Green Fund

As part of the University of Chicago’s commitment to student research, scholarship and innovation around sustainability, Campus and Student Life has launched a Green Fund in collaboration with the student-led UChicago Environmental Alliance (UCEA) and Undergraduate Student Government (USG). Up to $50,000 in grants will be available in the 2023-24 academic year to support student-led research and projects for improving campus sustainability and reducing the University’s environmental impact.

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Application Forms

To apply to the Green Fund, please read the following webpage carefully for eligibility requirements and process. Please fill out the Proposal Form (open in Microsoft Word for optimal viewing) and submit it through the Application Google Form by the following deadlines to be considered: 

  • Fall cycle: Friday, October 27, 2023 at 11:59pm CST (Week 5)
  • Winter cycle: Friday, February 2, 2024 at 11:59pm CST (Week 5)

Green Fund applicants can expect to receive a funding decision via email by the end of the quarter during which they applied.

Who Can Apply

All current University of Chicago undergraduate, graduate and professional students and student groups are welcome to apply. Students may apply as individuals, teams or as part of a Recognized Student Organization (RSO). Teams may include faculty, other academic appointees and staff, but the project lead(s) should be students. Students must be enrolled and in good academic and disciplinary standing for the duration of their funded project. Grant awardees will be required to submit a Midterm Report detailing the progress of their project one quarter after receiving funding, and are expected to present their findings at the Green Fund End of Year Symposium in the spring.

Proposal Criteria

Successful proposals will seek to examine and reduce the environmental impacts of University operations, broadly defined, via either original scholarly research or a stand-alone project.  The research and/or project should have practical and tangible implications for one or more campus functions and UChicago’s overall sustainability goals.

  • Research proposals must examine the environmental impacts of campus life, broadly defined. Student research should have practical implications, such as identifying areas of opportunity; establishing a baseline; or proposing ways to reduce environmental impacts. Applicants should discuss how they will communicate their findings to University decision-makers, faculty, students, or the general public after research is completed. The Green Fund grant may be used to fund the acquisition of data or tools (e.g. software licenses or equipment) necessary to conduct the research. Research proposals should include a rigorous data and methodology section, detailing how the qualitative or quantitative data will be collected and analyzed. Collaboration with other students and/or faculty members is strongly preferred.
    • Examples:
      • Energy audit of Henry Hinds Laboratory building
      • Feasibility study of using biofuels to provide energy for UChicago’s dining halls
      • Impact analysis of UChicago’s greenhouse gas emissions on air quality in the South Side of Chicago
  • Project proposals must reduce the environmental impacts of campus life, broadly defined. The student project should have tangible impacts; generally, one-time events will not be approved unless the event(s) are part of a larger initiative with tangible impacts. Applicants should discuss how the project will be implemented, identify relevant stakeholders and create potential contingency plans.
    • Examples:
      • Establish composting in campus cafés
      • Create a community garden or greenhouse on campus
      • Implement a zero-waste initiative for major RSO events

Tips for successful proposals:

  • Connect with relevant campus partners and get approval or confirmation of collaboration (this includes a consideration for your audience; for example, if you are a graduate student who wants to work within dining halls, connect with undergraduates who regularly visit these venues).
  • Create supporting materials such as graphics, images, surveys, etc. to further illustrate your project or demonstrate campus need (please note that supplemental materials must be anonymous and have no identifying characteristics).
  • Seek an advisor or mentor for the project.
  • Spend time creating an accurate and feasible budget.

Application Process

Green Fund grant proposals for 2023-24 can be submitted by one of the two following deadlines:

  • Fall cycle: Friday, October 27, 2023 at 11:59pm CST (Week 5)
    • Midterm Report Due: Monday, February 12, 2024 (Week 7)
  • Winter cycle: Friday, February 2, 2024 at 11:59pm CST (Week 5)
    • Midterm Report Due: April 29, 2024 (Week 7)

A maximum of $25,000 will be awarded in each application cycle. Applicants will be notified of their funding status by the end of the quarter during which they applied. Grants of $500-$5,000 will be awarded for impactful, short-term (≤1 year) research or projects. Grant proposals requesting over $5,000 for long-term (>1 year) research or projects will be considered with increased supervision and mentorship expectations.

