landfill or the local recycling facility. Soon afterwards, they will be taken to manufacturers that will use the recyclables to recreate other goods.

At each of these stopping points, people are making decisions about whether or not the recycled items are contaminated, in which case they will throw the entire load in a landfill instead of recycling it.

5. Trash does not decompose in a landfill

Throwing garbage in a landfill is a waste management system where trash is buried in the ground, entombing potentially valuable recourses forever.

“People think that eventually things are going to break down in a landfill and that’s false, things are going to stay there for a very long time,” Towe said.

Landfills drain all of the liquid out of the garbage so no bacteria exists to break it down, creating a dark time capsule of our unwanted goods. Towe went on to cite an excavation of a landfill holding trash from the 1950s where intact hotdogs and paper items were found preserved within in the buried mess.

Final thoughts

After reading this article, you’re more knowledgeable on recycling and waste management at UGA than most. You have the power to take stewardship of this issue yourself by educating those around you, encouraging them to recycle the right things and stopping them from recycling the wrong ones. If everyone brings more conscious awareness to their process of throwing away materials, it will result in a healthier, cleaner and smarter Athens.  

If you’re passionate about recycling, check out Zero Waste UGA, a campaign that fights for the eventual goal of zero waste on campus. Also, a team of volunteers called the Residence Hall Eco-Reps strives to promote sustainability on campus through a variety of educational and social efforts. 

Written by: Nicole Schlabach

January 23, 2017 No Comments

Athens’ first Social Justice Symposium attracts scores of people

A University of Georgia student-led workshop on social justice held Saturday in Athens attracted more than 100 people for discussions of issues ranging from criminal justice to affordable housing.

“This has been mostly students, but it also involved some community members all doing some really hard work to bring this together. We’re planning to have it every year,” said UGA graduate student Alyss Donnelly, one of the organizers.

The Social Justice Symposium, held at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Athens, was the work of students in the UGA School of Social Work.

The Rev. Francys Johnson, president of the Georgia NAACP, gave the keynote address, and said he was impressed by the attendance.

“I’m glad I’m here. There is a spirit in the air here,” he said.

Speaking more broadly, Johnson said, “I think there is a growing recognition that change will not come from the top down, but from the bottom up. It will come when people of goodwill and good ideas come together to press past the status quo.”

Llewellyn Cornelius, a professor in the UGA School of Social Work, said it was important to have students leading the workshop.

“We wanted to have the students drive this, not faculty, staff and administration,” Cornelius said, adding that it was also important that students opened the symposium to the community.

“The folks that live here are rooted in their knowledge of the community,” he said.

“I think it’s incredibly important for students to build the skills and capacities needed in order to effectively bring about positive change. We need opportunities like this for them to develop these skills,” said Rebecca Matthew, an assistant professor at the School of Social Work.

The event also honored June Gary Hopps, a professor in the social work school, with an award. In the future, the award will be presented in her name.

Students had asked Hopps, known nationally in her profession, to speak about her background during the workshop. She described growing up in a central Florida town, where as a child her family stressed faith and education.

“Civil rights were always on the forefront at our kitchen table. My folks talked about Brooker T. Washington and W.E.B. DuBois,” said Hopps, who joined the civil rights movement in the 1960s while attending Spelman College in Atlanta.

“I was in the first group of students arrested in Atlanta to desegregate the lunch counters. We marched in together and sat at a counter and we were pulled out,” she said.

The importance of the day’s discussions were emphasized by Yosha Dotson, a graduate student in social work who helped organize the event.

“There are so many things going on across the nation,” Dotson said. “But it’s important for us to bring up those things actually going on in Athens … we want to work on the things going on here.”

Written Wayne Ford

January 17, 2017 No Comments

UGA awards student scholarships for study abroad in sustainability

Two University of Georgia students received scholarships as part of the Office of Sustainability’s Study Abroad in Sustainability. The awards — to Katherine Russell of Moultrie, Georgia and to Jessica Parks of Jackson, Georgia — were made possible by the Brittney Fox Watts Memorial Endowment.

The endowment was established by the family of UGA alumna Brittney Fox Watts to honor her creative spirit, adventurous soul and loving heart and to empower individuals to address the health and well-being of people and communities around the globe. To date, ten scholarships have been awarded to UGA students engaging in sustainability studies and service-learning in Asia, Australia, Central America, and Europe.

Katherine Russell, an ecology major in the Odum School of Ecology, who will study abroad in Freiburg, Germany, plans to focus on the connection between culture and sustainability in order to study how cultures come to embrace sustainable practices and incorporate them into daily life.

A first-generation college student, Russell is driven by a love of her region and its people and strives to determine how “…we should live in order to conserve our land, our natural heritage, our culture, and our livelihoods.”

Jessica Parks, a Ph.D. student in the Financial Planning, Housing, and Consumer Economics program within the College of Family and Consumer Sciences, will attend the Housing and Household Economics program at UGA Costa Rica.

Parks seeks to better understand limitations that consumers (especially South Americans) face and to begin an understanding of the complex nature of Costa Rica’s financial system. Additionally, Parks believes that studying how others navigate through a universal health care system will allow her to share these tips with American families.

The Brittney Fox Watts Endowment for Study Abroad in Sustainability provides support to students who share passions for traveling, experiencing different cultures and embracing sustainable practices to address the health and well-being of individuals and communities around the globe. A $500 enhancement is provided to select UGA undergraduate and graduate students attending UGA-sponsored education abroad or exchange program focused on sustainability. The funds are provided through the generous support of family and friends of Watts to the Brittney Fox Watts Memorial Fund.

Writer: Andrew Lentini, 706-542-1301, alentini@uga.edu
Contact: Kevin Kirsche, 706-542-1301, kkirsche@uga.edu

For more information on UGA Costa Rica, see costarica.uga.edu. For more information on UGA’s Study Abroad in Freiburg, see www.gsstudies.uga.edustudy-abroad-internships/uga-study-abroad-freiburg.


UGA Office of Sustainability
The Office of Sustainability coordinates, communicates and advances sustainability initiatives at the University of Georgia. For more information, see http://sustainability.uga.edu/.

Brittney Fox Watts Memorial Endowment
As a University of Georgia alumnus, Brittney Fox Watts was a dabbler and explorer of the world around her and was wholeheartedly dedicated to doing her best work, no matter the cause, newest hobby or challenge at hand. Watts’s family joined with the Small Dreams Foundation, Inc. to create a memorial fund to honor her creative spirit, adventurous soul and loving heart.  It is their hope that this fund will provide financial support to students who share the same passions as Watts—who loved traveling the world, experiencing different cultures and supporting sustainable practices. To learn more, see http://smalldreamsfoundation.org/.



