With May Day, final exams, term papers and preparations for graduation, the end of spring semester is the busiest time for Brenau students. Nevertheless, groups formed from sororities, Servant Leaders, Eco Friends and a multitude of classes found the time to perform projects related to sustainability on campus. Clean water is a resource that deserves careful protection, and international students Ji In Park and Hee-Jin Hwang led the charge by stenciling storm drains on campus. “Many people do not understand that this water goes into the lake, and then comes back as the water we drink,” Hwang said. “We hope this will help educate everybody not to drop trash into the sewers.” The stencils, on loan from the City of Gainesville, produce a bright blue fish and an information message.
The two students from Korea didn’t stop at this project. Teaming up with Honors student Jazzmine Eaton (WC’16), they designed a message that hits directly at gut level: “Burn calories, not electricity!” These signs have been posted in all the elevators on campus, alerting users to the far healthier choice of using the stairs. “Not only does this help fight obesity, which is a growing problem in America, but it also frees up the elevators for those people who really do need to use it,” Eaton said. “And besides, it saves a lot of electricity for Brenau, as well as money.”
“Once you get these students going, they’re unstoppable,” said Dr. Rudi Kiefer, director of sustainability. “Apart from these small-group projects, I was coordinating the Bioscience Field Station work jointly with Profs. Jessi Shrout and Teri Nye. We had expected maybe a handful of students to show up. Instead, we got between one and two dozen at each of six multi-hour work sessions, and they were all eager to go to work on the jungle-like overgrowth.”
The first phase of this project, thanks to equipment funding from the Discovery Incubator, consisted of clearing the grounds of dense thickets of shrubs and removing piles of litter from the Bamboo Forest. “Thanks to the hard work by our student volunteers, we’ve made significant progress in clearing the area of invasive plants,” said Shrout. “All the trash that accumulated in the Bamboo Forest for decades is gone, and we’re all looking forward to starting the landscape planning for raised vegetable beds. With continued effort, Brenau will get an all-new venue for outdoor teaching and research during the next academic year.” While the cleanup and clearing sessions made a huge dent in the location, a great deal of tangled shrubbery still lines the hill slope. “We found a house foundation, now cleared of growth, that could make a great seating area,” said Kiefer. “Classes could assemble here, amphitheater-style, for instruction in biology and earth sciences.” A huge debris chipper, complete with a trained operator on loan from the City of Oakwood, helped eliminate the mountains of branches from preceding cut-and-slash sessions. The resulting mulch will benefit the teaching and research gardens which are to take shape in the fall semester when Phase 2 of the project kicks into gear. “You could feel the excitement among the students,” Shrout said. “A formerly deserted part of the campus is becoming a field station for learning and research experiments. Together with the greenhouse and the unique environment of the Bamboo Forest, it’ll be a one-of-a-kind place.”
The last sustainability project before the students leave for the summer is titled “Don’t trash it – Donate it!”. Collection boxes have been placed in the lobby of each major residence hall to receive items that are no longer needed, but good enough to sell in a thrift store. “Working with the Sustainability Center, we’re going to donate everything we collect to the Gateway Domestic Violence Shelter,” said Charmaine Gilmore of Student Services. “It makes a lot of sense that Women’s College students support a local organization which serves mainly women.” Faculty and staff who have CD’s, DVD’s, books, small appliances or garments to donate are also encouraged to deposit them in one of the donation boxes.