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Sustainability Team Wins Ford Motor Company Fund Grant to Light Bus Stops

MSU students catch up on emails and text messages while waiting for their bus at the CATA Transit Center on campus.

There will be new solar-powered lighting at bus stops across Michigan State University’s campus thanks to a $25,000 grant from the Ford Motor Company Fund awarded to the Sustainable Spartans student group.

The student group applied for the global grant contest for student-led sustainability projects sponsored by Ford’s philanthropic arm earlier this year and was recently notified it was one of 10 winners. Sustainable Spartans worked with MSU Sustainability to submit the grant proposal and create a pitch video submitted to the fund for the 12 new solar-powered lights.

“We heard about the Ford College Community Challenge grant and we thought it was a great opportunity to fund one of our projects,” said Alexa Marsh, a Sustainable Spartans member and environmental studies and sustainability senior.

Marsh said group members noticed the need for more lighting at Capital Area Transportation Authority, or CATA, bus stops when they traveled across campus at night.

Light will allow students to better see their direct surroundings and CATA bus drivers will be able to see riders waiting for the bus. The solar lights will also bring awareness to the feasibility of renewable energy use and how it can be applied on campus more frequently in the future.

“Education and community engagement are important cornerstones of the Ford Motor Company Fund’s mission to strengthen communities and make people’s lives better,” said Farah Harb, the global education programs analyst for the Ford Motor Company Fund. “Ford C3 empowers students to be leaders of change in their community. The students participating in this unique program will learn what leadership is all about as they develop essential skills that will prepare them for their future.”

Amy Butler, MSU Sustainability director, said the project will merge technology, energy efficiency and enhanced safety, which is especially important now that MSU and CATA started offering free bus transportation for students last year, increasing ridership on campus 38%.

“The project is a great example of how MSU empowers its students to be creative and innovative in coming up with solutions that make their lives on campus better,” Butler said. “At the same time, it provides them the tools and the resources that they can take to their future communities to advance knowledge and transform lives.”

“Safety and sustainability are two of our main priorities,” said CATA CEO Bradley Funkhouser, noting that MSU and CATA will work with the student group to have the lights installed.

The new lights aren’t the first time Sustainable Spartans has brought sustainable solutions to local problems on campus. The group worked to install solar lights at the Akers Hall bus stop in 2016 and put a solar picnic table near Case Hall in 2015, as well as daylight sensors in the Broad College of Business to reduce electrical consumption for lighting when the sun is out. The group’s mission is to research, plan and implement projects relating to energy efficiency, food systems, water and the environment.

Fred Woodhams and Amy Butler Via MSU TODAY

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