The Georgetown University 2019 Laudato Si’ Fund Recipients

Laudato Si Fund Logo

The Georgetown University 2019 Laudato Si’ Fund, named after Pope Francis’s groundbreaking encyclical on environmental justice, is a $300,000 fund available to support projects and programs led by faculty, students and/or staff that advance positive outcomes through activities in research, education, institutional action and/or engagement. The Fund is intended to deepen alignment between Georgetown’s ongoing sustainability efforts, our core mission as a Jesuit University, and Pope Francis’ encyclical, Laudato Si’: On Care for Our Common Home – strengthening our responses to global and local sustainability challenges.  

Congratulations to the awardees! Below are short descriptions of the funded proposals:

Advancing Sustainability and Human Rights by Establishing Procurement Standards at Catholic Universities

Project Lead: Joseph A. McCartin, Professor of History and Executive Director, Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor & the Working Poor

This project aims to convene and build a working group among Catholic institutions of higher education to develop labor and environmental standards for food procurement on their campuses. Informed by the need to address ongoing inequities and injustices within the work of food production and the adverse ecological impacts of many methods of modern agribusiness, this project will draw on the progress made in combating sweatshop production of university logo-bearing apparel to advance a new model to protect food workers’ rights and promote sustainable food production. The goal is to develop basic standards and create a vehicle capable of certifying that producers meet these standards.

Incorporating Sustainability Across the Curriculum

Project Lead: Mindy McWilliams, Senior Associate Director for Assessment and Programs, Center for New Designs in Learning and Scholarship (CNDLS)

Building on CNDLS’ expertise in innovation in teaching and learning, and the sustainability expertise of faculty member Evan Barba, this project team seeks to design and implement two core activities to promote wider engagement with pedagogies, issues, and practices of sustainability in Georgetown’s curriculum.

The first activity is to work with up to ten faculty members to create course assignments on sustainability education. Focused on undergraduate and graduate faculty whose courses are not primarily focused on sustainability, the project team  will consult with and support the selected faculty members in developing a course assignment that integrates sustainability concepts with course subject matter.

The second activity is the creation of a Faculty Learning Community (FLC) which will meet monthly to explore ways and share practices for bringing sustainability into curricula, with the community proposing and completing a final project.

Developing Georgetown University as a Bee Campus

Project Lead: William Hahn, Adjunct Professor, Science, Technology and International Affairs (STIA), School of Foreign Service

To address the problem of global pollinator decline, this project team – comprised of students, faculty and staff – will work to develop Georgetown University as a Xerces Society designated Bee Campus. This program is a framework for increasing pollinator protection and awareness with these requirements: 1) Establishment of a committee and habitat plan, 2) Hosting pollinator awareness events, 3) Sponsoring student service learning projects, 4) Offering pollinator-focused courses, 5) Posting signage to educate the campus and broader community, and 6) Maintaining a web presence to share pollinator-related news and activities.

Residential Compost Pilot

Project Lead: Noelle Gignoux, Undergraduate student

Our proposal team is the Georgetown Renewable Energy and Environmental Network (GREEN) compost team, and we are seeking to pilot an impactful, educational, and solution-oriented residential compost program for Georgetown.

The Georgetown Renewable Energy and Environmental Network (GREEN) compost team aims to pilot an impactful, educational, and solution-oriented residential compost program for Georgetown. The initiative will accept up to 50 student apartments (200 students) into a year-long residential compost pilot, in which food waste from the selected apartments will be picked up each week by a DC-based compost business. This project will result in the tangible diversion of up to 8,000 gallons of food waste from the landfill. The simultaneous education initiative will make the 200 student participants early adopters and advocates for a permanent compost system. Finally, through research and meetings with a Compost Working Group throughout the year, the project seeks to catalyze the development of a permanent residential compost system after the pilot program.

Disability, Disaster, and Climate Change: A Public Ethics Project

Project Lead: Julia Watts Belser, Associate Professor, Department of Theology and Religious Studies

This project brings together academics and activists working at the nexus of disability, environmental ethics, and climate change to grapple with a critical problem: the way systemic failure to account and plan for disability results in disproportionate harm to disabled people during and after natural disaster. The structural barriers that people with disabilities face every day—from inaccessible infrastructure, subpar public transportation systems, refusals to provide communication access, endemic poverty, to limited voice in civic governance—become a matter of life or death during disaster. Shelters are often inaccessible, while evacuation plans commonly assume a normative body and a substantial bank account. Heeding a powerful call from religious and secular environmental justice ethicists, this project demands that we take a hard look at whose lives we deem worth saving, whose bodies can find shelter from the storm.

The project will convene a selected group of disability studies scholars, environmental justice advocates, religious ethicists and disability leaders for a strategy summit to share expertise across fields and disciplines. By engaging these diverse parties to work together on a concrete question of shared concern, the summit aims to lay the groundwork for collaborative partnerships between academics and practitioners, build pathways for responsive community-engaged scholarship and catalyze religious and secular environmentalists to work in solidarity with disability communities.

The Laudato Si’ Sustainable Living Module

Project Lead: Shelby Gresch, Undergraduate student

This project, led by a student team, will create an online educational course about sustainability at Georgetown. Through an interactive module, the project aims to educate the student body about environmental issues, inform them about why their individual actions make a difference, and provide them with the resources and information to live more sustainably. The course content will be developed with the input of the Office of Sustainability, Residential Living, Mission and Ministry, and various academic departments and environmental student groups. The team will develop incentives to encourage students to take the course while it will initially be voluntary, and will explore opportunities to make such education mandatory in the future.

