Greener and Greener It Grows

ANNA NGUYEN/New University

In the amphitheater in Arroyo Vista, next to the old volleyball courts, a group of over 100 UCI students and administrators gathered to shovel gravel, dig holes and build wooden planting boxes for the newest addition to UCI’s growing portfolio of sustainable projects.

The ASUCI Garden Commission, formerly the Anteater Garden Initiative, spent the last 18 months working with campus officials to plan, fund and build a sustainable student-run garden on campus.

Alexandre Colavin and Alexandra Nagy, famously referred to as “boy Alex” and “girl Alex” respectively, worked closely with administrators like Director Richard Demerjian of Environmental Planning and Sustainability. Demerjian helped the duo plan and pick what areas of the campus would best fit their needs, and Stacey Murren, the director of the UCI Student Center, also works as an adviser for the sapling committee. Addressing the crowd of students, Murren spoke about a passion for sustainability and the relationships between people, their food and their land.

“Learning to grow food on your own is a lifelong skill that will serve you well,” Murren said.

The garden was funded by The Green Initiative Fund, a student group under ASUCI. TGIF, which has already helped with funding programs like the UCI Farmers Market and the Arbor Day Tree Planting, put forward $32,000 toward the building and maintenance of the garden. UCI Dining, which catered the event, helped to reduce costs to the budget by reducing their bill, while showing off a wide variety of sustainable utensils and organic yogurts. The Irvine Ranch Water District was also in attendance, loaning a large cache of shovels and other gardening tools for the volunteers. The Home Depot pitched in by offering a huge supply of pre-cut wood at an extremely low price for the garden project, which further reduced the cost.

TGIF Commissioner Kevin Schlunegger spoke highly of the student involvement. The idea of student-led sustainable projects being funded by the student body spawned the organization that is quickly on its way to being one of the most successful fee referendum projects on campus.

“It’s been a pleasure to work with students and their projects,” Schlunegger said. “I’m really proud and glad everyone came out today.”

Richard Demerjian also spoke about the project, noting the speed at which the project was completed.

“We kiss a lot of frogs,” he said in reference to projects on campus. “Not all of them turn into a prince.”

That said, he noted that the Garden project might very well be a record for the fastest project to be put into completion at UCI.

Colavin made it a point to remind the volunteers as to whom the garden belonged to.

“This is not the Irvine Garden, or the UCI Garden. It’s your garden. You’re building it,” Colavin said.

The garden, which was named “Ants in your Plants,” will have a seed-planting ceremony which is scheduled for May 5 of this year. Volunteers are encouraged to attend the ceremony and visit the garden regularly during their UCI careers.