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2020 Sustainability Challenge Grant Recipients

Building Community through Innovation and Sustainability of Kentucky's Forest Project Abstract

Evaluating Twenty Years of Urban Reforestation in Lexington Project Abstract

Sustainable Campus Electronics Recycling Program at the University of Kentucky Project Abstract

Place Setting: Enhancing Sustainable Approaches to Food Security and Community Engagement Project Abstract

Research Innovators in Sustainable Energy (RISE) Project Abstract

Aerated manure compost facility for the smaller horse-farm operation Project Abstract

Coordinating and Assisting the Reuse of Assistive Technology in Rural Appalachian Communities Project Abstract

Preparing our Urban Forests for our Changing Climate Project Abstract

Designing for Wellbeing: Mindful Oasis. Reimagining Gatton Student Center Botanical Gardens Project Abstract

Honoring Kentucky’s Agricultural Excellence Project Abstract

Two men working on sanding down wood in a woodshop

Building Community through Innovation and Sustainability of Kentucky's Forest ($44,550)

Despite the ecological and economic advantages of using cross laminated timber (CLT) products, the North American building industry has been slow to adopt this emerging architectural component. However, this trend is rapidly changing. Many parts of the world have embraced laminated timber (CLT) and mass timber as components in large scale architectural projects. As cross-laminated timber is emerging across portions of the US, this region is far behind despite the abundance of forest resources and the economic benefits that would be achieved by producing a developing building component.

Leveraging a diverse team across multiple disciplines at the University of Kentucky, we propose to take a 3-part holistic approach in stimulating the production and adoption of CLTs in the Architecture, Construction, and Engineering Industry.

1) CLT Symposium - We intend to introduce mass timber construction to Architects, Engineers, Builders, Building Code Officials, and community members through a symposium.

2) Sawmill Pavilion Design + Construction: Students from the Colleges of Design, Engineering, and Agriculture will design and build a structure that will house and protect a new campus sawmill which was purchased through a partnership with Coca Cola.

3) CLT Research: We propose to catalyze a broader, multi-year research project using funds from this grant as startup money to purchase preliminary equipment and develop a framework for a digital design using CLT’s.

Team Members: Bruce Swetman: College of Design, Brent Sturlaugson: College of Design, Chad Niman: Department of Forestry, Mariantonieta Gutierrez Soto: Department of Civil Engineering, Joe Brewer: College of Design​

Students working in a field to plant new trees

Evaluating Twenty Years of Urban Reforestation in Lexington ($41,317.20)

Reforest the Bluegrass (hereafter “Reforest”) is a highly successful urban reforestation initiative established in Lexington, KY, in 1999. Over its twenty-year history, Reforest has planted over 140,000 trees with the help of more than 16,500 volunteers on over 190 acres in Lexington (Table 1, Reforest is one of the largest and longest running programs of its kind, and has sparked significant interest across the region, spurring urban restoration efforts in Danville, Frankfort, and Northern Kentucky. While the program’s successful community engagement is well-known and applauded (including a 2009 Arbor Day Foundation Project Award), Reforest’s ecological successes are less well-understood. The twenty-year chronosequence represented by Reforest’s sites is one of the oldest and most comprehensive urban reforestation research resources in the state, and possibly the country, and presents a critical opportunity to evaluate the long-term ecological outcomes of volunteer urban reforestation. Specifically, the proposed project will 1) assemble a comprehensive database collating data over the twenty year history of Reforest the Bluegrass, 2) establish permanent monitoring plots on each Reforest site, and 3) collect a suite of environmental data from each site, including soil chemistry, plant community structure, migratory songbird abundance and species diversity, and water quality. Because of the significance of this data resource, the proposed project presents an opportunity for UK and the city of Lexington to emerge as a leader in the field of urban restoration ecology.

Team Members: Kenton L. Sena: Lewis Honors College, Heather Wilson: City Arborist for Lexington, KY, John Saylor: Environmental Services for Lexington, KY, John Cox: Department of Forestry and Natural Resources, John Lhotka: Department of Forestry and Natural Resources

Photos of the steps for copper recycling from circuit boards is shown starting with a collection of boards, before being cuopped and electrochemically treated to create pure plates of copper.

