A new university fund will provide $300,000 in grants to student, faculty and staff-proposed projects that seek to combat local and global sustainability challenges, Georgetown announced Jan. 29.
The Laudato Si’ Fund, named for Pope Francis’s 2015 letter on environmental justice sent to Roman Catholic bishops, will provide grants for six to 10 projects in the range of $10,000 to $50,000. Members of the Georgetown community can apply by Feb. 27. The grants, which are funded by donations, are set to be awarded to the winning proposals this spring.
Previous student, faculty and staff initiatives have led to projects such as greater sustainability-focused courses in academic departments, a student-led beehive and the green roof behind Village C Residence Hall, according to university spokesperson Matt Hill.
The Office of Sustainability, which oversees the fund, looks to further the collaborative aspect of the university’s environmental efforts, according to Hill.
“This fund will strengthen our commitment to sustainability and encourage our community to further positively impact our University, our external communities and partners and meaningfully and materially improve our planet,” Hill wrote in an email to The Hoya.
Student-run environmental advocacy efforts have been led by the Georgetown Renewable Energy and Environmental Network, an organization for environmental awareness and advocacy, the Georgetown University Student Association Sustainability Policy Coalition, and GU Fossil Free, an organization campaigning for the university’s divestment from fossil fuel companies, among others.
These organizations have worked in tandem with the Office of Sustainability, established in 2013, to advance the university’s sustainability goals. However, Georgetown has previously lacked a formal, centralized process for submitting sustainability-related proposals, according to GUSA Sustainability Chair Samantha Panchèvre (SFS ’19).
“We applaud the Office of Sustainability for launching this fund and believe it will be a great catalyst for supporting projects that promote sustainability with tangible results,” Panchèvre wrote in an email to The Hoya. “Students have long needed an institutionalized mechanism for taking their projects to the next level, and this Fund can do that!”
Pope Francis, the first Jesuit pope, has encouraged Jesuit universities in particular to take up the issue of environmentalism. Francis’s 2015 letter critiqued the degradation of the earth’s resources and urged “swift and unified global action” against climate change and environmental exploitation.
As a Jesuit university, Georgetown seeks to address sustainability issues through the fund in order to advance positive outcomes for people, University Provost Robert Groves said in a Jan. 29 news release.
“As a global research university guided by our Catholic and Jesuit heritage, Georgetown University is committed to addressing the complex issues of sustainability to advance the common good for current and future generations,” Groves said.
Laudato Si’ is a continuation of past efforts on campus to make Georgetown more environmentally conscious. The university pledged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent by 2020, a goal it achieved six years early in 2014.
Arrupe Hall and the Thompson Athletic Center, two of the university’s most recent construction projects, have received LEED Gold certification, the second highest rating for environmentally responsible construction from the U.S. Green Building Council. Since 2009, all new construction has been certified at least LEED Silver.
Proposals can be submitted by faculty and staff, and by students with at least one academic year remaining at Georgetown. The Office of Sustainability is looking for projects that pursue research, educate leaders on sustainability issues, lead through institutional action and engage with either the local or global community in fighting environmental degradation.
The Office of Sustainability is responsible for reading the proposals submitted by members of the Georgetown community, according to Aubrey Stewart, the office’s director.
“I’m excited to see the breadth of proposals from students, faculty and staff and to learn more about the ideas that our University community wants to take forward to make Georgetown an ever more sustainable university,” Stewart wrote in an email to The Hoya.
Successful applicants will have to implement their projects or programs by April 15, 2020, and will have to document the results of their plans and submit them to the university.
The fund is a continuation of the Office of Sustainability’s collaboration with William McDonough, a sustainable development expert at William McDonough + Partners, an environmental design firm.