Students take part in sustainability project

Mhari Shaw

Project Grow’s efforts can be seen outside of the Office of Sustainability with crops ranging from fruits, vegetables and herbs covering the front and back yards.

Project Grow focuses on educating and providing hands-on learning experiences for students and community members. Project Grow also offers fellowships for students who are interested in learning about sustainability.

Christian Ryan, LEED AP sustainability coordinator, started the program after moving to a residential location on Regents Avenue in 2013.

“Lawns are not sustainable;  we put a lot into them, but what do we get out them? Our goal from the beginning was to make this landscape entirely edible,” Ryan said. “A learning landscape where everyone can contribute, where everyone can get their hands in the soil and learn something.”

Project Grow holds weekly work days in the garden at the Office of Sustainability. People can come and research or plant seeds of their choosing. Project Grow provides seeds, shovels and can order supplies necessary for a job.

Alexis Corbin, student worker at the Office of Sustainability, helps organize programs including Project Grow and Big Red Bikes. Corbin has been involved with the Office of Sustainability for three years and has held a more permanent job there for the last year.

“What really drew me to [Project Grow] was that it empowers people to experiment with gardening and allows for different ways to be sustainable,” Corbin said.

The fellowships offered, along with the program, allows students to apply and compete to be fellows, according to Ryan. A fellowship continues over a 12-month period in which the fellows see the garden through each season. The fellows are required to work five hours in the garden planning, researching and or applying that research.

Sean Nelson, senior at WKU and current recipient of the fellowship, leads students through the volunteer programs and helps maintain the garden.

“I volunteered with the mindset of becoming a fellow, I was really interested in the organic aspect of things along with the sustainable initiative of the program,” Nelson said.

Along with fellowships and weekly gardening opportunities, Project Grow is involved with community events. Some events included are Farmer Fridays and Greenhouse Guru,  which will be held in April for Earth Month and will promote greenhouse planting. All events held through Project Grow are open to the public.

“I often say that the Office of Sustainability is not my office, it is everyone’s office;  it belongs to the entire campus and community and we want everyone to come and use it,” Ryan said.

Reporter Mhari Shaw can be reached at 270-745-6288 and [email protected].