Sustainable Campus Electronics Recycling Program at the University of Kentucky ($32,703.81)

A primary limitation to effective recycling is our inability to separate materials. This is particularly true for electronic scrap, which often, when placed into a recycling bin will not be recycled at all. Rather, it will be pulled from the recycling stream and discarded as solid waste. This project aims to establish a sustainable electronics recycling program for UK students that is run by UK students. This project is the first of its kind to recover valuable and critical materials sustainably and ethically as part of a student lead hands on pilot process. The underserved campus community will be enlisted to gather unused personal electronic devices, such as old phones, tablets, power supplies, cables, etc. Recovery and sorting will be carried out as a service project by UK Mining Engineering students. Physical/chemical/metallurgical processing incorporating leaching, solvent extraction and electrowinning for metal recovery and purification will be carried out as laboratory design projects in Minerals Processing (MNG 301) and Sustainable Materials and Recycling Technologies (MNG 570) courses. At UK CAER, an educational pilot plant, incorporating these methods to process collected electronic scrap, will be designed, constructed and operated by students financially supported by the project, as well as student volunteers. All marketable metals (e.g. Au, Ag, Cu, etc.) recovered will be sold, the proceeds from which will be used to support and sustain the project into the future. The project story will be told via website where project metrics tracking the impact of the project by mass collected and recovered in addtion to students trained will be shared. A summary report will be presented by students at a national conference.

Team Members: Joshua Werner: Department of Mining Engineering/Institute for Sustainable Manufacturing, Jack Groppo: Department of Mining Engineering/Center for Applied Energy Research, ​UK Student Chapter, Society of Mining, Metallurgy, & Exploration, UK Center for Applied Energy Research

Drawings of concept art for new classroom interiors

Place Setting: Enhancing Sustainable Approaches to Food Security and Community Engagement ($32,250)

Just as an unlikely pairing of food or juxtaposition of color can create a unique experience, an interdisciplinary collaboration of faculty and students from Dietetics and Human Nutrition, Interior Design as well as Writing and Rhetoric aims to revitalize a student-led service organization, the Campus Kitchen at the University of Kentucky, and its community enrichment programs that addresses food waste and food insecurity. Currently operating in room 207 of the Funkhouser building, the organization recovers unused, quality food and produce that would otherwise be wasted, then uses it to prepare healthy meals for the campus and Lexington communityfood insecure or not, throughout the academic year. Its largest program, Farm-to-Fork, is designed for college students ( Steadily growing in reputation and awareness, the program serves nutritionally balanced lunchtime meals and provides educational resources to 120-150 individuals weekly; however, the space in which the food is processed, cooked, served, and eaten is not conducive to such efforts. In response, a third-year Interiors studio engaged stakeholders and conducted evidence-based research as a foundation for creating conceptual proposals that would enhance existing events, expand potential programming, and more deeply impact beneficiaries. Using these concepts as a foundation, this project intends to redesign, renovate, and rebrand the space to promote sustainability through enhanced understanding of food security and food waste along with increased awareness of programs associated with feeding campus and Lexington communities.

Team Members: Helen Turner: School of Interiors, Michael Pennell: Writing, Rhetoric, and Digital Studies, Tammy Stephenson: Dietetics and Human Nutrition, Kendra Oo: Dietetics and Human Nutrition

Four students are shown working with different scientific equipment.

Research Innovators in Sustainable Energy (RISE) ($24,986)​

This project will support a number of students – both graduate and undergraduate – in their path to become research innovators in sustainable energy. As such, this project is of high relevance to sustainability. Indeed, among the issues facing humankind, developing CO2-neutral sustainable sources of energy represents a key issue. Our goal is to help address the critical need for a skilled workforce equipped to meet this challenge by implementing a training program for research innovators in sustainable energy. This training program will have two main components: 1) the involvement of students in research projects focused on sustainable energy; and 2) their participation in coursework designed to instill the transferrable skills innovators need to succeed. To this end, in addition to the participating graduate and undergraduate students, this project will involve faculty and staff from several units within UK, as well as partners to support sustainability efforts in Kentucky and beyond. Measurable outcomes will include tangible research products in the form of publications and presentations, the participation of trainees in sustainability outreach and education efforts, as well as a group of young innovators equipped to tackle sustainability challenges. 

