Tisch roof garden renovation proposal wins Green Fund competition

by Patrick Milewski / The Tufts Daily (Left) and Courtesy Alicia Bellido (Right)

The Tufts Office of Sustainability announced the seven winners of this year’s Green Fund earlier this month. In one of two such grants awarded to the Medford/Somerville campus, winners Alicia Bellido and Bayley Koopman plan to renovate the rooftop garden on top of the Tisch Library in order to improve its environmental impact.

Using budgets that total $40,000, the Green Fund can financially support various projects across Tufts’ four campuses that address environmental issues, using budgets that total $40,000. This year, the Green Fund received about 30 applications, according to Green Fund intern Olivia Ireland. However, only seven proposals were funded, according to the Office of Sustainability’s website.

Bellido, a junior, explained that the project will take out the existing plants in the Tisch roof garden, renew its soil and plant pollinator-friendly plants that attract native pollinator populations. Its fruition will also allow the garden to reduce stormwater runoff and absorb solar radiation, according to the project proposal.

“Populations of pollinators in cities and around the world have been declining at alarming rates in recent years, and we at the Student Garden are hoping to do our part in providing hospitable areas for pollinators wherever we can,” the project proposal said. “This is especially important in cities because of the lack of vegetation, especially the lack of native vegetation on which so many native bee species rely.”

As co-president of Tufts Student Garden, Koopman, a sophomore, also expressed the need to promote local pollinators. He indicated that the initiative acts as a way for his organization to take on a bigger role in the campus community.

“I think it’s a really great opportunity for Tufts Student Garden to get more publicity because we are a very small club … but I also think it’s a great way to give back to the Tufts community, at least [in terms of] visual aesthetics,” Koopman said. “The student garden cannot do a ton in winter and spring, and it’ll be a really nice change to add another project [for the club], to get a change of pace.”

According to Ireland, a senior who helped organize Green Fund committee meetings, the Green Fund was first established using money from Tufts University Sustainability Fund, and the leftover dividend turned out to be around $40,000 per year.

The Sustainability Fund was created to allow people to donate to sustainable causes. The Fund, Ireland explained, serves as a response to Tufts Climate Action’s call for the Tufts administration to divest from fossil fuels.

Setting up this fund was one of the recommendations of the Divestment Working Group established by University President Anthony Monaco.

Despite the Office of Sustainability’s goal to promote environmental sustainability at Tufts, the race to obtain funding remains competitive, as only seven of 30 projects were funded this year, according to Ireland. However, the application process is self-selective; applicants are required to provide comprehensive plans that cover the logistical problems a project might face.

Ireland commended the feasibility of the Tisch roof garden proposal for its potential positive environmental impact on campus. She emphasized that Bellido and Koopman have a comprehensive plan with great logistical details, such as meeting with facilities services to ensure students can go on the roof to work on the garden.

“When we look at projects, we look at the impact it’ll have on campus, whether or not they will reach a large number of students, whether or not they’re feasible,” Ireland said. “Sometimes a project can’t get funded not because of the project itself but because of administrative [limitations] … the other [criteria] would be the expense and whether the project is able to justify its costs.”

The Tisch roof garden renewal is cost-friendly, as its $1,095.51 budget is relatively inexpensive compared to the $40,000 the fund is allowed to allocate, according to Bellido. She explained that the original proposal was to build a new roof garden, and that $525 of the budget will be used to pay an outside engineer who can assess this possibility.

Both Bellido and Koopman expressed overall satisfaction with the Green Fund committee and found it supportive in endorsing their causes.

They also stressed the importance of student engagement in promoting sustainability at Tufts. Koopman encouraged students to be more involved with organizations like the Tufts Student Garden, and Bellido invited students to work as summer caretakers for the project.