To be eligible for review, grant proposals must include the following:

  • Executive summary
  • Experiences and Qualifications of the applicant(s)
  • Needs Assessment: Problem or need at UChicago
  • Project Goals and Outcomes
  • Implementation Plan
  • Impact Statement
  • Evaluation Plan and Timeline: Metrics and key milestones for measuring project impact and defining success, including how results will be communicated to University stakeholders
  • Itemized Budget

Please note if your project receives funding, all corresponding promotional materials must state that the project was funded by the Green Fund.

Previous Recipients


On Campus Clothing Bin and Collection System

In Fall 2022, PSI’s Campus Waste Reduction received funding from the Green Fund to install a permanent clothing donation bin in Reynolds Club, to provide the community with an easily accessible, not-for-profit donation spot. The bin, installed this week, will allow students to easily donate clothes to UChicago’s first thrift store: reSTORE. reSTORE works to create a more circular clothing economy in Hyde Park. We were open Spring Quarter 2023 Thursday, Friday, and Sunday 1-5PM in the basement of Stuart Hall. When shopping at our store, customers have the option of choosing one of three local environmental nonprofit organizations—Little Village Environmental Justice Organization, Blacks in Green, and Openlands—to donate the profits of their purchase. reSTORE has already processed over 1,000 transactions and raised thousands of dollars for each of its local nonprofit partners, with the goal of becoming a permanent clothing waste solution on campus.

  • View symposium poster here

On Campus Event Composting

PSI’s campus composting noticed that on-campus events with food hosted by RSOs and University departments are very popular and frequent, and there is a high volume of food and serving material waste generated from them. We designed a program to connect event organizers with The Urban Canopy, a local compost hauler, and provided subsidized compostable serving materials, compost receptacles, and volunteer assistance with waste sorting. We hoped to educate event organizers and attendees about sustainable waste practices. We reached out individually to event organizers about a month before each event, and worked with them to create a specific plan. There was always a PSI volunteer or Urban Canopy employee stationed next to the compost bins to eliminate contamination and educate attendees about composting.

  • View symposium poster here

Food Recovery Network Bulk Foods Expansion

The UChicago Food Recovery Network is a CSRSO dedicated to fighting food waste on campus and food insecurity in Hyde Park and surrounding communities. Since 2018 we have partnered with a number of community organizations, including The Chicago City Life Center (CCLC), Margaret’s Village, St. Paul and the Redeemer Food Pantry, and the 55th St. Love Fridge as well as UC Dining to help distribute UChicago’s excess food waste. With Green Fund funding, we have begun to deliver not only single packaged foods but bulk foods to our local partners. Bulk foods are sorted into single-serve containers so that they can be more easily accepted by our community partners. We currently transport food 6 times a week to 3 community partners: the CCLC, St. Paul and the Redeemer Food Pantry, and the 55th St. Love Fridge. 

  • View symposium poster here

Composting at Student-Run Cafes

Phoenix Sustainability Initiative’s Campus Composting project group works to reduce solid waste produced by the University community through public education and by facilitating the use of organic waste diversion infrastructure on campus and around Hyde Park. This year, Campus Composting has implemented a program to compost waste at student-run cafes by piloting a program at Ex Libris Cafe. Using funds provided by the Green Fund, Campus Composting has installed two 35-gallon waste receptacles to collect coffee grounds. Since the start of the program, composing at Ex Libris has diverted ~300 lbs of coffee grounds from landfills weekly. 

  • View symposium poster here


Keller Center Composting Program

The Harris Energy and Environmental Association (HEEA) and the Keller Center staff are working to re-implement a composting program at Keller. According to operations management, facilities staff are barred by their contracts from physically touching or removing compost from bins. Therefore, we have requested funds to pay a student a small amount each week to collect compost. This program runs when students are in the Keller Center during the 10 weeks of each quarter (30 weeks total). Students from the HEEA executive board, as well as members (Harris students), are responsible for collecting from the 5 compost bins 1-2x per week and bringing them to the front of Keller for pickup by The Urban Canopy.

  • View End of Year Report here

RGGRC Composting Initiative 

The Phoenix Sustainability Initiative’s Campus Composting Project Group is currently implementing a pilot composting program in the Renee Granville-Grossman Residential Commons (RGGRC). This program improves sustainability at the University of Chicago in two ways. First, it begins to reduce the amount of student produced food waste in Chicago area landfills. Second, it aims to augment student and institutional access to and awareness of sustainable waste practices and infrastructure. In partnership with The Urban Canopy, we are utilizing our Green Fund grant to offer compost collection buckets and a weekly compost collection service for students living in RGGRC. In addition to facilitating access to and use of composting infrastructure, PSI has also provided comprehensive educational resources to participating students in effort to foster best waste sorting practices and effective waste diversion. While this proposal is focused chiefly towards the winter and spring quarter of the 2021-2022 academic year, we foresee this project as a precedent for a more holistic dorm composting program.