January 17, 2017 No Comments

Campus bike-share program plans for expansion to increase accessibility

When most students walk into the University of Georgia Main Library, their intentions are usually academic, in search of a book or place to study. But for Ulises Deras, a junior entertainment and media studies major from Gainesville he goes to the circulation desk to check out bikes, not books.

This program, Bulldog Bikes is a free bike-share program based on a library system where students can check out and return bikes from any of the three libraries on campus for the day.

“It’s convenient, and they’re nice bikes,” Deras said. “I really enjoy biking around the school. It makes getting to classes more fun than just walking.”

The idea started as a student-led initiative five years ago in which separate departments managed a small fleet of bikes that could be checked out to students during the day, said Jason Perry, office of sustainability program coordinator.

Sahana Srivatsan, an Office of Sustainability intern, proposed a micro-grant to jump-started Bulldog Bikes program and made it into the standardized library system the University now has in place.

There are currently 15 bikes in the fleet plus spares, and last spring semester the bikes were checked out for about 1,300 hours, Perry said. However, the program has no advertising other than the bikes themselves outside the libraries and posters inside.

Deras said he doesn’t know anyone who uses or knows much about the program, besides running into fellow students bringing bikes back to the rack.

“I saw it on the library website, and from there I was like, ‘Oh bikes,’ and I just checked one out one day to see if I liked it, and I kept doing it,” Deras said.

In order to use the program, students can register online or at the library and go to the circulation desk and request a bike. The student gets a helmet and a key with the bike number on it, and they must bring it back by the end of the day.

Perry said there are mechanics who maintain the aluminum bikes weekly, though Deras said he has had minor trouble with tightening the seat or some problems with the brakes.

Otherwise, Deras said that it’s a little inconvenient that the bikes have to be brought back to a library at the end of the day.

Bulldog Bikes is looking toward expanding the program to be larger and more accessible, but there are no concrete plans so far.

“We’re investigating commercially available options to be more automated and ways to implement that, but we’re still in pretty early stages of this,” Perry said.

BikeAthens, an advocacy and service group for promoting biking and walking, is also beginning to look into a community bike-share program.

“The big question is how to make it a viable option, particularly economically,” said Tyler Dewey, executive director of BikeAthens. “There are informal discussions all the time on what bike share in Athens would look like.”

In the meantime, the Office of Sustainability and BikeAthens work together to create safer streets for all transportation on campus and in the city. They meet with other organizations like transit and parking services and the Athens-Clarke County and UGA police departments to discuss the Complete Streets initiative, which aims to make all streets safe and efficient to bikers, walkers and drivers.

The League of American Bicyclists named UGA a Bronze Bike Friendly Campus and Athens a Bronze Bike Friendly Community at the end of last year for the community’s biking infrastructure and programs.

In 2011, the UGA received an honorable mention from the League and since then Perry said they used that feedback to improve streets like the efforts seen on Sanford Drive.

“Bikes are one component of getting people around in a densely populated campus,” Perry said. “It all has to fit together and not take away from walking or buses.”

Both Perry and his wife have ridden their bikes to work for the past nine years.

“Through improvements over the years to bike infrastructure on campus, there’s a noticeable increase in people riding bikes,” he said. “Since more are doing it, more are aware it’s safe, and the community becomes more bike friendly.”

 Written by: Erin Schilling @erinschilling85
January 11, 2017 No Comments

UGA researchers receive $1.3 million Moore Foundation grant to study the global ocean microbiome

Athens, Ga. – A $1.3 million grant from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation will allow University of Georgia researchers to uncover answers about an important metabolic link that takes place in the Earth’s oceans.
Microorganisms in the largest microbial habitat on Earth, the ocean microbiome, function similarly to microorganisms in the human gut; they perform chemical transformations that keep the whole system healthy.

Phytoplankton, the microbial primary producers of the ocean, take up carbon dioxide and provide the building blocks for all marine life, while bacteria use these building blocks to direct the carbon to different functions in the ocean.

And while the billions of marine microorganisms present in every liter of seawater represent a structured ecological community that regulates how the Earth functions, from energy consumption to respiration, and including the operation of carbon and nitrogen cycles, the precise metabolic links between phytoplankton and bacteria have proven difficult to analyze.

Now, thanks to the Moore Foundation grant, UGA researchers are working to uncover the details of these metabolic transformations to assess the rates at which metabolites move between microbial primary producers and consumers in the surface ocean.

“The flux of key phytoplankton-derived metabolites into other marine organisms is the foundation of ocean biology,” said Mary Ann Moran, Distinguished Research Professor of Marine Sciences in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences and principal investigator on the grant. “We’re looking at the step after marine phytoplankton use CO2 to create the building blocks: How fast are specific metabolites released from these primary producers cycled by bacteria?”

The importance of carbon cycling on Earth is clear, but understanding how carbon is obtained by bacteria, sustains bacterial growth and respiration, and connects the various microbial communities of the ocean has proven surprisingly elusive. How much carbon gets stored in the ocean and what sets that amount is also difficult to quantify because of the challenging chemistry involved and the fact that current techniques are hindered by the presence of salt in seawater.

“Half of the carbon fixation on Earth is carried out by marine phytoplankton, and half of that gets released to bacteria. So for a full quarter of the world’s total photosynthesis we are missing information about how metabolites are transformed at the earliest stages,” said Arthur Edison, Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar in the Franklin College department of biochemistry and molecular biology, department of genetics, Institute of Bioinformatics and Complex Carbohydrate Research Center.

The UGA team designed a research plan that tracks chemicals of interest into bacterial cells, requiring a combination of new technologies and recent innovations in conventional spectroscopy.

“It’s a real challenge to separate small metabolites from the salt in seawater,” Edison said. “The metabolites exist in vanishingly low concentrations and are very difficult to measure.”

The team will use nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, most commonly known as NMR spectroscopy, a research technique that exploits the magnetic properties of certain atomic nuclei to observe specific metabolites.

“But the game changer that will really give us a sensitive signal is called dissolution dynamic nuclear polarization,” Edison said. “This tool, plus a lot of patience in the lab, will allow us to see one molecule change into another, change into another, change into another, as long as the signal lasts.”

“That will allow us to see the flux of the relevant compounds into a bacterial cell, and be able to measure how fast the metabolites are entering and what they’re being converted into inside the cell,” Moran said.

The team will also deploy metabolite decoys into the ocean to capture proteins that interact with the decoys either during transport into cells or once they are inside.

