UB students plan to create sustainable garden on campus
Four students are embracing UB's push to be more sustainable. And, according to them, it all starts with a garden.
In June, Jonathan Gibbons, Kristen Janson, Margaret Murray and Dylan Steed attended the "Permaculture Your Campus" conference at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. The trip, which was funded entirely by UB's Campus Dining and Shops (CDS), inspired the students to kick start UB's own permaculture garden - a step they believe will launch UB into being a more sustainable campus.
Jim Simon, the sustainability engagement coordinator for UB Green, encouraged Gibbons, a senior environmental geoscience major, and Janson, a senior environmental studies major, to attend the conference. Simon met them when the two used the idea of a garden for a class project, while they were pledging for Alpha Kappa Chi in the spring semester of 2012.
Though the garden hasn't officially been approved, the students are confident they will be planting soon. They said they are planning to grow herbs and other perennial plants.
Murray, a junior business and administration major, and Steed, a junior environmental studies major, were both part of the Academies and their program coordinator, Danielle Kuroski, thought the conference would give them good experience.
At the conference, the newly acquainted team learned that permaculture is a principle rather than the physical gardens that are often associated with it. It is a design tool that can be applied to things outside of the environment. The four students hope to use the principle to create a garden that will grow and be self-sustaining.
They expect the garden will encourage UB students to think about the items they handle every day and what kind of effect they have on the environment. They hope it will promote the idea of sustainability all over campus.
"It's mostly about developing a conscience for the environment," Janson said. "I think the way we are now, we don't think about our effect on anything. And I think with so many people not considering their effect, [they] may think, 'Well, what kind of difference can I make?' If everybody thought, 'Hey, I can make a difference,' they would make a difference."
It is not only about thinking for today, according to Gibbons. He said it is a way of living that will ensure a better future for coming generations.
After the conference, the four students wanted to bring the enthusiasm for the garden to UB.They believe the garden can create an intimate atmosphere with the earth for students who volunteer with it and give them a reason to care about the environment.
"Your interaction with the garden [is] such a unique experience," Murray said. "I've never thought about food in that kind of way - how close it can be to you."
In the past three years, the staff in the Office of Sustainability and other student organizations kicked around the idea of the garden. But there was never the foundation needed to follow through with the idea. UB Sprouts, an on-campus group comprised of medical students dedicated to a more sustainable earth, originally planned to create a garden a few years ago but were unable to, according to Simon.
Although the idea isn't a new one, Simon thinks the concept is important to bring to UB.
"We're standing on the shoulders of giants instead of recreating the wheel," he said.
To remediate the clay-heavy soil at UB, which prevents proper growing, the students are also implementing a technique called sheet mulching. The method places a layer of cardboard on the grass and puts about 5 inches worth of compost and straw on top, which will create a new usable layer of soil for the plants. This will be implemented in the fall, and the soil will be ready for planting in the spring.
Large-scale projects are not the only way to apply sustainability, the group agreed. Steed suggested having a reusable water bottle or taking the few extra steps to the recycling bin.
Murray believes one way to become more sustainable is "making the effort in your daily life to be aware that your actions do have an effect."
Janson said UB has a lot of good ideas about sustainability and more students are starting to support the school's"green" direction.
The students have submitted the proposal for the garden, and if it is approved, the garden will be located somewhere on North Campus this spring.