Sustainability and Resiliency

Sustainability Seed Grants

The Office of Sustainability and The Climate Solutions Initiative are pleased to present a funding call for Seed Grants for Sustainability. 

These grants seek to provide faculty, students, and staff with opportunities to advance sustainability research, teaching and community engagement while contributing to Brown's sustainability goals as articulated in the University Sustainability Strategic Plan. Please refer to the Call for Proposals for further details and instructions for proposal submission. The next proposal cycle is due by 5pm on Friday, October 18, 2024.

Please contact with any questions.

Spring 2024 Seed Grant Recipients


Influence of Bubble Dynamics in Hydrogen Production by Electrolysis

Hydrogen is the fuel of the future. It burns cleanly, without producing greenhouse gasses. However, its use is currently limited by the high cost to obtain it. One way to produce green hydrogen at low-cost is through  water electrolysis: sending a strong current through water breaks the water molecule to form hydrogen and oxygen in the form of bubbles. This research project will investigate how hydrogen bubbles form. By understanding the process in detail, we will be able to propose improvements to increase its production.


Cutting Waste, Not Just Tissue

Current estimates suggest that the healthcare sector in the United States contributes to approximately 10% of the country’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. This student-led pilot study seeks to address the environmental impact of waste in medical education settings by trialing non-individually wrapped scalpel blades in the anatomy lab at The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University. By comparing the waste generated from traditional individually wrapped blades with that of bulk-packaged scalpel blades across all three lab sections of the Anatomy I course during the 2024 fall semester,  the study will assess the feasibility, cost-effectiveness, and environmental benefits of making this transition. 

This study will employ a design that not only measures waste usage but also incorporates a lifecycle analysis (LCA) to assess the comprehensive cradle-to-grave savings achieved by our waste reduction efforts. The project not only reduces the scalpel wrapper waste from human cadaver dissections to effectively zero, but also offers a model for sustainable practices that could be implemented in other departments and potentially scaled across various institutions. The outcome of this study aims to raise waste reduction awareness in the medical community with a plan to share actionable insights and lessons with administration. This intervention represents a crucial step towards integrating sustainability into medical education, aligning with the primer released by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) and The Federal Sustainability Plan, which calls on the healthcare sector to reduce its carbon footprint and lower GHG emissions


Catalyzing New Research and a New Initiative at Brown on Education Systems and Climate Change

Climate change poses a substantial threat to the learning environment for all students. For example, research shows that the effects of severe weather such as large snowfalls, high heat temperatures, and the lack of adequate ventilation causes cascading effects of school closures, a decline in cognitive performance, and reduces rates of learning which negatively impacts students' achievement. However, these threats remain abstract for many policymakers and administrators. With the help of the Brown Sustainability Seed Grant, the study will produce original research on the scope and nature of climate change threats facing the U.S. K-12 public school system as a whole, as well as at the individual school level. Policymakers can use these findings to prepare public schools for climate change so they can ensure productive learning environments for all students. The first project under this new umbrella of research leverages existing data from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) to provide an overview of the risks posed by natural hazards as well as which schools and student demographics are most susceptible to these risks.

An additional outcome of the project will be the development of a new research and policy initiative focused on education systems and climate change housed at the Annenberg Institute. The aim of this initiative is to become a collaboration hub for scholars and practitioners working on these critical issues.

Fall 2023 Seed Grant Recipients


The Health Effects of Climate Change Curriculum

As our climate continues to evolve, it becomes more imperative to empower the next generation to understand, mitigate, and prevent climate change-induced health effects while advocating for environmental justice. Developed in partnership with the Johns Hopkins University Lung Health Ambassadors Program (LHAP), the Health Effects of Climate Change Curriculum (HECCC) will be taught to middle and high school students in Providence, RI public schools. Through a series of four lessons and interactive activities, students will learn how global climate changes impact the local Providence community through learning about health equity, environmental justice, and the climate change science of food, water, air quality, and temperature. Additionally, the HECCC will be taught by Providence health care professionals and trained Brown University pre-health, public health, and medical students to enhance current and future healthcare professional communication and health literacy. We look forward to the HECCC cultivating school-healthcare partnerships and catalyzing the next generation of local environmental and health justice advocates.


