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Sustainability Projects

Since 2005-06, a significant portion of the Student Environmental Initiatives fee has been used to stimulate demand for renewable energy in the Tennessee Valley and southeastern United States. The university currently purchases 250,000 megawatt hours (MWh) per month of Green-e certified renewable energy credits (RECs) through the TVA Green Power Switch program. The purchase makes UT an EPA Green Power Partner and one of the largest purchasers of green power in the Southeast.

With labor donated by the Facilities Services Department, this four-year, $384,000 project supported the installation of new lighting fixtures and controls that use about one-third less electricity and eliminate the need for excessive lighting in the Stokely Management Center (SMC). In addition, the project added daylight harvesting technology to the building so that the lighting dims as sunlight enters a space. These improvements have saved $56,000 a year based on 2003 electric rates.


The Student Environmental Initiatives fee has funded a number of graduate assistant student positions. Sara Malley served as a graduate assistant from 2009 to 2011. As a GA, Sara helped launch the Eco-Vols program and assisted with various projects to promote environmental stewardship on campus and in the community. Katie Kimsey (Bennett) served as a graduate assistant from 2009 to 2011.


The new Drone Project is an effort to further understand our campus and how to make it the most efficient it can be. By flying drones on campus, we are able to do a geothermal analysis on an entire building and see where heat is leaking out. From this data we can than assess where upgrades need to be made on insulation and sealing the buildings.

The Green Database Project is a program that will be able to connect all sustainability interested students on campus. As a sort of a “LinkedIn”, by making a profile and filling in your interests, you can see all individuals on campus who share similar interests with you, furthering the connections and strengthening overall environmentalism on campus.

The Grow Lab is a new campus garden that started in Spring 2018. As a living laboratory, the Grow Lab promotes experiential and service learning, demonstrates ecological food production methods, and encourages community engagement. The garden is a place where UT students, faculty, staff, and Knoxville citizens participate in hands-on learning, engage in meaningful service, conduct research, and cultivate community.

Once complete, The Grow Lab will demonstrate ecological food production methods, address local food insecurity, contribute to a sense of place, and encourage interdisciplinary partnerships.

At the Grow Lab, half of the plots will be designated for specific academic courses, research, and university groups. The remaining plots will be maintained by staff and volunteers with produce donated to hunger-alleviating causes. To learn more about the Grow Lab visit the official site page. 

utk pace bike

Sponsored by the Green Fee and Visit Knoxville, Pace Bike Share was launched in Spring 2018. By downloading the free application on your phone, users are able to reserve bikes in 30 minute increments. Memberships are also available, where included in the UT discounted monthly rate of $14.50, members can reserve the bike unlimited times for rides under an hour. After that, rides cost $1 for every 30 minutes. Bikes can be “parked” anywhere around Knoxville, with roughly 20 official Pace Stations in the city, including 3 on campus.

After a Green Fee Funding trial run in Haslam Business and Hodges Library, hand dryers are being installed in every bathroom on campus. In a 2015 feasibility study done by our office, results showed show both a cost savings and workflow efficiency improvement opportunities for Building Services, with GHG emission reductions resulting from reduced transportation of paper towels to campus and then to individual buildings.

The switch started in March 2018, with over 1,000 paper towel dispensers being replaced. Read the press release about this story here.

A 78-foot long boardwalk now spans the middle pool of a created wetland at the UT Gardens, Knoxville. Wetlands are a natural filter for water moving through the landscape. The created wetland receives runoff from an uphill parking area as well as the surrounding manicured gardens, helping to protect the Tennessee River against nonpoint source pollution originating from these areas. The project is a demonstration for homeowners as well as for municipal governments hoping to turn a drainage problem into a landscaping amenity. The project will soon display signage that helps visitors understand the complexity of the built environment as they experience a wetland ecosystem just off Neyland Drive.

The created wetland was made possible through a grant from the Tennessee Stormwater Association, design and construction oversight by faculty and staff, construction from Facility Services, and nearly 1200 hours of effort from UT Wildlife & Fisheries Science students. Friends of the UT Gardens volunteer to maintain the wetland to prevent against invasive species establishment. The project is a collaboration of faculty and staff in Biosystems Engineering & Soil Science, Plant Science, and Forestry, Wildlife & Fisheries Departments as well as Facility Services at UT. Special thanks to the Clinch River Environmental Studies Organization for assistance during wetland construction and to the Institute for a Secure and Sustainable Environment for support of future research. For more information, visit


In addition to the above projects, we always have numerous other projects in the works. We also have a list of all of the completed projects our office has completed. If you are interested in learning more about any of our archived projects email us for more information at

If you have an idea for a project, submit it to the Student Green Fee.

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