Collaborators in the use of these new approaches are Elizabeth Kujawinski at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, and Aaron Wright at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and Washington State University

The research will use lab cultures of bacteria isolated from various locations in the ocean including off the coast of Georgia’s Sapelo Island, and field studies with natural microbial communities.

The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation fosters path-breaking scientific discovery, environmental conservation, patient care improvements and preservation of the special character of the San Francisco Bay Area. For more information, visit Moore.org or follow @MooreFound. 




Writer: Alan Flurry, 706-542-3331, aflurry@uga.edu
Contact: Mary Ann Moran, 706-542-6481, mmoran@uga.edu
Art Edison, 706-542-8156,  aedison@uga.edu

This release is available online at http://news.uga.edu/releases/article/moore-foundation-ocean-microbiome


December 12, 2016 No Comments

UGA plans to clean up polluted Lake Herrick

The University of Georgia will clean up polluted Lake Herrick, whose waters have been off limits to the public since a 2002 algae bloom vividly showed off the man-made lake’s high pollution load.

University of Georgia Vice President for Research David Lee touted the impending cleanup of Lake Allyn M. Herrick this week as he spoke at the university’s “Sustainability Summit,” where students and faculty talk about sustainability projects they’ve undertaken, or ones they’re planning.

“What a black eye on the university,” he said.

Exactly what form the clean-up will take remains to be seen, said UGA Environmental Coordinator Kevin Kirsche.

The university has contracted with design firms in the first part of the restoration. Final design plans should be ready by around March, with construction to begin next fall. UGA is getting some help for the restoration from the Southern Company and the Riverview Foundation.

A 2006 restoration plan called for restoring an upper pond which filtered out some pollution before it reached Lake Herrick, but that was shelved after planners in the Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources discovered that restoring the dam would entail an extensive repair of the upper pond’s dam.

Built in 1982 and named for a long-serving dean of the Warnell School, Lake Allyn M. Herrick is a part of the Oconee Forest property managed by the Warnell School at the back end of UGA’s intramural sports complex off College Station Road. Its drainage area includes a part of Five Points, UGA intramural playing fields and extends to the nearby Athens Perimeter.

The upper pond, dry now for the most part, is also partially filled with sediment, some from construction such as UGA’s bus facility on Riverbend Road, according to one of the numerous studies UGA scientists and students have conducted on Herrick and its pollution. Pollution problems showed up almost as soon as the lake opened. It soon became a favorite for fishing, but managers couldn’t maintain a healthy fish population.

Lake Herrick has also become perhaps Athens’ top birding spot, and probably the city’s most-studied water feature. UGA scientists and students have been studying Lake Herrick’s problems for decades.

The upper pond, now drained and more like a wetland than a water body, will be at the center of the first phase, which could include restoring the pond or even converting it into a wetland, Kirsche said. At the same time and later, the university will also take steps further out into the lake’s 248-acre watershed to reduce pollution coming into the lake.

One recent study proposed the construction of storm water detention basins at the Perimeter, at UGA’s Transit Center, or in the UGA property adjacent to the lake.

Improving the quality of water flowing into the lake might involve finding a way to cut down on dog poop in the watershed.

Bacteria is the chief pollution problem for Herrick, said Tara Byers, a program coordinator in the UGA Office of Sustainability. Monitors see higher overall pollution loads on Lily Branch and Tanyard Creek, two streams that flow through the campus, she said.

“It’s not terrible,” she said.

The water is clean enough now to allow boating activities, concluded students in a 2014 environmental practicum who studied the feasibility of cleaning up Lake Herrick.

Follow Lee Shearer at www.facebook.com/LeeShearerABH or https://twitter.com/LeeShearer

December 8, 2016 No Comments

UGA students awarded grants for innovative sustainability solutions

Athens, Ga. – The University of Georgia awarded $40,000 to fund 11 interdisciplinary student projects through the Office of Sustainability’s annual Campus Sustainability Grants program. Funded by student green fees, the program provides financial and staff resources to help students implement projects that further the university’s sustainability mission.

Project proposals were received from interdisciplinary student teams across multiple academic disciplines. A selection committee of students, faculty and staff made the final recommendations for projects to receive funding for implementation in 2017. Students were given freedom to develop and propose innovative solutions to address goals in UGA’s 2020 Strategic Plan to promote stewardship of natural resources and advance sustainability research, education and service at UGA and beyond.

Since inception of the Campus Sustainability Grants program in 2010, the Office of Sustainability has awarded a total of $210,000 to fund 58 student-initiated projects on campus and in the community.

“Campus Sustainability Grants provide opportunities for innovation and experiential learning” said Kevin Kirsche, UGA Director of Sustainability.  “Students are asked to envision better solutions to current challenges and are provided resources to take their ideas from concept to completion.”

Recipients of the 2017 Campus Sustainability Grants are as follows:

Utilizing Floating Wetlands to Improve Water Quality in Lake Herrick

Sarah Hensey, in the Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources, under the direction of Dr. Susan Wilde, will construct an aquatic system of floating plant material designed to improve water quality in Lake Herrick. Other student collaborators include Aaron Trimble, Cody Matteson, Muhan (Harry) Qiu, and Jordan Francis.

Sustainable Inspection of Campus Facilities using Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Technology

Julian Moore and John Box, in the College of Engineering, under the direction of Dr. Zion Tse will utilize drones to provide low-cost, high efficiency inspection of roofs, moisture, and radiant heat on campus structures.

Sunshine Savings Initiative

Tommy Lehner, in the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication, under the direction of Jason Perry, will use enhanced lighting controls to conserve energy in the Miller Learning Center.

Development of a tensiometer and automated irrigation controller to reduce irrigation water use

Jesse Lafian, in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, under the direction of Dr. Marc Van Iersel, will measure soil moisture to determine optimal timing for irrigation.

Missing Spokes: Mapping Diverse Bicycling Experiences in Athens, GA

Ian Rossiter, a Geography Masters student in Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, under the direction of Dr. Jerry Shannon, will collect comprehensive and representative data necessary to develop an equitable bike master plan. Other student collaborators include with Sam Webber, David Rickless, Sam Tingle, and Stephen Jordan.

A Focus on Learning: FACS Hygiene Closet

Anna Beth Smith, in the College of Family and Consumer Sciences, under the direction of Dr. Cara Simmons, will expand the FACS Hygiene Closet by installing additional shelves and purchasing needed items to better serve students in need. Other student collaborators include Erika Massie and Dana Carney.

