Education is truly successful once it helps you become a critical thinker and solve real-life problems for the benefit of you and your community. AUS strives to provide students with experiential learning opportunities, and AUS Sustainability is honored and delighted to help unfurl projects that genuinely benefit, treasure and nurture the natural environment and not only sustain its resources, but help them blossom. The AUS Greenhouse project is one of them.

On May 3, 2019, AUS Community Services, part of the Office of Student Affairs, inaugurated a first-of-its-kind, student-led greenhouse project that took three years and 200 AUS volunteers to plan and build. Recycled or reused items made up more than 90 percent of the materials used to build the greenhouse, including more than 20,000 single-use water bottles, which were all collected from the university campus before the single-use plastic ban was initiated by AUS.

The plastic water bottles that make up the walls of the greenhouse create significantly cooler temperatures and provide protection from various pests, allowing for the cultivation of plants all year round. The sheltered structure offers ideal growing conditions for plants that otherwise cannot survive the harsh, arid and hot local climate. The AUS Greenhouse is part of the Community Service Farm, where students grow fruits and vegetables to be sold during the farmers’ markets in collaboration with AUS Sustainability. The proceeds from the sale of the Community Service Farm produce are used to support the continuation of the project and additional donations go towards charity initiatives. 

With the COVID-19 pandemic impacting physical activities on campus, there is no longer any produce sold at on-campus markets. However, the AUS Greenhouse is still fully functional as a greenhouse farm today, with the University City gardeners currently using it.

With successful projects like these, AUS Sustainability aims to transform AUS into a powerful test-bed, generating ideas and forming behaviors that can address the challenges of our changing planet. Among other approaches that AUS Sustainability takes, it sees the campus as a living lab. We envision our campus to be an incubator for new ideas and solutions that address environmental and social issues at AUS and beyond. We support both undergraduate and graduate student research projects and initiatives that contribute to AUS’s commitment to sustainability, and students are encouraged to apply for our sustainability project funding.

Written by Apoorva Dudani, a third-year mass communications student who began work as an AUS EcoRep in 2021.