The Sustainability Action grant, a new addition to the 2023 Student Life Grants initiative, provides students with funding and mentorship to innovate co-curricular projects that enable and embed sustainability across campus life and within our broader community.
Marcel Gemperle, past Sustainability Action grant recipient and current PhD candidate at the University of Sydney, tells us about how he used the funding to design a community seed swap and facilitate a balcony gardening workshop.
Gardens are fantastic spaces for us to build an awareness of community and environment. They are a place where we can come together and appreciate that we have a responsibility to each other and the world around us. By teaching and learning in our gardens, we build them up, and we build each other up.
Gardens are the most accessible place to connect people directly with the dynamics of sustainability as more than just a buzzword. You can appreciate the time it takes to produce food and see the impacts of climate change on the local ecologies. The garden allows us to remediate waste through composting, learn to grow food, appreciate the needs of plants and animals, and understand the role and impacts that humans have on the environment on a personal level.
The thing I have been most happy to see growing in the garden is the community. I am grateful that I have made so many friends and learned so much just from committing to a regular time every week to meet up and exist in a space that we all care about.
Collaborating with others. Actively looking for opportunities to get others involved in the project meant that the entire experience was an enriching learning process. Not only did we get to deliver a great workshop and share what we know with the wider university community, but we set up spaces that will help students with similar projects in the future, building our capacity to look after the garden and learn from each other.
Communicating the importance of the garden to people who feel like they don't have the time, experience, or interest in gardening. Most people we met were very interested in knowledge about plants and growing their food but felt overwhelmed by learning about the skills required to support that knowledge. I think connecting the workshops to an established and long-term space on campus helped highlight that these ideas were part of a much broader practice that needed to be cultivated like any other skill.
The regular communications with the Sustainability team were excellent for keeping our project on track. Having their continuous support and encouragement meant we never felt like we couldn't accomplish what we set out to do. We were grateful for the facilitation in sourcing and acquiring the equipment we needed for the workshops. It was also very helpful to have the staff support advocating for our project. The university can be an intimidating place when you're not sure who to talk to in order to get what you need, and the Sustainability and Student Life teams were an excellent lifeline that helped us navigate networks with confidence.
Be brave and try to change the world, starting with our campus. The grants can open new avenues for you and others to build more sustainable relationships with the university community. Collaborate across projects. The most passionate people you will meet are the ones applying alongside you. Look at these grants as an opportunity to share your passion and knowledge as a group with the wider community, and to build the world you want to see.
Round 2 applications for a Sustainability Action grant close at 9 am Thursday 25 May 2023.