The Stanford Woods Institute recently awarded grants to Stanford student projects that hold the promise of reducing food waste, recycling clothing and mapping environmental risks and resources in a low-income community, among other bold objectives.

The Mel Lane Student Grants Program provides $500 – $3,000 per project for student-driven-and-managed environmental initiatives that make a measureable impact on an issue through action or applied research. Preference is given to projects that focus on environmental sustainability within one of the following topic areas: climate, ecosystem services and conservation, food security, freshwater, oceans, public health or sustainable development. The next proposal submission deadline is April 6.

Projects funded for 2015:

Stanford Food Project
DiscoSoup at Stanford is an extension of an already existing movement to reduce food waste - reducing resource management inefficiencies and improving food security. DiscoSoup’s approach combines social impact and live music and has proven appealing to a wide range of groups. DiscoSoup has been recognized by several prominent organizations such as the UN, Slow Food, FAO, etc. The events themselves are fun, lively, and represent an inclusive community effort to cook and distribute a meal out of otherwise would-be wasted (unmarketable and/or rejected because of surplus or shape), but perfectly edible produce recovered from farms and markets. DiscoSoup Stanford will bring together undergraduate and graduate students, as well as interested employees and professors to realize the existence of food waste/loss and to cook, converse, and collaborate, while enjoying the event of music and working to feed hungry people in the community surrounding Stanford. While organizations already exist that bring food waste to food banks and shelters, DiscoSoup frames reducing food waste in a positive light, and in doing so, both educates and involves the community in a tangible way. 

Mitigating Western Bluebird Decline at the Dish
Students for a Sustainable Stanford Biodiversity Group
This project aims to protect the Western Bluebird (Sialia mexicana) from habitat loss, both from interspecial competition and human encroachment, and simultaneously to educate the community about native species decline. Through this project, Students for a Sustainable Stanford (SSS) Biodiversity Group will install bluebird boxes at the Dish trail on Stanford campus to mitigate loss of nesting sites. By collaborating with SEEDS, the Stanford Birdwatching Club, and Professor Terry Root and her Biology of Birds class in the winter, we will involve both Stanford students and East Palo Alto high school students in the construction, installation and appreciation of the effects of the bluebird boxes. This approach will allow us to disseminate a culture of promoting native species conservation in the Stanford community and beyond.

Promoting Reuse and Recycling of Consumer Apparel
Independent Graduate Students
This projects aims to encourage more people to reuse/recycle their used clothes instead of throwing them in the trash and to study ways to motivate people to turn in their used clothes for reuse or recycling. The project specifically focuses on the situation in Japan, contrasting it with the U.S., because Japan is such an extreme case in which so little is being reused/recycled now. We will set up a collection program both in Japan and the U.S. and test various methods and messaging. The objective is to determine the most effective ways to encourage people to bring in their used apparel for reuse and recycling.  This project will aid people in saving used apparel, keeping good clothes from going to the trash bin, while providing valuable information for implementing actual collection programs. Beyond Japan, the team hopes to learn better ways for changing people’s behaviors that is applicable in other regions, including motivating people who are currently not reusing/recycling in the U.S.

Remote Monitoring System for Micro-Hydro Plants, Indonesia, Year 2
Engineers for a Sustainable World
For the second year of this project, a group of five undergraduates and two graduate students will continue to advance the design of a remote monitoring system for micro-hydro plants for an Indonesian nonprofit IBEKA (People Centered Business and Economic Initiative). IBEKA seeks to bring about rural development in Indonesia in a sustainable way by providing villages with the technical and administrative expertise to implement small-scale community-owned renewable energy projects. To that end, we are working with IBEKA to design an inexpensive remote monitoring system with four main components: a sensor board placed at the generator that records desired micro-hydropower plant data (e.g. voltage, current, frequency, power output); a transmitter that puts that data into an SMS to be sent hourly; a receiver in the headquarters that receives the SMS, extracts the data and uploads it to an online database; and a web interface that allows users to visualize or download the data. The design of this system is modular as once the system is working for micro-hydro plants, IBEKA intends to extend it to monitoring wind and solar photovoltaic installations. The team intends to design a system that only requires a change to the sensor board and modifications to the transmitter to send data more frequently in order to accomodate the much smaller time scale fluctuations of wind and solar data.

Socio-Environmental Risks and Resources in East Palo Alto 
Independent Graduate Students
Youth United for Community Action (YUCA), a socio-environmental organization based in East Palo Alto (EPA), is particularly concerned with a number of traditionally-conceived environmental issues in their area: water shortages, poor water quality, flooding, lack of shade trees and green space, limited access to fresh food, persistent chemical and auditory pollution. Beyond these traditional environmental concerns, YUCA is also concerned with issues such as the availability and security of employment and affordable housing and the accessibility of public transportation. This collaboration between Stanford and YUCA will combine the skills and expertise of a group of anthropology and education PhD students in survey design, mapping and data analysis and presentation with YUCA’s knowledge and expertise of EPA to produce a spatialized set of environmental risks and resources in EPA as perceived by EPA residents.  The objectives are: 1) To further capacitate YUCA administration and membership and participating Stanford undergraduates to conduct GIS-related projects; 2) to produce with and disseminate among the Stanford community data that expand on existing pedagogical efforts engaging socio-environmental issues in EPA; 3) to provide YUCA administration and membership with data which will enhance and inform their existing engagement with the multiple forms of municipal government (including GIS training).

Read more about the program and other funded projects.