Gardening & the Green Fund: Student fees dedicated to sustainability

Tucked within wood and wire at the corner of Henry St. and South Mountain Ave, SOU’s Community Garden is a comfortable sanctuary where students and community members can rent low-cost plots to practice organic gardening.

Behind the fence’s squealing gate, the urban environment falls away and to reveal individual garden plots, personalized to each owner with signs dedicated to what might grow as hopeful gardeners prepare for spring.

The garden is full of plots and a number of projects– a feat considering how few students that are employed here. Blackberry bushes assault the gates of the Garden, and a hole in the storage area’s roof cautiously drips onto the ground. A ruptured mound of earth indicates that a vole may be snooping around.

With its upkeep list growing longer by the day, the Garden relies on its few student employees and volunteers to help its success. The Garden is free for currently enrolled SOU students, but is primarily paid for by its memberships– a small fee of $40 a year, but a recent grant from the “Green Fund” is helping to change that. 

What is the Green Fund?

The Green Fund is overseen and distributed by the Environmental Affairs Committee (EAC), Lindsay Swanson, former EAC chair, said, “It [the Green Fund] was created by a referendum in 2012, because students wanted some of their student fees, to be diverted to sustainability on campus.”

Because the Green Fund comes from students fees, any student can create a proposal for a project, Swanson explained.

The EAC has created a user-friendly grant process. Their webpage, gives basic parameters for writing a proposal and frequently asked questions. Students can send that proposal to the Director of Sustainability, Kayla Bondoc for review, and then present it to the EAC for student approval.

Students, like Swanson, use this as a capstone opportunity and to create a more sustainable campus. Swanson has an ongoing project to create a bioswale in parking lot 36. A project that will mitigate flooding, act as a natural filter, and create an aesthetic element to the lot.

A new grant proposal

In Winter of 2018, a grant proposal, “ECOS Greenhouse Redesign Winter 18 (1),” was submitted to receive funding from the SOU Green Fund. Their original proposal “ECOS Greenhouse Redesign Winter 18 Grid Map.docx” was for $448.85. This money would “maximize usability, efficiency, and productivity of the ECOS Community Garden Greenhouse, as a year-round nursery and indoor garden space.” 

The newly established greenhouse will act as a nursery for the new seedlings. It will provide protection and support as they grow over the winter months, before being transported to the outside world. This revitalized space will also be host to ongoing student workshops. Providing a space to teach students about sustainability, the art of gardening, and growing your own food.

Jill Smedstad, Environmental and Community Engagement Coordinator, is excited by the growth of the Garden. “The funding ECOS received from the SOU Green Fund was instrumental in allowing us to renovate our greenhouse and prepare the area,” she said. “ECOS has funding support through the student incidental fee for general maintenance and upkeep, but we don’t have funding built in for larger-scale projects such as this.”

She explained that the recently formed Food Justice League  will now have dedicated space to grow fresh produce that will be donated to the SOU Student Food Pantry.  The Community Garden staff has taken initiative to create a plot for the SOU Food Pantry. Growing fresh vegetables for students, students can find the SOU Food Pantry on the third floor of the Stevenson Union.Student funded projects can be found throughout campus: new Solar panels and Bioswales demonstrate the campus’s commitment to sustainability. Project idea or proposals can be emailed to Students interested in garden plots or volunteering can sign up online or email

Leave a Reply