Symposium on Sustainable Space

How can human space activity be sustainable?  Earth’s orbit is filled with many satellites that collide with each other and block our view of space. Rocket launches now have an atmospheric impact comparable to global air transport. Earth has one moon, and we are about to industrialize it for defense, tourism, science, minerals extraction all while leaving waste products because it is too expensive to remove or recycle them. These actions could change the lunar landscape forever. Before we degrade and exhaust our finite space environment, could we change course, live and work in space sustainably, and in the process learn how to live in harmony with the ecosystems of our own planet Earth?  On Saturday, April 27, 2024, with sponsorship from Brown University’s Sustainability Seed Grant, NASA and Brown’s School of Engineering, the Brown University Symposium on Sustainable Space.  BUS^3, will host a day of round table conversations with space experts and how we are developing it or similarly threatened wild regions including Antarctica, Earth’s oceans, and other planetary moons. The event is open to the  Brown community to listen and participate, at no cost.


Climate Negotiations in a More Than Human World: A Re-working of COP28 at Brown

Calling all storytellers, economists, scientists, artists, mathematicians, designers, climate policy enthusiasts, and more… In a world of diverse voices, "Climate Negotiations in a More Than Human World: A Simulated Reworking of COP28 at Brown" beckons you to join a groundbreaking three-day negotiation from the evening of Friday, April 12th to Sunday 14th, 2024. This unique gathering opens its doors to the  Brown community, inviting students, post-docs, faculty, staff, and alumni to collectively reimagine climate negotiations in a transdisciplinary context that incorporates both human and non-human entities.

Inspired by COP28 and the critical challenge of mitigating global warming or adapting to the impacts it already yields upon all, this experiential conference at Brown boldly embraces a diverse spectrum of participants, both human and non-human, through the medium of representation. It serves as a hub for the Brown climate community, engaging corporations, animals, ecosystems, and beyond.

In this dynamic realm, students assume roles as participants in a world conference, fostering a critical understanding of representation and ecological impact.  A distinctive feature lies in the inclusion of non-human voices in the negotiation process, signaling a purposeful shift towards a renewed sense of agency and influence in shaping the narrative surrounding climate change and biodiversity.

This simulated COP at Brown not only enriches students' climate awareness and actions. It energizes a critically reflexive and innovative climate community, aligning with Brown's commitment to producing future climate leaders equipped with a nuanced understanding of climate systems-thinking in a more than human world. Join us in this forward-thinking initiative that transcends academic boundaries and shapes the future of climate discourse!


Calculating Baseline Emissions for Brown-Administered Study Abroad Programming
Brown University’s Office of Global Engagement (OGE) operates seven study abroad centers that offer immersive, semester-length academic programs throughout the world. These high-impact programs make an important contribution to the Brown undergraduate educational experience; however, the global climate crisis compels us to better understand the environmental impact of these overseas programs. This proposal represents the first in a series of planned long-term efforts to (1) quantify the impact of Brown-administered study abroad programming on the university’s overall carbon footprint; (2) identify concrete solutions for mitigation; and (3) incorporate climate consciousness explicitly into the decision-making and strategic planning practices of the OGE. Specifically, the goal of this initial project is to develop and implement a methodology for calculating baseline program-based emissions using one study abroad center—Brown in Bologna—as a pilot site. We hope that the results of this project will provide a roadmap for calculating and mitigating emissions across all seven of Brown’s study abroad centers.


Build Your Own Indoor Air Filter

A new project led by School of Public Health Professors Joseph M. Braun and Erica Walker aims to improve indoor air quality around the Brown campus and Rhode Island using Corsi-Rosenthal Boxes (CR Boxes) portable air cleaners. Air filtration reduces levels of pathogens, particulate matter, and other environmental pollutants in indoor environments and is an effective tool to improve indoor air quality. Prior research by these Brown researchers and others shows that CR Boxes can reduce indoor air levels of respiratory pathogens like COVID and air pollutants like wildfire smoke. CR Boxes provide comparable or better air filtration performance as commercially available HEPA air filters at a fraction of the cost. Faculty, staff, students, and community members can attend “Build-A-Box” events where they can learn how to make their own CR Box for use in their home, classroom, or offices. All supplies will be provided (snacks and drinks too!). Participants can also enter their CR Box into a contest for “best decorated” and win prizes. After building one, there will also be the chance to participate in a study about using CR Boxes.


Gamification for the environment! Making circular economy and life cycle thinking fun!

