Projects aim to help environment



By Tilly Finley

Thursday is Earth Day, and two UK students are doing something to make sure the university has an impact on the environment.

Biology and anthropology senior Stephanie Hopkins has begun a project to reduce UK’s water quality impact by installing rain barrels on campus. Forestry and natural resource conservation management junior Christine Kuchle will use the rainwater to create and sustain a community garden in the Greg Page and Shawneetown apartment areas.

Hopkins is the first intern that the UK Student Sustainability Council selected. The council created the internship with the focus of storm water management in mind.

Hopkins said the SSC chose this topic after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued a consent decree with respect to water quality management, and in response the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government announced plans to implement a water management fee in 2010.

The SSC chose Hopkins out of 15 students who applied for the internship to take on the task of reducing UK’s water quality impact, and her answer was to install rain barrels to catch storm water runoff from campus buildings.

By capturing rainwater as it runs off surfaces like rooftops and diverting it for later use, rain barrels can decrease the amount of municipal water used for landscaping and prevent contaminated water from entering the sewer system, Hopkins said.

Hopkins said setting up a rain barrel-testing site on campus was achieved at no cost.

“I was able to get seven rain barrels donated by the LFUCG as they were beginning to deliver barrels to local residents for home use, for a small fee,” Hopkins said.

Four rain barrels were recently installed at Shawneetown Apartments, all of which the city government donated. Beginning next spring, Shawneetown will serve as a test site for campus rain barrels as well as an education opportunity for students and community members, Hopkins said.

Shawneetown Apartments are also home to another new addition on campus.

Hopkins’ rain barrels were selected for this site because of Kuchle’s community garden project.

The growing community garden, paired with the rain barrels, has created opportunities for graduate students living in the complexes to grow food using the rain water for irrigation, Kuchle said.

Gaines fellow Kuchle began her community garden project last fall as part of a requirement of the Gaines fellowship. Each student is required to complete a community service project that a jury judges, Kuchle said.

“I initially thought the gardens would be rather small, maybe 450 square feet or so, but (there was) so much interest in the project I now have 2,000 square feet of garden space … ” Kuchle said.

The SSC, with help from the UK Grounds Department, planted and soiled the community gardens.

“Gardening helped me understand the importance of taking care of the Earth, of understanding how the natural environment works, the value of health soil, the benefits of healthy eating,” Kuchle said. “And that if society is going to build a better relationship with the environment they need to get involved with it in some way.”