Eleven projects, including at least two Georgetown student-led initiatives, will receive a total of $300,000 in university grants to aid their work addressing local and global sustainability problems for the upcoming school year.

The grants, which are funded by donations, were awarded to the projects in the Georgetown community in a range of $10,000 to $50,000. The Georgetown Office of Sustainability first announced the creation of the Laudato Si’ Fund, named after Pope Francis’ 2015 encyclical on environmental justice sent to Roman Catholic bishops, to help the Georgetown community collaborate on projects that combat sustainability challenges Jan. 29.  

ANNA KOVACEVICH/THE HOYA | The University will announce the names and goals of all projects who received Laudato Si’ grants in the Fall.

While the university had previously collaborated with student groups on similar initiatives before, the fund allows for a formal, centralized process for submitting sustainability-related proposals to be aided by the school.

These projects were chosen for grants out of 60 projects total because of their focus on creating an environmentally conscious future through working with various community members, according to Office of Sustainability Director Audrey Stewart.

“Awarded proposals additionally demonstrate the potential to catalyze future positive sustainability impact and show strong evidence of collaboration with internal and external partners to increase the reach and impact of their project,” Stewart wrote in an email to The Hoya.

Among the grant recipients are Noelle Gignoux (SFS ’22) and Hannah Funk (SFS ’20), who received funding for the Georgetown Renewable Energy and Environmental Network’s residential composting pilot program they co-head. The funding will allow the program to partner with Compost Cab, a local compost company, to provide 50 townhouses five-gallon buckets for their compost, according to Gignoux.

Since the initiative is a pilot program, the project will first focus only on those living in a few areas of campus, including individuals residing in Nevils, Alumni Square, university-owned townhouses and non-university owned townhouses. The residents participating in the program will drop off composting buckets from their housing at a centralized drop-off location for Compost Cab to collect.

Gignoux and Funk will test a pilot composting program using the grant in order to discover any initial issues before creating a more established initiative, according to Gignoux.

“Hopefully this can turn into a more regular program,” Gignoux said. “We are using this as a pilot to see how it works so we can work out all the kinks, before we get university funding for it.”

Elizabeth Nguyen (SFS ’21), the head of Hoya Hive, Georgetown’s beekeeping organization, also received a grant in partnership with professors William Hahn and Cynthia Wei to create a bee campus, a national initiative to make an overall safe environment for pollinators, at Georgetown. They plan to use the funds to expand their bee hives, invest in research and increase campus awareness of the issue through more formal certifications for interested community members.

The Laudato Si’ grant provides project members adequate funding to effectively carry out their projects without the background concern of financial need, according to Nguyen.

“The Laudato Si’ Fund gives us a lot of flexibility,” Nguyen said. “Having this established fund support a really diverse and broad range of projects really helps us to not have to worry about the financial cost and just focus on the environmental impact we can make on the campus and community.”

Laudato Si’ furthers efforts on campus to make Georgetown more environmentally friendly through emphasizing sustainability in academic courses and student-led initiatives. The university aimed to decrease greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2020, a goal it achieved six years early in 2014.

Francis, the first Jesuit pope, has also recently encouraged Jesuit universities and other Catholic communities to take on the issue of environmentalism. Laudato Si’ calls upon community members to take action against the problems addressed in Francis’s 2015 letter, where he critiqued the degradation of the earth’s resources and urged for unified action against climate change and environmental exploitation.

The Office of Sustainability plans to publicize the names and goals of all 11 projects as well as promote their missions in the fall, according to Sustainability Program and Metric Manager Giulia Manno. In the upcoming year, the Office of Sustainability wants to see how each recipient carries out their project, Manno wrote in an email to The Hoya.

“We look forward to the recipients implementing their proposals and engaging the campus community in their exciting, tangible sustainability solutions and research,” Manno wrote.

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