Measuring the effectiveness of sustainable stormwater design at the Science Learning Center

Callie Oldfield, a plant biology PhD student in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, under the direction of Dr. Chris Peterson & Dr. Michelle Momany, will evaluate the effectiveness of recently installed stormwater infrastructure around the Science Learning Center and increase awareness of sustainable stormwater practices among students and the public. Other student collaborators include Molly Smith, DeShantra Kelly, Ansley Vardeman, Jeffrey Rones and Tae-In Lee.

Vegetated Rooftop Rejuvenation Project

Grace Catherine Peoples, a student in the School of Public and International Affairs, under the direction of Dr. Todd Rasmussen, will enhance the green roof at Boyd Hall.

Regenerative Gym Equipment

Nico Hoernle, a student in the College of Engineering, under the direction of Dr. Javad Velni, will create an exercise spin bike that generates electricity. Other student collaborators include Hayden Salyer and Josef Provatakis.

Testing Model Predictive Control to Determine On-Campus HVAC Energy Reduction 

Matthew Becton, a PhD student in the College of Engineering, along with biochemical engineering student Nicholas Winter, will work to conserve energy in campus buildings through software that predicts outdoor temperatures under the direction of Dr. Xianqiao Wang.

Dodd’s and Ends

Kira Hegeman, an Art Education PhD student in the Lamar Dodd School of Art, under the direction of Chris McDowell, will enhance learning among students and teachers in local middle schools through hands-on design and construction using salvaged materials. Other student collaborators include Isabel Hinsch and Hary Harrison.



December 8, 2016 No Comments

UGA showcases its sustainability progress

The University of Georgia is becoming more sustainable in big ways and small, judging from speakers at a UGA “sustainability summit” Tuesday.

On the big side, the university has decreased its overall water use by 30 percent over the past decade, UGA Vice President for Research David Lee told more than 200 people gathered in the university’s Jackson Street Building.

UGA is also using 20 percent less energy, Lee said and will easily make a goal of 25 percent reduction by 2020, Lee said.

It’s actually UGA’s energy per square foot that has gone down; overall energy consumption has been relatively unchanging because the university has added square feet at about the same rate as energy efficiency improves. Officials do expect to see overall energy use declining in the future.

Lee also noted UGA’s many sustainability-related research projects. Some $185 million in UGA research grants are related to sustainability, he said, citing such areas as biofuels and the quest to make degradable plastics.

The vice president also mentioned the Georgia Power Company’s solar facility next to the university’s club sports fields on South Milledge Avenue. The facility generates 1 million megawatts of electricity, fed into the state’s power grid, and is the subject of a two-year research project for students and faculty in the College of Engineering.

Kevin Kirsche, UGA’s sustainability coordinator, pointed out energy-and water-saving features in the building where the environmental summit was held — an energy-saving chilled-beam cooling system, toilets that flush with recycled water and above, the only solar panels installed on any campus buildings.

“It’s a wonderful place to celebrate sustainability,” he said.

Some future and ongoing projects will also help, he said.

The University of Georgia’s campus transit system, the largest in the country, is aiming for zero tailpipe emissions. With help from a federal grant, the university has replaced about a third of its bus fleet with electric businesses with a goal of eventually having an all-electric fleet, Kirsche said.

Student Mason Towe, who’s worked with the an intern in the sustainability office for three years, touted UGA recycling efforts.

Two years ago, 29 buildings had paired trash receptacles — one for materials that must go the landfill, the one beside it for recyclables. Now 150 buildings have those paired receptacles, Towe said.

In addition, more than 80 “Big Belly” solar-powered disposal units now dot the campus.

Posters showed other student research, including one on saving energy by not keeping cell phone chargers plugged in when they’re not charging.

Each one uses only a tiny amount of electricity, but with 36,000 students, that can add up.

A project to clean up polluted Lake Herrick will also soon get underway, Kirsche said.

Another student, Carson Dann, outlined plans to make a place for pollinators at a green roof garden on UGA’s Geography-Geology Building.

Written by: Lee Shearer
Follow Lee Shearer at www.facebook.com/LeeShearerABH or https://twitter.com/LeeShearer

Clarifying statement from Kevin Kirsche:

UGA has not yet added the electric busses to our fleet.  They are planned for 2017 and will replace approximately 1/3 of the existing diesel buses.

Funding for the new electric buses is coming from the State of Georgia Go Transit! Initiative.


November 29, 2016 No Comments

UGA named a Bronze Bicycle Friendly University by the League of American Bicyclists

Athens, Ga. – The University of Georgia received a Bronze Bicycle Friendly University award by the League of American Bicyclists for its commitment to safe, enjoyable and convenient bicycling for students, faculty, staff and visitors.

“We’re proud of this distinction and we remain committed to creating safe, convenient bicycle infrastructure and programs at UGA,” said Kevin Kirsche, director of sustainability at UGA.

UGA was part of a group of 51 new and renewing bike friendly universities from 25 states recognized. Athens-Clarke County also received a Bronze Bike Friendly Community award, and BikeAthens was named a Silver Bike Friendly Business.

To date, UGA has over 16 miles of bike lanes, trails and shared use paths on campus; over 600 members of the UGA community participate in Bulldog Bikes bike share; and more than 20 students have received refurbished bikes through the reCYCLE bike donation program. UGA holds pop-up bike safety checks and has made improvements to campus bicycle infrastructure including the contraflow bike lane and green bike box on Sanford Drive.

“Getting here has been a real team effort over the past several years,” said Jason Perry of the UGA Office of Sustainability. “Transportation and Parking Services, the Office of University Architects, Facilities Management Division, UGA Police, Recreational Sports, and the College of Public Health-as well as community partners such as BikeAthens and the Athens-Clarke County Department of Transportation and Public Works-have all played crucial roles to improve the bicycling infrastructure and culture at UGA.”

To learn more about Bicycle Friendly University and other programs of the League of American Bicyclists, visit bikeleague.org/BFA.

For more information on bicycling at UGA, see sustainability.uga.edu/bike.

November 2, 2016 No Comments

UGA-led consortium, conservation agencies to present statewide ocean-themed film contest

Athens, Ga. - A team of University of Georgia-based marine researchers investigating the impacts of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill on the Gulf of Mexico are teaming up with local and statewide conservation agencies to co-present the 2017 Ripple Effect Film Project.

The research consortium Ecosystem Impacts of Oil and Gas Inputs to the Gulf includes 29 researchers from 15 institutions and is led by Samantha Joye, Athletic Association Professor in Arts and Sciences in UGA's department of marine sciences. In addition to cutting-edge scientific research on the Gulf of Mexico, a primary goal of the consortium is to engage with the public about the group's scientific activities and the importance of healthy ocean systems.