Through the Laudato Si’ Sustainable Living Module, this project team aims to create a campus environment in which students are more mindful of sustainability issues, more aware of their personal impact, and better equipped to practice sustainability in their lives on campus.

Educating Leaders in Business and Sustainability

Project Lead: Vishal Agrawal, Provost’s Distinguished Associate Professor, McDonough School of Business

Provost’s Distinguished Associate Professor Vishal Agrawal and The Global Social Enterprise Initiative (GSEI) aim to develop and launch two new programs to educate and inspire future generations of Georgetown leaders to balance environmental and business interests. The first will develop a new graduate Certificate in Business and Sustainability at the McDonough School of Business, as an academic credential for leaders to hone their ability to run organizations in the 21st century while taking into consideration environmental impact, social responsibility, and the financial bottom line. The second is a series of new opportunities for students from across the university to sharpen their understanding of business sustainability, including a corporate sustainability case competition, convenings featuring faculty and sustainability experts from business, government and NGOs, and career events that allow students from across the university to interact business leaders and explore career opportunities in sustainability. The goal of these efforts is to ensure that Georgetown students are globally recognized for managing to the triple bottom line—balancing people, planet, and profit—whether they pursue careers in the private, public or nonprofit sectors.

Design Transfigured

Project Lead: Albey Miner, Associate Professor of the Practice, Art/Art History and Director of Georgetown University Galleries

Georgetown University Art Galleries is organizing Design Transfigured, the first exhibition of its kind, to recognize global designers’ bold and inventive responses to this urgent condition by dramatically re-imagining waste materials into handsome, novel, and useful products. As a group exhibition, with an international scope, that generates critical dialogues with the sciences, Design Transfigured marks several rsts for the de la Cruz Art Gallery.

The exhibition’s goal is to introduce visitors to the incredible contributions artists/designers can make towards combating the impending threat of environmental ruinand spark creative conversations. Artists do not merely create objects, they create change. This exhibition brings together works from 25 design studios across the globe. From building materials to fashion accessories, some of these newly developed designs are prototypes and proposals; others are in production and ready for the marketplace; all designs point towards approaches that recognize and address the state of our environment. The works in the exhibition will be presented in three sections: The Closet, Furniture/Furnishings, and The Built Environment.

Project Green First Year

Project Lead: Amelia Walsh, Undergraduate Student

The main objective of this project is to create and implement a sustainability education campaign at Georgetown University that targets first year students. Realizing that daily sustainability on campus, particularly that of students, suffers because of a lack of education, this project will pinpoint areas where first year students can integrate green living within their routine college experience early in the development of their habitual learning process as semi-independent individuals.

The first stage will be during RA training over the summer, to make sure all first year RAs are aware of the sustainability practices at GU and how they can enforce them. We will also seek to partner with New Student Orientation, where we will introduce the first years to sustainability at Georgetown, and to reinforce this message during a What’s a Hoya sustainability presentation. Later on in the fall semester we will have a Sustainability panel with thought-leaders that can foster a deeper conversation about sustainability efforts on campus and put them in a larger context. The project would culminate with a survey that would go out at the end of the semester to assess first years on what they know about sustainability to both reinforce the training and also measure how effective it was.

2019-2020 Research Fellowship on Climate, Gender, and Justice

Project Lead: Jennifer Parsons, Research Partnerships Manager, Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security (GWIPS)

The international community increasingly recognizes the importance of women in addressing climate change and conflict, as reflected in Security Council resolutions, Sustainable Development Goals, and COPs 22 and 23 and succeeding gender initiatives. There is growing awareness that shrinking resources due to climate change exacerbates tensions, potentially leading to conflict (SIDA, 2018; USAID, 2016). The evidence suggests that women are disproportionately impacted by both climate change and conflict – and are a necessary but often overlooked part of the solutions to this complex nexus. Prior GIWPS research supports this evidence and identifies how the effects of climate change impacts women differentially and more severely, but also how women serve as agents of change in local communities (Alam et. al, 2015).

Expected outcomes of this research fellowship include a report targeted at policymakers, and convenings with decision makers, practitioners, and scholars to advance research and policy change that engage women in conflict affected states in solutions to mitigate climate change.

The Battle for Life in Toxic Cities: Economic growth, environmental legislation, and public interest litigation in modern India

Project Lead: Shareen Joshi, Assistant Professor of International Development, School of Foreign Service

This research proposal examines the issue of environmental justice in India. We aim to explore the response of the Indian judiciary to disputes relating to environmental laws. Our main focus will be environmental Public Interest Litigation (PIL) — a type of case that can be filed by any concerned citizen(s) whose fundamental rights are believed to be violated. 

The proposal features two separate workstreams. The first will analyze a newly constructed dataset of 8 million Indian court cases. We will examine the trends in PIL cases at regional courts and correlate this with local economic and political conditions. The second workstream will involve a detailed case-study of the impact of a recent PIL case in Sanganer, Rajasthan. Sanganer is an urban township that contains a cluster of small textile firms that dispose large volumes of toxic effluent into a local river. In response to a PIL, the Supreme Court recently required the construction of an expensive pollution-control system.