  • View End of Year Report here

Education Initiatives That Support Upcycling On-Campus E-Waste

Over the years, the number of electronic devices purchased and used on campus has increased dramatically. Unfortunately, devices consist of dozens-to-hundreds of smaller electronic components (resistors, capacitors, sensors, CPUs), and each of these components requires significant energy/resources to produce. To tackle this, we explore how to assist novice users in reusing/upcycling components from old devices and transferring these to home repairs, or even functional prototypes. We have two primary goals to educate and support the upcycling of e-waste: (1) e-waste upcycling workshops and (2) a software tool designed to help novices upcycle electronics. Currently, we are focused on goal 2 and are progressing towards a first prototype within the next month. We hope to collect feedback from a small group of users and use this feedback to better improve our design. Concurrently, we are developing resources for best practices in e-waste upcycling by interviewing experts, creating a database of components, and example upcycling projects. In August, we aim to conduct a first workshop for e-waste upcycling utilizing our tool and resource library.

  • View End of Year Report here


Off-Campus Composting Subsidy Initiative 

The Phoenix Sustainability Initiaitve’s Off-Campus Composting Subsidy Program provides logistical and financial support to students interested in residential composting services, as well as comprehensive educational resources aimed at fostering waste sorting best practices. After being awarded a Green Fund grant in Fall 2020, we have successfully rolled out our composting initiative by partnering with the Urban Canopy and subsequently increased the number of students composting in off-campus residences.

Example Proposal

Cummings Life Science Centre (CLSC) Tip Recycling Box 

This project is utilizing funding to purchase large recycling bins for empty pipette tip boxes to be placed on each floor of the Cummings Life Science Centre (CLSC). A small proportion of the funding is also being used to pay for laminated signs to promote the use of these recycling stations and raise awareness around the building.

Energy-Aware Job Scheduling to Reduce Power Consumption and Cost in the UChicago Data Center using the Midway HPC Computing Cluster 

This project supports the implementation of a new job-scheduling algorithm on the Research Computing Center (RCC) HPC Midway systems hosted in the UChicago 2.6 MW data center. The algorithm will minimize power costs by instrumenting workloads and automatically scheduling more power-intensive jobs for times where the cost of electricity is lower, thus reducing the expense. It will also reduce power consumption by minimizing power-intensive operations that the cluster must perform to run each job. Given the significant amount of power that computer racks consume, this reduction is projected to significantly improve campus sustainability while also lowering the cost of operating UChicago’s computing resources.

Sustainable Pritzker Residential Composting Project 

This project is implementing a composting program aimed at medical students living in off-campus housing in Hyde Park in order to improve sustainability at the University of Chicago by 1) reducing the amount of student-produced food waste and 2) facilitating

sustainable living practices. By offering composting services to students in partnership with local compost businesses, much of the food waste produced by students can be diverted from landfills, converted to compost, and used in agricultural and gardening practices around the city to support local economies. To encourage composting among medical students, Sustainable Pritzker aims to provide financial and logistical support to those interested in composting services, along with a map of current composting drop-off locations and comprehensive education on best waste-sorting practices.

DivaCup Initiative 

The project utilizes Green Fund funding to implement the DivaCup Initiative, a quarter-long distribution and training program that provides free menstrual cups to students on campus. This initiative aims to reduce the waste caused by disposable period products and facilitate a transition to reusable menstrual cups.

Battle of the Buildings 

Battle of the Buildings is a collaboration between Facilities, HRL and UChicago students to create an annual competition to reduce energy and water usage in the dorms. Each year the House that reduces its energy and water use by the largest amount will respectively win a prize and plaque. This 2020-2021 theme is “energy vampires,” which are devices that pull energy while they are not in use, such as printers, motors and TVs. During the competition, which will last throughout April, our team will provide students with electricity meter plugs that allow them to see their energy use in real time. As this is the first year, the Green Fund also supported the development of competition messaging, including posters that will remain in the dorms for years to come.

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