The Ripple Effect Film Project is accepting short films and public service announcement submissions that focus on the 2017 theme "ocean connections" through Jan. 31. Submissions are open to filmmakers of all ages and abilities from around Georgia. Finalists' films will be showcased at the historic Morton Theatre in Athens on March 25.

This year submissions are not restricted to Athens-Clarke County residents or water conservation and stormwater protection topics, but are open to films from around the state on a broad range of topics that connect human behavior to the health of the world's oceans.

"We're excited to partner with Ripple Effect-daily choices about food, water and energy consumption impact ocean ecosystems whether we live inland or on the coast. The Ripple Effect partnership represents an exciting new way to engage with people about the importance of ocean health and sustainability-not just for the Gulf of Mexico but for all oceans," Joye said.

The Ripple Effect Film Project was founded in 2013 by the Athens-Clarke County Office of Water Conservation in conjunction with EcoFocus Film Festival. Since then hundreds of filmmakers have had their films included in the annual "Blue Carpet Premiere" event in Athens. In addition to ECOGIG and Athens-Clarke County Water Conservation, presenting partners include Athens-Clarke County Stormwater Division and Keep Athens-Clarke County Beautiful.

Further information about ECOGIG and Ripple Effect Film Project may be found at www.ecogig.org and www.rippleeffectfilmproject.org. Film entries may be submitted through https://filmfreeway.com/festival/RippleEffectFilmProject.


Writer:Sara Beresford
Contact:Samantha B. Joye

October 21, 2016 No Comments

Radiance Solar completes solar research facility at University of Georgia

Radiance Solar announced that it has completed a grid-tied, 1.25MW solar research project designed for studying solar panel performance at the University of Georgia.

The installation was developed on a four-hectare site leased to project owner Georgia Power by the University of Georgia. The renewable energy credits generated from the operation of the facility will be owned by the University of Georgia.

As the engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contractor, Radiance Solar designed and engineered the installation — which showcases optimal orientation and tracking technology that fits in with Georgia’s climate and energy demand.

Project partners Southern Company, the Electric Power Reliability Institute (EPRI) and the University of Georgia will study performance and reliability factors in order to get a better grasp on regional integration of solar on the grid.

The installation consists of five sub arrays that use differing solar technologies, including high-efficiency 435W solar panels, single-axis trackers and monitoring from SunPower, SMA Tripower inverters, Sonnen dual-axis trackers and Brilliant Rack fixed-tilt racking in various configurations.

James Marlow, CEO and co-founder of Radiance Solar, said: “We are proud to be a part of the team that is advancing solar in Georgia. This is the kind of investment that will further the efficiencies of the technology and help us understand the potential of solar as a cost-effective energy resource for our state.”

Written by Conor Ryan

October 17, 2016 No Comments

UGA’s State Botanical Garden completes first major prairie planting

The State Botanical Garden of Georgia completed its first major planting of native grasses and wildflowers as part of a Piedmont prairie restoration project.

In September, more than 10,000 plugs grown from seed at the Mimsie Lanier Center for Native Plant Studies at the University of Georgia garden at a site named Prairie on a Hill.

“This planting actually represents the last stage of a five-year cycle,” said Heather Alley, conservation horticulturist at the botanical garden. “We first had to determine the species to use. Then, we had to find the plants, collect the seeds from wild population, figure out how to grow them and then increase the seeds each year. It really takes a village.”

All of the plants are native to the Georgia Piedmont and are critical as migration corridors for the birds and insects that are essential pollinators for this region of the state.

Faculty and staff from the botanical garden worked alongside employees from the Gainesville Fockele Garden Co. on the project, funded by a three-year grant from the federal Institute of Museum and Library Services.

“This habitat also supports ground nesting birds, such as turkey, quail, grouse and snipe,” said Jennifer Ceska, conservation coordinator at the botanical garden. “We have seen declines in those populations over the last 50 years, and these species are considered to be high priority for conservation managers.”

As part of the garden’s commitment to education, the Prairie on a Hill will be used as a teaching and demonstration area for those who want to learn more about the process of native habitat restoration. Ceska’s hope is that landowners, particularly large land-holding organizations, will incorporate what they learn into their environmental practices.

All of this work feeds into the goals of the Georgia Native Plant Initiative, established in 2010. By using the growing knowledge base of native habitat restoration and the local ecotypes needed to sustain them, those working at the Center for Native Plants can partner with landscapers, land and roadside managers, and commercial property owners to transform landscapes across Georgia.

The botanical garden’s habitat restoration program goes beyond the Prairie on the Hill. While one project involves the removal of invasive species from the understory of its floodplain forest, another has been a source of research for Lauren Muller, a graduate assistant studying horticulture. Muller’s project—determining the best way to prepare a site for establishing milkweed, an important host plant for rapidly dwindling populations of monarch butterflies—will conclude with a planting in October at Panola Mountain State Park in Stockbridge.

“Our habitat restoration program, and particularly our Prairie on the Hill, feed into the research, education and display efforts we promise to fulfill here at the garden,” said Jim Affolter, director of research. “And at the end of the day, we are guiding the research of our students and providing the public with a beautiful prairie meadow to explore.”




Writer: Lee Redding, 706-537-6596, leeredd@uga.edu
Contact: Jim Affolter, 706-542-6448, affolter@uga.edu 



October 5, 2016 No Comments

New UGA institute seeks solutions to major infrastructure challenges

Athens, Ga. – The University of Georgia has created a research institute that will work to help communities rethink, transform and adapt their infrastructure in a time of rapid environmental and social change.

The Institute for Resilient Infrastructure Systems will be administered by the College of Engineering and will include faculty members from more than nine academic units across campus. Faculty in the new institute will explore ways to strengthen traditional “gray” infrastructure systems—such as water and sewage treatment, urban drainage, energy and transportation— and to integrate them with “green” and “blue” infrastructure—green spaces, bodies of water, and ecosystems that perform vital functions such as buffering storms and cleansing water and air.

“The institute will be nationally unique in that it unites engineering with ecology, environmental design and planning, atmospheric science, law and policy, public health, and other disciplines to effectively combine green and gray infrastructure solutions for resilience to weather and climate-related extremes,” said Brian Bledsoe, the UGA Athletic Association Professor in Resilient Infrastructure and the institute’s inaugural director. “By bringing together UGA’s diverse strengths we hope to produce integrative research that can be used by communities, businesses and governments to mitigate risks through improved decision-making and infrastructure design at a variety of scales.”

