A Garden Rooted in Sustainability
A common sustainability ethos among a group of residence life students helped seed the beginnings of a living-learning community in Evans Hall.
Over a year ago, interdisciplinary science master’s students, Zachary Eichholz and Lexi Miller along with 15 other residence life students formed a sustainability committee. Together they created an action plan to make sustainable changes to Florida Tech residence halls.
“We wanted to bring about sustainable changes to the housing areas. We figured a garden was a good start for that. We wanted something that the entire campus could be involved in,” said Eichholz, President of the Residence Life Sustainability Committee.
Partnering with the university’s sustainability officer, Daniel Sutton, the committee decided to roll-out their proposed initiatives in phases. Phase I – fund, plan and build a community garden in the residential quad.
The first hurdle was funding. That is where the Florida Sustainability Initiatives grant came in.
“First we had to find a grant that would be able to initially support the garden. We wrote the application and had to wait to hear back,” said Miller, Vice President of the Residence Life Sustainability Committee.
Thankfully, the team heard back and were pleased with the outcome. Not only did they win the grant, but they also received matching funds from the university. The garden was a go.
“My role in the project was helping students liaison with facilities and from there we worked on a joint design,” said Sutton, who helped the team value-engineer the project to keep within budget.
Before construction began, the students thoughtfully put together the initial design of the garden and a business operations plan with input from students, faculty and staff.
The university’s facilities department did what they do best –facilitate, build upon and implement the students’ vision.
“We want it to be a fruitful garden, we want students to be able to harvest and prepare produce. We want it to be a garden that is not also useful but aesthetically beautiful,” said Miller.
Today, the garden is filled to the brim with tomatoes, peppers, carrots, basil and cilantro as well as beautiful flowering plants ushering in the start of spring. The produce and herbs were all donated by Home Depot and the flowering plants were donated by facilities. Eventually the flowering plants will find new homes around campus to make room for even more edibles. The garden also features a composter and reused pallets. Even down to the dirt, the garden is reusing materials.
The garden is also serving as a proof of concept to support more sustainable initiatives on campus.
“There are plans right now for a possible living-learning community. An area for students that are environmentally minded or studying environmental programs,” said Miller.
What was once a plot of underutilized grass, is now a physical representation of the ethos and spirit of students who want to live a more eco-conscious lifestyle. The Ethos Community Garden is a legacy and beacon for those that feel the same.
“It feels like something that will make a change and will be worth all the hard work and late nights. I’m a student that just doesn’t do homework, I make a difference,” said Miller.