Team Members: Eduardo Santillan-Jimenez: Center for Applied Energy Research & Department of Chemistry, Czarena Crofcheck: Lewis Honors College & Department of Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering, Fara Williams: Kentucky-West Virginia Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation, Bessie Guerrant: Office of Undergraduate Research, Niamh Minion​: Education Abroad & Exchanges

A collection of horses in a field

Aerated manure compost facility for the smaller horse-farm operation ($24,461.10)

An average sized horse can produce as much as 9,400 kg or 20,000 lbs. of feces and stall bedding waste (manure) per year. While many farms opt to land-apply manure, smaller horse farms housing less than 6 horses typically have fewer acres, and continuous, environmentally responsible land-application of manure is not an option. While manure removal services are available, these services can be expensive for small horse farm owners. One alternative option is manure composting. When done correctly, composting reduces the total manure mass and volume, neutralizes weed seeds, pathogens, and parasites associated with raw manure, and reduces nutrient leaching from the final product – protecting our natural water sources. However, successful manure composting can be daunting when balancing carbon and nitrogen, monitoring temperature and moisture levels, and maintaining aeration. The objective of our project is to construct a cost efficient, aerated, manure composting facility that can be replicated or adapted by small horse farm owners. We will conduct research to compile a composting guideline that will serve as a useful, accompanying tool. The location of the composting facility on the Department of Animal and Food Sciences’ Maine Chance Horse Unit (North Farm) will enable faculty to use the facility as a hands-on learning experience for undergraduate classes related to horse facility design and management. Year-round use of the facility for research and general farm use will provide a constant supply of compost to local community gardens. UK’s Maine Chance horses will thereby contribute to a more sustainable community.

Team Members: Mieke Holder: Animal and Food Sciences, Robert Coleman: Animal and Food Sciences, Morgan Hayes: Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering, Laurie Lawrence: Animal and Food Sciences, Ashley Fowler: Animal and Food Sciences, Jamie Dockery: Horticulture & Fayette County Cooperative Extension

A collection of students are listening to a teacher in the middle of a classroom dedicated to physical education.

Coordinating and Assisting the Reuse of Assistive Technology in Rural Appalachian Communities: A Service Learning Program ($21,472.30)

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 29.8% of Kentuckians have a disability. Many of these individuals are unable to afford the durable medical equipment (DME; wheelchairs, walkers, bath benches).

To meet this critical need, the College of Health Sciences’ Department of Physical Therapy, the College of Social Work, and the UK Center of Excellence in Rural Health (UK CERH) in Hazard Kentucky, propose expansion of our existing Coordinating and Assisting the Reuse of Assistive Technology (CARAT) program based at the UK CERH. The goal of CARAT is to increase mobility, decreased isolation, and improve community participation of individuals with disabilities in Kentucky through the refurbishing and redistribution of used DME to individuals who could not otherwise afford it. Refurbishing used DME prevents this equipment from being discarded to local landfills, which is the primary way used equipment has been dealt with. This decreases the burden on already taxed landfills.

The expansion will focus on increasing the number of UK students based at the UK CERH (Physical Therapy and Bachelor and Masters in Social Work) to create an interdisciplinary service-learning opportunity. The expansion will also increase participation by members of the local community. The collaboration between students and community members, especially those with disabilities, will allow the students to contextualize their experience and gain a greater appreciation of the supports and barriers to obtaining DME in rural communities.

Team Members: Patrick Kitzman: Physical Therapy, College of Health Sciences, Melissa Slone: Center of Excellence in Rural Health, Keisha Hudson: Center of Excellence in Rural Health

a photo of a field, in the foreground of the image are red and yellow flowers from a tree

Preparing our Urban Forests for our Changing Climate ($15,500)

Climate is changing rapidly, at a pace that is both undeniable and faster than previously projected. Changing climate will impact ecosystems, including urban forests, in ways that will vary. Impacts may be mediated through the physiology of individual species and the interactions among species, the environment, management, and socio-economic resources. With this project, the UFI team will develop climate adaptation plans for the trees on UK campus and the Arboretum through collaboration with the National Institute of Applied Climate Science (NIACS). These plans call for shifting the lens through which we conduct urban forest management so that selection of tree species in future tree planting and subsequent tree maintenance decisions incorporate knowledge of species- and location-specific climate vulnerability applied to forest management goals. Managers of urban tree canopies are aware of the need for shifting their management activities to include this inevitability but may lack the time and expertise to do so. NIACS provides tools to support managers in conduct climate adaptation planning, and UFI is working closely with them on this project. By conducting separate projects on UK main campus and the Arboretum, we will highlight site-specific differences in management goals for different areas, despite similar overall climate change impacts. This project creates a roadmap for supporting and building our tree canopy in the face of rapidly changing climate. Leading by example and through outreach, this project supports Lexington communities in future climate adaptation of our urban forests.