The American Society of Civil Engineers estimates that investments of more than $3 trillion are needed in the next decade to repair and maintain existing infrastructure systems, most of which are not designed to accommodate climate extremes, increased urbanization and demographic shifts. Ensuring that infrastructure systems perform reliably, bounce back from adverse events, and enhance community well-being across many potential scenarios is essential for security and sustainability, Bledsoe said.

“The Institute for Resilient Infrastructure Systems is a perfect example of UGA’s interdisciplinary approach to solving the major challenges facing society,” said College of Engineering Dean Donald J. Leo. “While engineering has a special responsibility in the design of next generation infrastructure systems, this is a challenge that requires us to transcend disciplinary boundaries to find the best solutions.”

In addition to the College of Engineering, the new institute will feature faculty collaborations with the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, the Carl Vinson Institute of Government (a public service and outreach unit), the College of Environment and Design, the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant, the Odum School of Ecology, the College of Public Health and the Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources.

The new institute plans to develop and offer graduate and professional certificate programs in resilient infrastructure, according to Bledsoe. In addition, institute faculty will design an interdisciplinary concentration in infrastructure systems under the existing Ph.D. in engineering degree.

Partners and experts from business, industry, government and other fields will play a role in the Institute for Resilient Infrastructure Systems through two external advisory boards that will provide input on strategic directions.


Writer: Mike Wooten, 706-542-0886, mwooten@uga.edu
Contact: Brian Bledsoe, 706-706-542-7249, bbledsoe@uga.edu


September 26, 2016 No Comments

The Garden

What do you think of when you hear “sustainability”?

Initially, simple things, like bicycles, trees, and the herd of goats behind the Engineering building, come to mind.

But when I really think about it, and consider all of the sustainable efforts across our campus, I think of just that. Effort.

In the land of jammed schedules and mass consumption, living a more sustainable life requires a considerable amount of effort for us Americans. Is taking the time to sort recycling from trash really worth it? Why search for something used when a newer option is cheap and easily available? Learning about sustainability seems to require the unlearning of what many consider “normal.”

But this is not the case for everyone.

Tucked away at the edge of campus, behind Building Q of Family and Graduate Housing, sits a garden. Prior to each growing season, FGH residents line up outside of the office with hopes of claiming their very own portion of it. In proper land rush style, tenants who receive a stake hurry to the garden and select their spaces.

“We first plowed out the garden in 2003 and it has grown significantly since then,” says Jamie Buckley, Residence Hall Director of Family and Graduate Housing.

Although they did the plowing, it wasn’t exactly the staff’s idea. Resident after resident contacted Jamie requesting a place to garden. Many were confused as to why the grassy area behind Building Q wasn’t being utilized in the first place.

For months, some spending several hours a day, the gardeners sow and tend to their plants tirelessly. Walking through, you can tell when one plot ends and another starts. Some grow a wide variety of vegetables. Some have spaces filled with flowers. And others grow chilies exclusively, in order to spice up our bland American cuisine.

With many of the FGH residents being internationals, hailing from agrarian societies around the world, a communal garden is simply the norm. They don’t garden to make a statement or prove a point.

For these individuals, sustainability just comes naturally.

“What’s happening in this community is what I like to call sneaky sustainability,” says Jane Diener, the University Housing Sustainability Coordinator here at UGA, “You can walk by each apartment and see egg shells in the potted plants. They are using fallen tree branches as trellises. They aren’t gardening and composting because it’s cool. It’s just how they live.”

With several friends in Family Housing, I can attest that sustainability does not stop at the garden’s edge. Many international residents use the bus system or walk to class. During move out, you see furniture being passed from old resident to new resident. Recycling bins are steps away from the buildings. Their culture and their environment have taken the effort out of sustainability.

A hidden gem of the University, the FGH garden off of Rogers Road is a great place to sit quietly or lay out a blanket to catch up on some studying. During your visit, pay attention to the gardeners and the fruits of their labor. Their “sneaky sustainability” might just be contagious.


Written by: Kaleigh Galvin

September 19, 2016 No Comments

Energy wise

In keeping with its commitment to sustainability, UGA has reduced annual energy consumption by more than 20 percent since 2007, saving $5 million per year as a result. The reduction is the result of several measures, including infrastructure repairs and investments, replacement of the old coal-fired boiler, and individual efforts to conserve.

"We've broken the 20 percent mark thanks to the efforts, large and small, of everybody on campus: faculty, staff and students," said David Spradley, director of energy services in the Facilities Management Division.

Individual energy-saving habits, like turning off the light in a residence hall room or shutting down a computer overnight, have a multiplier effect when practiced by the tens of thousands of people on campus, according to Spradley.

The Conserve Georgia initiative, introduced in 2008, committed state agencies to reduce energy usage 15 percent by 2020 over 2007 energy-use levels. UGA met that goal in 2014, six years early, and campus progress is continuing.

By the end of fiscal year 2016, the university achieved a 20.24 percent reduction in energy consumption, as measured by British Thermal Unit (Btu) per square foot. Btu is the standard unit of measurement for energy consumption. The costs saved are reinvested in more energy conservation efforts.

"We have already surpassed the initial goal of 20 percent and are now closing in on the UGA Strategic Plan's goal of 25 percent by 2020," said Spradley. "We feel like we're going to meet that mark, and then we'll stretch ourselves to go further in the decades after that."

In addition to energy savings resulting from the campus community, the Facilities Management Division continues to make key energy conservation investments.  Replacing the 50-year-old coal-fired boiler with a new electrode boiler in 2015 resulted in an estimated 3 percent reduction in energy use as well as a significant reduction in emissions of sulfur dioxide and particulate matter.  Three district energy plants are being constructed and expanded to efficiently cool campus buildings, including District Energy Plant (DEP) #1 located across from Bolton Dining Commons, DEP #2 adjacent to UGA's Central Steam Plant and the planned DEP #3 on Riverbend Road for late 2017. To date, more than 4,000 LED lighting fixtures have been installed across campus, and many more are planned over the next five years.  More than 1.5 miles of leaking steam lines and over 100 steam pits have been repaired and insulated. 

The Office of University Architects also is constructing buildings that are increasingly energy-efficient. Since 2007, the university has added more than 2 million square feet in building space-including the Health Sciences Campus-an amount comparable to adding five Ramsey Student Centers to the university. New facilities include the recently opened Science Learning Center, Correll Hall, the special collections libraries, Pharmacy South and the Veterinary Medical Center, all of which are now contributing to the university's overall reduction in the rate of energy consumption.

Written by: Aaron Hale
See more at: http://uga.edu/about_uga/profile/energy-wise/#sthash.030LnRue.dpuf

September 13, 2016 No Comments

UGA graduate hopes to preserve historic botanical gardens in downtown Athens

In the middle of downtown Athens construction, recent University of Georgia College of Environment and Design graduate Andrew Lundstrom remains determined to save the location of the 1830s UGA botanical gardens, which is marked by a historical plaque.

Lundstrom wants to preserve the four-acre area composed of West Broad, Pope, Reese and Finley Streets on the north end of downtown Athens which is in contract for purchase. Once preserved, he plans to reconstruct a smaller scale replica of the 1830s botanical garden.

Lundstrom said his plans for the area include a commercial building on Broad Street and a network of open paths and lawns throughout the property

“My education and experience in commercial landscape architecture helped me understand the impact that urban green space has on cities,” Lundstrom said.

His interest in historic preservation began while working on his capstone project for the College of Environment and Design. Lundstrom was tasked in preserving the Harrington School on St. Simons Island into a 12-acre park and educational space.

During this same period of time, he noticed the urban development gaining speed in his Athens and began studying its historic gardens.

“We have seen the addition of 3,000 plus bedrooms in the urban core from 2013-2016, yet Athens has no urban park space,” Lundstrom said.

He is calling on the community to join him in his progress through his petition that requires 1,000 signatures.

If the property is sold to the interested developer, Lundstrom said he will not cease his efforts. He intends to propose a beautification of an unusable portion of the block.

“I want to help create a sustainable Athens for all the generations to come, not just environmentally, but economically as well. Spaces like this have immense economic value,” Lundstrom said.

Written by: Savannah Peat @SavannahPeat

September 13, 2016 No Comments

Composting on industrial scale demonstrated at UGA workshop

Nearly two dozen people learned about composting at a University of Georgia workshop last week, but it wasn’t the kind of kitchen-waste composting people can do in their backyards.

The two-day class included county agents in areas with large chicken-growing operations, people who work at landfills, workers at two other Georgia colleges, and even representatives of commercial composting companies.

They were there to learn about large-scale composting operations, such as those at UGA’s Bioconversion Center on Whitehall Road and at the Athens-Clarke County Landfill, and what you can do with large amounts of compost.

Clarke County generated nearly 5,000 cubic yards of compost last year, grinding up and composting nearly 6,000 tons of yard waste and more than 1,600 tons of “biosolids,” a large fraction of what’s produced annually from Athens-Clarke County’s sewage treatment plants.

Athens-Clarke County spent more than $1.5 million on setting up the compost facility, including $800,000 on construction and $750,000 in heavy equipment.


The compost is tested periodically for contamination from heavy metals as well as E. coli and salmonella bacteria, and is sold to the public at the landfill on six days a week at $2 per bucket, or $12 per cubic yard for screened compost and $6 per cubic yard for unscreened compost.

UGA’s large compost operation doesn’t use biosolids to mix with woody material generated from the UGA grounds, but instead uses, as of 2014, about five tons per week of food waste from UGA dining halls. The compost goes back onto UGA grounds, and the university also avoids the cost of having the material buried in a landfill.

Large-scale composting could also help the state’s huge poultry industry.

Georgia poultry farm operators produce more meat chickens than any other state — 1.4 billion a year, said Casey Ritz, a poultry specialist with UGA’s Department of Poultry Science, one of the lecturers during the two-day workshop.

One result is 1.5 million tons a year of chicken litter, said Ritz. Much of it goes back onto farm fields to help build up soil. “We like to say Georgia soils were saved by the poultry industry,” Ritz said, talking about the vast quantities of topsoil lost to erosion.

“But that’s a lot of material to deal with,” Ritz continued.

Directly applying it to land is the best, most convenient and least costly way to put chicken litter to use, he said, but there’s not always enough space to do that.

Composting, done right, can also be an effective way of dealing with “poultry mortality,” Ritz said, disposing of the bodies of the millions of birds that don’t survive to be slaughtered for food.

Methods for dealing with those chickens have included incineration, burial pits, rendering, acid fermentation and feeding them to captive alligators, he said.

But composting is rising close to the top of the list for dealing with dead chickens, he said. The process involves combining about one part dead birds with two to three parts chicken litter in layers.

“It’s rapidly becoming the number-one disposal option in the U.S.,” he said. Done right, there’s no odor, and high temperatures in compost piles do a good job of killing pathogens, including avian influenza virus and insect pests, he explained.

Composting also allows for year-round disposal of carcasses and is bio-secure, meaning that it doesn’t require the entry of vehicles from off the farm where the dead chickens are located.

Doing it wrong can cause health hazards, though.

Whatever the reason for large-scale composting — commercial gain, saving landfill space, disposing of dead birds — it’s much more of a science than the composting that’s done in backyards. One challenge is getting the proper ratio of materials that, when mixed, will produce the high temperatures — around 150 degrees — that ensure efficient composting, explained Jessica Cudnik, a program assistant in the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences’ Sustainable Agriculture Program.

Part of the workshop was a competition between teams of participants to see which could calculate the best formula to get a small compost pile to heat up fastest.

The workshop was hosted by the UGA Agricultural Technical Assistance Program, a joint program between the university’s College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences and the UGA College of Engineering, with funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development and Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education programs.

Follow reporter Lee Shearer at www.facebook.com/LeeShearerABH or https://twitter.com/LeeShearer.

September 9, 2016 No Comments

Your chance to grade the bike-friendliness of the UGA Athens campus

The UGA Athens campus recently applied to the League of American Bicyclists for Bicycle Friendly University status. As part of the application process, the League has asked us to distribute this survey to students and employees on the Athens campus to get direct feedback from you. You can respond whether you ride a bicycle on campus every day or have never ridden on campus at all. Take the survey here.

July 29, 2016 No Comments

Satellite data reveal serious decline in Georgia salt marsh health

Sapelo Island, Ga. — Scientists at the University of Georgia's Marine Institute at Sapelo Island have found that the amount of vegetation along the Georgia coast has declined significantly in the last 30 years, spurring concerns about the overall health of marshland ecosystems in the area.

Using data collected by NASA's Landsat TM 5 satellite, which provided 28 years of nearly continuous images of the Earth's surface between 1984 and 2011, the researchers found that the amount of marsh plant biomass had dropped 35 percent. They published their findings recently in the journal Remote Sensing.

This sharp decline is largely due to changes in climate, the researchers report, with prolonged periods of drought and increased temperatures playing a major role. And scientists worry that this loss of vegetation will have a ripple effect throughout the complex marsh-based ecosystems.