Education is critical to addressing the impacts of climate change by introducing younger generations to the complexities of human-caused ecological damage. In this research initiation proposal between systems science, manufacturing engineering and industrial design disciplines, Brown and RISD, we propose an investigation into how gamification of climate change mitigation strategies can be used as a teaching tool in middle and high school education. In recent years, strategy games have proven popular for recreation and as a mechanism for science outreach and lately, multiple games centered on climate change have entered the toy market. Given their rising popularity, we propose to explore gamification through strategy games to teach circular economy (CE) and life cycle thinking (LCT) for use in the classroom. While there are some circular economy strategy games, they are either aimed at graduate-level students, business teams or are very loosely themed. CE and LCT are ideal ways to teach children early on to think strategically about using finite material sources and how to recover and reuse limited resources. This study will examine these current gamification offerings with first-year undergraduates and partnering middle and high schools from the pedagogical lens of knowledge gained (pre- and post-test surveys) and from a toy designing perspective of what makes a game fun and engaging. With this data, we will develop a CE and LCT game with curricula resources to support climate change learning in schools.

Spring 2023 Seed Grant Recipients


Climate Action Kits for K-12 public schools

Teaching climate change and climate justice takes time, resources, and climate narratives that not every K-12 teacher in Rhode Island has access to. Building on a model started by Chicago Environmental Educators, this proposal intends to work with community environmental educators and IBES faculty to create and practice Climate Action Kits for K-12 public schools in Providence and Rhode Island. These first twelve kits will provide educators with lessons plans, curricula, and teaching materials to teach locally-specific and global climate narratives (history and science) to elementary, middle, and high school students. We hope these teaching tools for public school teachers will introduce students to meaningful, exciting, and lasting ways to think about climate change, environmental justice, and related topics.


The RE-PLASTIC program

The advancement of 3D printing technology has enabled significant innovation, experimentation, and manufacturing, yet has resulted in waste that is difficult to recycle through traditional infrastructure. The RE-PLASTIC program, a joint research initiative of the Brown Design Lab and Rhode Island Hospital,  will explore the collection and processing of 3D print waste into re-purposed 3D print filament material for use on campus and in the community as a collaborative sustainability initiative with STEAM education opportunities.


Climate Change and Health Symposium for Brown University and the Community

The Climate Change and Health Committee of the Rhode Island Medical Society will host a Climate Change and Health Symposium for Brown University and the Community in 2023 to raise awareness about the link between climate change and health. The symposium will provide a platform for experts from various fields to share their knowledge and research findings related to climate change and health, explore potential solutions and strategies to mitigate the negative impacts of climate change on human health, and foster collaboration between stakeholders from the medicine, public health and community health promotion, environmental science, and political advocacy sectors. Sessions will cover key climate topics including reduction of nutrient pollution, addressing the risks of indoor and outdoor air pollution and chemical additives to consumer products to human health, curbing biodiversity loss and reduction in water use.

Fall 2022 Seed Grant Recipients

Quantifying Carbon Dioxide and Methane Concentrations in Providence

Atmospheric methane is the second-most important greenhouse gas after carbon dioxide in terms of concentration, and more potent as a greenhouse gas when compared to carbon dioxide on a per molecule basis. To implement effective greenhouse gas mitigation policies, it is necessary to understand sources of methane emissions and curtail leaks. Leakage is particularly problematic in areas with aging infrastructure, such as urban centers in New England. The research project, Quantifying Carbon Dioxide and Methane Concentrations in Providence, RI, led by Professor Meredith Hastings, Deputy Director of the Institute at Brown for Environment and Society (IBES), will support the continuous measurement of carbon dioxide and methane concentrations in Providence to aid in the calibration of a network of sensors for air quality and greenhouse concentrations across the city, report data that can contribute to baseline understanding for decarbonization plans at Brown University and for the City of Providence, and support goals outlined by the Providence Climate Justice Plan. 


Detection and Measurement of Methane Gas Leaks on Brown’s College Hill Campus

Brown’s energy and heating system relies on natural gas which, when leaked, releases methane, a greenhouse gas that’s 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide. There is currently no system for detecting or quantifying gas leaks on Brown’s campus, despite their massive warming potential. Using detectors funded by the sustainability seed grant, the goal of the Methane Leak Measurement on Campus research project, led by Caitlyn Carpenter ‘25, is to create a comprehensive, living map of methane leaks across the main campus. This data can help inform Brown’s action towards net-zero emissions, and teach Brown students about the prevalence and dangers of this greenhouse gas. 


Fashion Sustainability Conference 

Brown Fashion Week is an annual event sponsored by fashion@brown, bringing the industry’s most creative and interesting individuals with the intention of informing and representing what the world of fashion is and inspiring what it can be. This year, a main pillar of fashion@brown will be a Fashion Sustainability Conference led by Samantha Martin ‘23, to highlight sustainability in the fashion industry and how it interacts with accessibility. Sustainability in the fashion industry has many moving parts and fashion@brown wants to showcase the work that is being done and encourage the next generation of fashion figures to practice sustainability with intention.