Team members: Mary Arthur: Department of Forestry & Natural Resources, Chris Sass: Landscape Architecture, Lynne Rieske-Kinney: Department of Entomology, Nic Williamson: Department of Forestry & Natural Resources, Bryan Kist: Department of Forestry & Natural Resources, Stacy Borden: UK Grounds Manager, Emily Ellingson: UK Arboretum

Concept art for an outdoor space. The grassy regions are made of overlapping circles. Text reads "Two-Tiered social overlook, these two latered overlooks will be primarily focused on social wellness during any time of the school year. Secondary Overlook on the west side of the site will be inteded for mental health and more individual reflection.

Designing for Wellbeing: Mindful Oasis. Reimagining Gatton Student Center Botanical Gardens ($8,550)

This project will design and develop construction document drawings for a mindful outdoor space between the Gatton Student Center and Patterson Office Tower. Utilizing the existing sloped topography and existing vegetation, the design will include a short walking path that leads to various seating and platform areas. Within this dedicated space, a wide variety of wellness practices can be enjoyed, from mindful walking to group guided meditation to individual mindfulness practices. Referencing Sustainable Sites Initiative throughout the design process, the project will be designed with sustainable elements in mind, including long-term maintenance. Not only will the site utilize key elements to site sustainability, but the goal to aid in the health of the student population speaks to the goals of University Strategic Plan. The process has identified the needs in the University community, documented site inventory and analysis, including opportunities and constraints. One Landscape Architecture student and one Architecture student will be leading the charge to design a relevant space that speaks to sustainability and long-term maintenance concerns. Ultimately, the goal is to develop a set of construction documents for the final design in preparation for future bidding and construction. Throughout the design process, receiving feedback from stakeholders and potential future users of the site will be critical to the ultimate success of the project. A student committee consisting of representatives from a variety of student groups committed to student well-being, will be utilized to continuously provide feedback throughout the entire design process. To measure the outcomes of the project, qualitative and quantitative student feedback will be gathered to determine current use of campus outdoor space and utilization of the proposed space.

Team Members: Ryan Hargrove: Department of Landscape Architecture, Ashley Hinton: Student Wellness Director, Maureen Dreckman: Information Technology Services, Jake Rose: Department of Landscape Architecture, Brett Odegard: Campus Recreation & Wellness, Olivia Antiqua: Student Government Association, Ruth Adams: School of Arts and Visual Studies, Felito Aldarando: ​Counseling Center, Kenyatta Jeter: Residence Life, Luna Johnstone: Student and Residence Life

A photo of Matthew allen, erin haramoto, and rebekah epps.

Honoring Kentucky’s Agricultural Excellence ($4,210)

The University of Kentucky’s community is composed of people from all over the world. While we may come from different social, economic, cultural and religious backgrounds, there are two values that every society shares, agriculture and art. Agricultural practices have changed dramatically since the University of Kentucky was founded in 1865 as the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Kentucky and continue to evolve even more rapidly today. This project is aimed to create a sense of connectivity and inclusivity between all UK community members by placing murals on agricultural structures at UK’s Spindletop Farm that honor our past, celebrate our present and inspire our future. These murals will present teaching opportunities for teachers and advisors by providing a visual timeline of the many ways UK has influenced the evolution of sustainable agriculture. They will also provide a focal point for Extension Outreach events where dialogues will be created and encouraged between local community members and UK community members and they may even become inspirational to undergraduate, graduate and visiting students for many years to come.

Team Members: Matthew Allen: Plant and Soil Sciences, Erin Haramoto: Plant and Soil Sciences, Rebekah Epps: Community and Leadership Development