Green Grants support rain garden, other projects

Publication Date

Sara Covelli ’17 spent last summer back home working for Nassau County’s environmental resources department. The department is in the midst of an ambitious campaign to install rain gardens throughout the sprawling Long Island county.

Covelli thought a rain garden, which can filter out runoff pollution by using plants and natural items so the untreated water doesn’t end up in storm drains, would be welcomed at Union.

Thanks to Covelli, the campus will indeed be getting its first rain garden. The environmental policy major’s project was selected to receive a Presidential Green Grant Monday. A total of 15 projects were awarded grants worth more than $24,000.

Now in its seventh year, the program supports environmentally sustainable projects at Union, and is open to faculty, staff and students. Since it was launched, grants totaling nearly $120,000 have been awarded to support 81 projects.

The grants are administered by the College’s U Sustain Committee, made up of environmentally and socially concerned students, faculty and staff who steward the College’s sustainability initiatives.

This year’s projects touch nearly every corner of the campus, including a water refill station for Alpha Epsilon Pi, a scanning program to reduce or eliminate paperwork related to Union’s card program and a marketing campaign for Octopus’ Garden. Research projects funded include the creation of a permanent entomology collection, support of the team involved in the Human Powered Vehicle Challenge East sponsored by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), and ice thermal storage.

“All of these projects will make campus operations more sustainable or contribute to research on broader environmental issues,” said Jeffrey Corbin, professor of biology and faculty co-chair of U Sustain, who, along with Sustainability Coordinator Meghan Haley-Quigley ’11, presented the winners with certificates as President Stephen C. Ainlay looked on.

“This program allows us to bring many, many ideas to fruition, that otherwise we would have no chance to do.”

Covelli will work with the team responsible for the new, three-story, 38,420 square-foot apartment style residence under construction on Roger Hull Place and Park Place.

“The design for this rain garden will be able to capture the pollutants that from the road by the residence hall and encourage water to filter through this natural system before it goes into a storm drain,” Covelli said.

She also plans to work with a visual arts student to design an artificial downspout explaining what a rain garden is.

Sustainability is one of the key priorities of the College’s Strategic Plan.

In 2007, President Ainlay was among the first to sign the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment (ACUPCC), pledging to formally work on reducing, and eventually eliminating, campus greenhouse gas emissions.

“Union remains totally committed to the notion of becoming carbon neutral,” Ainlay told the winners. “No one idea is going to make the change, but all of them together will. Every idea helps raise people’s consciousness about the need to make these changes.”

The 2014-15 Green Grant winners:

Mikko Nygren ’15: Pasteurizing water using passive solar energy (with Professor David Hodgson)
Courtney Berg ’15: Photolysis and toxicity of organic ultraviolet filter chemicals (with Professor Laura MacManus-Spencer)
Ian Davies ’15: Design and construction of a portable solar energy conversion system (with Professor Rich Wilk)
Stephan Grant ’15: Ice thermal storage (with Professor Wilk)
Scott Kirkton, associate professor of biology: Union College permanent entomology collection for environmental and biological research
Stephen Smith ’15: The American Society of Mechanical Engineers’ Human Powered Vehicle Competition (with Professor Ashok Ramasubramanian)
Daniel Tinklepaugh ’15: Revising recycling protocol for aluminum waste (with Professor Laura MacManus-Spencer)
Tenzin Youdon ’15: Designing a humidifier system for the Union College Electrodynamic balance (with Professor Andrew Huisman)

Kyle Birnbaum ’15: Water refill station for Alpha Epsilon Pi
Sara Covelli ’17: Rain garden design, installation and education project
Kathy Heisinger, card program manager: Scanning toward sustainability
Hugh Jenkins, professor of English: Green Marketing for Octopus’ Garden
Rob Keever ’17: Bottle filling stations
Heather Mendiola ’15: Sustainability maintenance for the Octopus’ Garden organic gardening project.
Andrew Parnes ‘15: Supporting the bicycle advisory committee