Life as a “green” consumer at Penn requires asking tough questions: Does the Coup de Taco food truck use plastic bags or Styrofoam? Do the D.P. Dough managers turn off the lights at night? Does Greek Lady restaurant keep its litter and debris away from storm drains? To Doug Miller C’12, these eco-conscious inquiries are crucial—and he’s eager to provide the answers.

Luckily for curious consumers, Miller’s Green Acorn Certification project was among the first to receive a Green Fund grant—an outgrowth of Penn’s new Climate Action Plan [“Red and Blue Makes Green,” Nov|Dec 2009].  At the beginning of this academic year, the newly formed Green Fund put out a call for grant applications, which were reviewed by a committee of faculty, staff, and students. In late December, 10 projects were awarded up to $50,000 each. 

“We wanted [applicants] to come up with creative ideas for getting the message out about sustainability and reducing Penn’s carbon footprint and energy consumption,” says Anne Papageorge, vice president of facilities and real estate services. “We didn’t know what to expect for the first round, but I think we had a very nice response.”

For his project, Miller worked with the Penn Environmental Group to develop a program that awards Green Acorn certification to local restaurants, retailers, and food carts, and aims to help them save money and become more eco-friendly. Each establishment must fulfill a set of criteria that “greens” its approaches to waste management, pollution prevention, resource conservation, and environmental awareness.  

In the coming months, businesses deemed Green Acorn-certified will receive Zagat-style window decals and free color ads in The Daily Pennsylvanian, paid for by the grant.

Fueled by another Green Fund grant, the Morris Arboretum is trying to bring students over to the green side—of Philadelphia, that is. “We’ve found that students who come to the Arboretum have a really positive response and experience,” says Aimee Doberstein, its education program coordinator. “The challenge is getting them from point A to point B.”

Located nearly 10 miles from campus—and about half an hour by car—the Morris Arboretum has long struggled to attract student visitors, despite its lush 92 acres and its University affiliation. Now, the grant will help Dobberstein to bring them in by the busload.

Over the next year, the Arboretum will offer eight bus excursions, starting with a visit to its Cherry Blossom Festival on April 17. 

For those who prefer to get their plant fix on campus, Penn’s springtime palette will be especially colorful this year as a new vegetable garden takes root. Sandra Zhao C’10 received a $25,000 Green Fund grant to create a food-producing Penn Garden and construct a greenhouse and tool shed/office space. (She and her team are still seeking funding for a year-round garden manager, work-study positions, and summertime internship grants.)

“On campus, when you have a dining hall and can take what you want, most students don’t think about where their food really comes from,” Zhao said. “This garden will help them appreciate the story behind what they’re eating.”

Biology students have been working with Zhao’s team to determine what plants the garden should grow. Seeds will be started in a greenhouse in March, then go into the ground in April or May. Come summer, “it will hopefully be in full bloom,” Zhao said. (As of late January, a location for the garden was still being finalized.)

Students will also be helping green up 40th Street through a University City District project. The UCD is asking student teams from the School of Design to visit Penn-owned properties along 40th Street and offer suggestions to reduce their emissions and lower their energy bills. Fifty thousand dollars in grant money will fund the winning team’s recommendations.

“We would not have considered that particular commercial corridor for sustainable initiatives had it not been for this grant,” says Carolyn Hewson CP’01, the UCD’s project manager of neighborhood initiatives. “We’ve been thinking about 40th Street, but have not had the resources to do much there. This seemed like an excellent opportunity to start there and take this initiative to other areas, including Baltimore and Lancaster avenues.” 

The Green Fund started with a million dollars of grant money to award, and “the good news is, there’s still money left, so we’re going to be able to do an additional round,” Papageorge says. The next crop of recipients will be announced at the end of the spring semester. 

Molly Petrilla C’06

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