Bees, bottle, bridge: College awards Presidential Green Grants

Publication Date
President Stephen C. Ainlay with some of the winners of this year's Presidential Green Grants

Growing up in Afghanistan, Tariq Maroofi ’16 is familiar with that country’s poor water supply. Decades of war, coupled with geographical constraints, climate change and other factors, have left the majority of the country’s 31 million people without access to clean water.

Maroofi wants to help his homeland. As part of his senior project, the mechanical engineering major hopes to design, build and test a solar desalination system that would purify water by removing salt and bacteria.

His plan is to eventually return home, where his system could help address the devastating water crisis.

On Monday, Maroofi’s project got a boost when it was among 15 awarded a Presidential Green Grant.

Now in its eighth year, the program supports environmentally sustainable projects at Union, and is open to faculty, staff and students. Since it was launched, grants totaling nearly $140,000 have been awarded to support 96 projects.

The grants are administered by a review committee, made up of environmentally and socially concerned students, faculty and staff.

This year’s projects range from installing beehives to pollinate Octopus’s Garden to the design of an ice thermal storage system.

“These projects put our creative capital to work so we can take the necessary steps to make a positive contribution to the planet,” said Sustainability Coordinator Meghan Haley-Quigley ‘11. “They also fulfill our mission of educating the next generation of leaders.”

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

In 2007, President Stephen C. 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.

“I can guarantee you that when people ask what Union is about, sustainability is on my list,” Ainlay told the winners Monday during a ceremony in Feigenbaum Hall. “And I hope it’s on the list of everyone here. I’m deeply appreciative for what you are doing. Your projects are important not only to Union, but to the world.”

The 2015-16 Green Grant winners:

Emily Monac ’18: Install beehives adjacent to Octopus’s Garden to provide organic pollination for the garden and Jackson’s Gardens and produce natural honey to be used or sold on campus

Emma Will ’18: Maintain Octopus’s Garden by purchasing tools, hardware supplies, irrigation repair, plants and seeds, compost, and a new picnic table

Rob Keever ’17: Install a bottle filling station in the Wold Center

Andrew Huisman (assistant professor of chemistry), Scott LaBrake (senior lecturer of physics and astronomy) and Michael Vineyard (Frank and Marie Louise Bailey Professor of Physics): Monitor indoor and outdoor air quality around campus


Andrew Glaser ’16: Study the human serum albumin binding of perfluoroalkyl acids

Hannah Stein ’16: Examine photolysis and toxicity of organic ultraviolet filter chemicals

Jeremy Manus ’17 and John Costa ‘17: Design a vehicle for the American Society of Mechanical Engineers Human Powered Vehicle Competition

Jessica Maung ’18: Analyze photolysis and cellular toxicity of octyldimethyl para-aminobenzoic acid

Laura Lilley ’16: Identify and isolate the photoproducts of avobenzone, a commonly used organic UV filter chemical, and their fate in simulated freshwater systems

Liam McAninch ’16: Design an ice thermal storage system

Maya Whalen-Kipp ’16: Create a multi-media, interdisciplinary exhibition for visual arts and biology focused on water rights, human rights, global health and local ecology

Phillip Birns ’16: Create a miniature structural bridge for the 2016 SAMPE Bridge Competition

Samuel Rider ’16: Design a dual-axis solar tracking system

Tariq Maroofi ’16: Design a solar desalination system to purify water

Xi Xi Hu ’16: Design a water filtration system