"A decrease in the growth of marsh plants likely affects all of the animals that depend on the marsh, such as juvenile shrimp and crabs, which use the marsh as a nursery," said Merryl Alber, director of the Marine Institute and UGA professor of marine sciences. "These decreases in vegetation may also affect other marsh services, such as stabilizing the shoreline, filtering pollutants and protecting against storm damage."

The research was conducted by John Schalles, professor of biology at Creighton University in Nebraska and adjunct professor of marine science at UGA, and John O'Donnell, a graduate student in Creighton's department of atmospheric sciences.

The scientists used satellite imagery to observe the growth of Spartina alternifolora-more commonly known as cordgrass-which is the dominant plant in most salt marshes along the U.S. East Coast. Because cordgrass is so abundant, scientists can use it as an indicator of the wetland's overall health.

The use of satellites allowed Schalles and O'Donnell to observe large swaths of cordgrass marshland without enduring the hardships and expense of extensive field work.

"Salt marshes are muddy environments that are difficult to navigate, and you have to carefully plan your expeditions for low tide," said O'Donnell, who spent a year in residence at the UGA Marine Institute while conducting his research. "The use of the satellite allowed us to get data from a much larger area than what could be collected in the field. It also allowed us to go back in time."

Ultimately, both Schalles and O'Donnell hope that their satellite-based study of marshland will continue on Sapelo Island, as well as in other coastal regions throughout the world.

"We plan to extend this work over the coming years and use it to help predict how marshes will respond to sea level rise and other long-term change," Schalles said.

The project was supported by the Georgia Coastal Ecosystems Long Term Ecological Research Project, an ongoing study of the salt marsh ecosystem of the Georgia coast based at the Marine Institute and funded by the National Science Foundation. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration also provided funding for the study.

For a full version of the study, see www.mdpi.com/2072-4292/8/6/477/htm.
Written by: James Hataway

July 22, 2016 No Comments

UGA Skidaway Institute scientists to study role of sunlight on marine CO2 production

Savannah, Ga. - Scientists at the University of Georgia Skidaway Institute of Oceanography have received a $527,050 grant from the National Science Foundation Chemical Oceanography Program to answer one of the long-standing questions about carbon in the ocean—the rate sunlight produces carbon dioxide from organic carbon molecules in the sea.


July 19, 2016 No Comments

UGA opens up Oconee farm for organic tour

A light but steady stream of visitors came out to the University of Georgia’s Organic Twilight Tour in Oconee County last week to see and hear about what’s new in organic agriculture.

The fifth annual “Organic Twilight Tour” at the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences’ Durham Horticulture Farm drew visitors from all over Georgia as well as surrounding states.

As they walked among the rows of vegetable and fruit plants at the farm off Hog Mountain Road near Watkinsville, they got to talk to UGA researchers about their latest organic agriculture research.

View more photos from the farm in our slideshow.

They also got to sample three kinds of watermelon grown at the farm, and could pick up some tips useful for both full-scale organic farmers and gardeners tending a vegetable patch in a corner of their yards.

In one display, visitors could see close-up pieces of equipment that could help on a small organic farm, including a tined weeder, a no-till seed drill and a rotary spader that readies soil for planting.

Nearby, retired County Extension agent Jerry Larson shared some of his years of experience with organic fruit production, including a demonstration of how a fine powder of kaolin, a kind of nearly white clay mined in Georgia, can be an effective insect repellent with apple trees.

Larson, retired from Fort Valley State University’s Cooperative Extension unit, also showed off a low-tech but highly effective way to improve soil and composting for either farm or garden — a “vermiculture garden composting sub-tower.”

The tower is two plastic buckets fitted together, after the bottom was cut out of the top one and 32 holes drilled in the bottom one.

Bury it in the garden, partially fill the bottom part with about six gallons of mature compost and three cups of red wigglers, and top it with the plastic saucer — filled with water, the saucer cools the inside – and you’ve got an efficient composting bin — and not only that, the worms will reproduce and spread out in the garden, helping improve soil fertility.

Larson learned about the vermiculture towers from a farming couple near Metter, Ga., Irvin and Alanna Brannen.

UGA researchers including sustainable agriculture coordinator Julia Gaskin were on hand to demonstrate their own research.

One project explored the benefits of planting sunn hemp and other cover crops to fix nitrogen; others sought ways to reduce diseases in squash, a crop much in demand by buyers of organic produce.


Written by: Lee Shearer
Follow education reporter Lee Shearer at www.facebook.com/LeeShearerABHor https://twitter.com/LeeShearer

July 7, 2016 No Comments

You Don’t Need to Bring a Car to School!

The Office of Sustainability welcomes our new students for the Fall 2016 semester, and we are excited to tell you about all the ways that you can get around campus and Athens without having your own car. 

Visit our Transit page to learn about the award-winning and convenient UGA Campus Transit system. And did you know that Athens Transit is free to use for anyone with a UGA ID? You can track UGA and Athens buses in real time with the UGA Mobile app, and Athens Transit is fully integrated into Google Maps. Both transit systems will soon run much cleaner thanks to a grant to help pay for electric buses

Riding a bike is a great way to get around campus, and you can ride here year round! Visit our Bicycling at UGA page for everything you need to know about getting around UGA and Athens by bike. If you're not sure if a bike is the thing for you, you can try riding for free with the Bulldog Bikes bike share system. Anyone with a UGA ID can check out a bike from the library just like you would a book. And if you really need a bike but can't afford one, you may qualify for the reCYCLE program

The UGA campus is much more walkable than a lot of people think. It takes about 35 minutes to walk from Driftmier on the southern end to the Arch on the northern end. During peak class times it can be faster to walk between classes than take the bus! If you have class in the new Science Learning Center (or even if you don't) you may find this campus walking times map helpful. 

Finally, if you need a quick ride by car but don't have one, Uber operates in Athens with the highest level of service in the evenings. 


June 29, 2016 No Comments

Grant means cleaner, lower-cost transportation for UGA, Athens

In the next year or so, the University of Georgia and Athens-Clarke County can look forward to cleaner and lower cost transportation because of a federal grant

On June 22, Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal announced he would give the Athens Transit System $6 million in funding to help the transportation system replace 10 ultra-low sulfur diesel vehicles with 10 Gillig hybrid-electric heavy duty buses, according to a press release from the Athens Transit System. 

The governor also appropriated $10 million to UGA for 19 fully electric buses, according to a press release from the university. These buses will replace the university's oldest ones, the release said. 

Both of these awards came from the GO! Transit Capital Program, a funding program sponsored by the Georgia's State Road and Tollway Authority, according to the releases.