Imagine a world with no oatmeal raisin cookies at Mojo, or vegetable stir fry at South Quad - it’s hard to picture, right? Well, without pollinators, we could lose a lot of the foods we depend on. Pollinator species (creatures like bees, hummingbirds, bats, butterflies, moths, beetles, and flies) are experiencing rapid declines worldwide. This is likely the result of interactions between multiple factors - disease, habitat fragmentation, and insecticide use. Because these species are essential in pollinating crops such as grapes, almonds, apples, and countless others, their decline poses a threat to our food system as we know it.
So, as plans were being made to build and open the new Biological Sciences Building (BSB), a pollinator garden seemed like a natural fit. But besides installing plants in a prominent location on campus, what more could be done to engage the U-M community about this problem? I decided to send an application to PepsiCo Recycling’s Zero Impact Fund, which awards grants of up to $10,000 to support projects with positive environmental, economic, and social impacts on college campuses. PepsiCo Recycling grants are awarded to community engagement projects that bring us closer to having zero negative impact on our planet. My proposal on behalf of U-M was one of the 19 chosen, out of more than 60 applications, to receive funding.
This native plant garden, conceived, designed, and planted by the Office of University Landscape Architecture, will provide an oasis for pollinator species amidst the urban landscape of Ann Arbor. With PepsiCo Recycling’s help, we’ll be featuring plantings native to Michigan, such as the pawpaw and lowbush blueberry. The garden will serve as a pilot for incorporating pollinator-friendly, native landscaping in more areas throughout the U-M campus while calling attention to the importance of conserving pollinator species. The garden aligns with U-M Planet Blue’s mission of championing efforts that maintain our planet’s life-support systems, and the campus sustainability goal of reducing chemical applications to campus landscapes by 40% by 2025.
With help from PepsiCo Recycling, the garden will receive additional funding to include educational signage, hummingbird feeders, and a bee ‘hotel’ for solitary native species. This project will be managed by the University of Michigan Sustainable Food Program (UMSFP), with support from by M Dining and the Office of University Landscape Architecture.
And if all of this leaves you worried about being stung on your way to class, have no fear - you have no reason to be concerned, as the pollinators will be far more interested in foraging for food and enjoying their newfound habitat than they are in stinging you.
To learn more about the PepsiCo Recycling Zero Impact Fund, and to explore projects at the other universities, visit their website.
Sophia May is the student lead on the BSB pollinator garden initiative. She is a Program in the Environment major concentrating in Sustainable Food Merchandising, and a Cappo Sales Track candidate. She works at MDining as a Sustainability Intern. Reach out to Sophia at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions.