2023 All Together Green Facilities Management News Sustainability Sustainable Innovation

Enhancing Food Security through Aquaponics

On Thursday, April 6, 2023 Mason celebrates Mason Vision Day – an opportunity for the Mason community to come together each year to identify and support a deserving initiative on campus. This year’s efforts address campus food insecurity, supporting Mason students who have limited access to sufficient or quality food. Food insecurity on college campuses is a rising, problematic trend that Mason is committed to combating. 

George Mason University Sustainability and the Greenhouse and Gardens Program are contributing to these efforts, promoting healthy eating and helping Mason Patriots achieve food security. One way this team is enhancing food security on campus is through the recent installation of a new aquaponic food system located at the Presidents Park Greenhouse (PPG) on the Fairfax campus. The PPG is an on-campus site for year-round food production that grows approximately 1,000 lbs. of fresh produce annually. To support this new initiative, the PPG received generous contributions from Mason Facilities, the Patriot Green Fund, and the Auxiliary Enterprise Management Council. Donielle Nolan, Greenhouse and Gardens Program Manager, is spearheading this sustainable effort!  

Mason Facilities leadership is proud of the Greenhouse and Gardens program, and its contributions to campus food security and education. "Our greenhouse is an incredible asset to the campus community,” said Greg Farley, Director of University Sustainability. “It is very unusual for a university to grow, and serve, fresh produce to a campus. We work hard to contribute to student food security, and to teach Patriots of all ages how to grow and prepare fresh, nutritious foods. That makes Mason unique!”  

Nolan’s newest staff members include fifteen goldfish that grow plants organically, without the use of soil, creating a fertilized environment for many of University Sustainability’s greens. In the aquaponic system, the fish produce waste that nitrifying bacteria then convert into nutrients for the plants. The plant roots absorb these nutrients, and in doing so filter the water so it can be safely recirculated back to the fish. The aquaponics system includes a 200-gallon fish tank and three grow beds for the plants – producing harvestable, donation-ready items including vegetables, leafy greens, and herbs. To learn more about this new system, check out our aquaponics video above! 

The Greenhouse and Gardens Program partners with the Patriot Pantry  a university program that provides food-insecure students access to non-perishable food and hygiene items and raises awareness about food insecurity within the Mason student population. The pantry is housed under the Student Support and Advocacy Center (SSAC) in the Division of University Life. The Patriot Pantry serves hundreds of students every semester, and partners with the Greenhouse & Gardens program to fill the gap of providing perishable and fresh foods. The Greenhouse and Gardens Program donates the food produced from the aquaponics system to those in need! Donations include, but are not limited to: tomatoes, lettuce, kale, bok choy, and soon strawberries.

The PPG partnership with the Patriot Pantry offers free fresh produce for those who are food insecure via the Greenhouse and Garden’s Program online portal. 

In order to grow and harvest the produce, the PPG relies heavily on its volunteers. Anyone can gain hands-on experience with both hydroponic and aquaponic systems while volunteering. Inside the greenhouse, participants can learn how to compost indoors with worms, harvest crops, sow and transplant seedlings, solve pest issues using natural organic methods, and support a thriving farm-to-table sustainable food operation. Another perk of volunteering is the chance to try the produce grown and take some home, as there is usually a surplus!

Most of the produce goes to donations for the Patriot Pantry, and when students volunteer, they get to take home harvest-ready produce and herbs,” said Nolan. "We are always seeking ways to connect fresh food sources to those in need on campus.”  

Another way University Sustainability and the Greenhouse and Gardens Program is addressing food insecurity on Mason’s campus through educating students on healthy, sustainable food preparation in the form of on-campus cooking events.  

“Our program educates students about healthy eating to promote overall well-being and sustainability. Many students are hesitant to request or accept healthy, sustainable donations due to limited knowledge regarding preparation and cooking with fresh ingredients,” said Nolan. “In addition, many students do not have access to a kitchen in their dorm rooms or do not have the time due to academic course load or employment obligations.”  

In November 2022, the program hosted its first cooking event, “Earthsgiving,” yielding a large turnout of volunteers and students. Two free, sustainable, cooking events are being held in Spring 2023. One in March and one in April to celebrate Earth Month. The March 2023 cooking event is a partnership with the Patriot Pantry, Housing and Recreation, as well as Mason Dining, to focus on education in preparing inexpensive meals, using commonly featured items from the Patriot Pantry. The cooking event in April 2023 has an international food theme! Keep an eye out on the earth month website for details regarding upcoming events. 

“There are so many opportunities to combine the sustainable aspects of food as well as the food security efforts that are gaining popularity amongst our students,” said Nolan. “These events help build community and educate and inspire students to eat more plant-based and home prepared meals which both promote environmentally conscious lifestyles as well as an increase in well-being!” 

The Greenhouse & Gardens Program also maintains two outdoor sites that produce vegetables and fruit organically for donation, such as figs and passionfruit. They offer tours and educational activities for groups of all ages.  To get involved, check out

Learn more about how you can support Mason Vision Day and volunteer with University Sustainability! To volunteer, sign-up using our online platform – which can help you track your service hours for classes, and more!  

2023 All Together Green Facilities Management News

Waste & Recycling Impact Awards

Mason Facilities' Waste & Recycle Management team was recently recognized by Emily Ross, Deputy Chief of Mason Police for the exceptional work during Homecoming celebrations in February 2023.  The team was shouted out for going above and beyond for their work during the post-event clean up.

"This team had the unenviable task of ensuring the cleaning of an exceptional amount of trash and other various hazards that were left by patrons strewn across the parking lot in large quantities well beyond their normal workload, let alone on a Saturday, which was likely outside of their standard work schedule," said Ross.  "Their efforts were critical to ensuring the safety of the several thousand guests, pedestrians, and motorists, a number of whom were too inebriated to be able to clean up after themselves. Police and EMS responded to several calls to attend to medical emergencies in the area, and the support received from the Facilities team keeping the area safe for the first responders to operate was invaluable."

Facilities loves hearing about other units championing our staff.  This year, the Homecoming cleanup went beyond the usual scope of the Waste and Recycle Management team, but they rose to the occasion.

"Not only were there a lot of tasks to do, but the team also exemplified the utmost professionalism, especially in the face of adversity when the revelers refused to leave the parking lot more than two hours after conclusion of the event," said Ross. "The team stood by and waited patiently for the group to disperse, even though this kept them from ending their shift and going home when originally intended."

"In Facilities, we are all here to support staff, students, and families and ensuring they have a great experience," said Kevin Brim, Facilities Management Waste Recycle Supervisor.  "This will go along way to show my team their work does matter and people do notice."

For their outstanding service and support, positive attitudes, and interacting with others in a professional and civil manner, the Mason Police Department recognized the following Recycling and Waste Management employees with Bronze Impact Awards:

Edward Johnson
Yaw Tenkorang
Shawn Andrews
Ravy Pho
Kwame Adomako
Tan Nguyen 


2023 All Together Green Facilities Management News On-Campus Solutions Sustainable Innovation

New Landscaping for Point of View Retreat


The Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter School’s Point of View (POV) retreat facility is kicking off the spring semester with new, pollinator-friendly, landscaping. Its exterior boasts a custom trellis for flowering vines, redesigned beds along entrances with perennial shrubs and flowering plants, and new native and flowering trees. The plants were chosen with the local ecology and long-term resiliency in mind to create a vibrant new exterior for the facility that complements its serene landscape overlooking Belmont Bay where wildlife thrives.  
Jessica Avila-Franco, POV’s Events and Site Manager, in collaboration with Erich Miller, Mason Facilities Management Grounds Program Manager and certified Arborist, developed a landscaping plan that prioritized native species to enhance the natural beauty of the facility, while also supporting local pollinator species.  
Avila-Franco applied for funding through University Sustainability’s Patriot Green Fund - a grant from Mason Facilities that allows the campus community to contribute to solutions to reduce Mason’s environmental impact. In Fall 2022, the application was approved by the Patriot Green Fund Committee, which consists of students, staff, and faculty, and was awarded $20,000 for completion of the project. 

“Point of View is a unique and peaceful place within George Mason University,” said Avila-Franco “The addition of native, pollinator-friendly plants and landscaping (thanks to Erich and the Patriot Green Fund Grant) allows us to enhance the location’s natural beauty while continuing our commitment to be environmentally and ecologically conscious.” 
This initiative will also contribute to the specimens included in George Mason University’s accredited Arboretum collection, which can be accessed online as well as enjoyed in-person to explore the ecological diversity on Mason’s campuses.  
"This collaborative effort between Facilities Management, Point of View, and University Sustainability is a testament to our continued commitment to improve, enhance, and incorporate our mission to provide excellent campus environments for all students, staff, and visitors to learn from and enjoy,” said Miller 

POV is a dedicated space for peacebuilding practices and learning that provides customized in-person and online training, while also facilitating support to local, national, and global organizations and communities. It is available for facility rentals meetings, retreats, and special events and can be reserved online.  

If you have an idea of your own to make Mason more sustainable, reach out through the Patriot Green Fund interest form for more information on how to get started. The upcoming and final PGF submission deadline for Spring 2023 is March 10. 

Story Credit: Sarah D'alexander
Photo Credit: Erich Miller

2023 All Together Green Facilities Management News Sustainability

Green Game Waste Diversion Audit 2023

The 2023 Green Game was held on January 25, 2023, during the George Mason Patriots Women’s Basketball team vs. University of Rhode Island game. With the help of 21 volunteers, who completed 66 hours of service learning, Mason successfully achieved an 84.2% diversion rate, or the portion of weight not sent to the incinerator, (i.e., 41.6% compost and 42.6% recycling) through a post-game waste audit. Tracking the diversion rate is a great way to measure the effectiveness of reuse, recycling, and composting programs.

Each Green Game is aimed at achieving a “zero waste” basketball game, which means 90% or more of all the waste produced during the game is diverted from arena trash bins through green purchasing, composting, or recycling. Mason’s Green Game is an initiative to grow the University’s culture of sustainability at a “zero waste” basketball game. The Green Game enhances zero waste awareness, showcases the essential work of Mason’s recycling, dining, and housekeeping staff, and highlights composting as an essential part of University Sustainability’s institutional zero waste strategy.

University Sustainability partners with Mason Athletics, EagleBank Arena Operations and Events, Mason Dining (Sodexo), V&G Cleaning SVSC, Facilities Recycling and Waste Management, and volunteers to achieve our zero waste goal. Green Game was established in 2014, during George Mason University’s first Atlantic 10 Conference season. Green Game serves as Mason’s official entry into the National Wildlife Federation’s Campus Race to Zero Waste (CR2ZW) Game Day Basketball competition.

Since 2014, Mason’s Green Game initiative has diverted 10,899 pounds of waste from incineration, supported experiential learning opportunities for over 330 volunteers, engaged over 37,475 basketball game attendees in zero waste practices, and achieved a top ten ranking in Campus Race to Zero Waste’s Game Day Basketball competition 11 times. In addition to increasing Mason’s waste diversion rate, our 2023 entry into the Game Day Basketball competition encouraged our campus community’s confident engagement in zero waste practices by providing service-learning opportunities for all Mason community members to participate. The CR2ZW competition provided University Sustainability with the opportunity to co-create zero waste outreach and engagement materials with volunteers, staff, and attendees who shared their feedback and experiences sorting at the bin.

Mason students, faculty, staff, alums, and non-Mason-affiliated members of the public, joined together to support the efforts of the partners at this year’s Green Game. Volunteers helped set up centralized waste disposal locations (i.e., co-located waste, recycling, and composting bins), provided at-the-bin education, and performed a waste audit post-event. “We had volunteers stationed at almost every waste station, resulting in more correct sorting behavior before we collected waste, and more efficient use of our time during the post-collection sorting process,” said Gregory Farley, Director of University Sustainability. The post-game audit produces real-time data about waste behaviors, helping University Sustainability and Mason Facilities make operational and logistical decisions to improve Mason’s overall waste diversion rate and campus recycling system. Mason student volunteers earned service-learning and volunteer hours for their participation, and eligible employees used their School Assistance and Volunteer Service Leave to join, an opportunity made possible through partnership with the Human Resources’ Faculty and Staff Engagement Team.

Nearly every foodservice item offered by EagleBank Arena’s concessions during the Green Game was recyclable or compostable. During Green Game, compost bins are organized around the arena in co-located stations with recycling and trash bins to support the arena’s transition to green purchasing and promote access to this new waste streams.

According to the University Sustainability Team, “Although we were just short of reaching our 2023 Green Game zero waste goal (90%), we successfully raised awareness about Mason’s actions to phase out single-use plastics on campus, provided hands-on learning for navigating compostable and recyclable food service ware alternatives, piloted Green Game’s first PPE recycling and hard-to-recycle initiative, as well as supported zero waste signage improvements by testing out bilingual bin labels at the game.”

Story and Photo Credit: Benjamin Auger and Colleen Regan

2023 All Together Green Culture Change News Sustainability

New Art Supply Sharing Initiative

Photo Credit: Yassmin Salem
Story by: Sarah D’Alexander


Yassmin Salem, Murals at Mason Program Manager with Mason Exhibitions, helps divert waste while supporting students by creating a free, art supply, sharing resource at the School of Art. The Free Art Supply Cabinet is a socially-conscious resource that provides access to valuable art supplies that aren’t always affordable, promotes a culture of sharing amongst students, and encourages recycling unused or unneeded materials instead of throwing them away. The emphasis on social issues is rooted in Mason Exhibitions’ mission and partnership with Provisions Research Center for Art and Social Change, which offers books on 33 social change topics as content resources for artists and researchers. Provisions is located in L001 of the Art and Design building.  

“Donating unwanted materials, repurposing items you already have, and sharing excess supplies are practical ways to incorporate sustainability into your own life and build community with others,” says Salem.   

Undergraduate art students can spend hundreds of dollars per semester on art supplies including paint, brushes, sketchbooks, pens, and canvases. Once the semester is over, many items are left unused and could be given a second life. Salem recognized the opportunity to coordinate a centralized resource to redistribute these items. Various forms of art-making are part of  hobbies and self-care practices, so this organically lends as a resource for the entire Mason community.  

Inside the Free Art Supply Cabinet, you can expect to find things like beads, pastels, charcoal, canvases, scrap paper, sketch books, resin molds, ribbons and yarn, office supplies, and other mixed media materials.  The Free Art Supply Cabinet is located in room 2046 of the Art and Design building on the Fairfax campus. 

With support from the Patriot Green Fund, a grant from Mason Facilities that allows the campus community to contribute to solutions that reduce Mason’s environmental impact, Salem applied for the cabinet and shelves needed to make the Free Art Supply Cabinet accessible to Mason students.  

“This is a wonderful example of a Patriot Green project,” says Sarah D’Alexander, Sustainability Program Manager of the Patriot Green Fund. “Not only does it help prevent unnecessary waste, but it creates a culture of reuse and resource sharing at Mason that we hope other departments are inspired to adopt.”   

If you have excess office or art supplies to share with the Mason community, please visit room 2046 of the Art and Design building during school hours to donate. Contact or @muralsatmason on Instagram and Facebook if there are questions about the Free Art Supply Cabinet. 

If you have a project idea of your own to make Mason more sustainable, let the Patriot Green Fund know through the project interest form 

2023 Employee of the Month Facilities Management News

January 2023 Facilities Employee of the Month – Geoffrey Lopez

Celebrating Geoffrey Lopez as the January 2023 Employee of the Month

Geoffrey Lopez, HVAC Technician, was selected as January’s GMU Facilities Employee of the Month. In addition to his preventative maintenance program responsibilities, Lopez correctly identified and responded to unanticipated computer room air conditioning (CRAC) related issues with notable urgency.

The CRAC units, located within the Aquia Building and Engineering’s Data Center, monitor and maintain temperature, air distribution and humidity. Quick to accommodate clients’ needs, restore CRAC unit functioning, and ensure the safety of the data center’s equipment, Lopez is well-deserving of this honor.

“Geoffrey has consistently demonstrated a positive attitude and approaches every work order with the same urgency. He has a great relationship with his colleagues and helps them out without hesitation or complaints,” said Gordon Lansdowne, Supervisor for Facilities Management.

Interested in submitting a GMU Facilities Employee of the Month nomination?  Check out the new process here!

2023 All Together Green Facilities Management News Sustainable Innovation

Mason Welcomes New Fleet of Vehicles

Mason Facilities has a new fleet of flexible-fuel vehicles (FFVs) on the Fairfax Campus. Nine new vehicles were added this winter to the Facilities inventory! Both efficient and practical, these new vehicles are required for large, heavy-duty work including hauling, snow plowing, fuel and material deliveries, and much more.

The upgrade aligns well with Mason's sustainability goals, reducing fuel consumption and the university's carbon footprint. As a result of the university's decision to purchase FFVs for the fleet, Mason is able to claim alternative fuel credits with the state, increasing the university's fuel economy by an average of 71%. This saves Mason in fuel costs, significantly. The upgraded vehicles, outfitted with ladder rocks, tool holders, and additional accessories, will allow the Facilities team to perform their job functions better and safer, while promoting a "cleaner and greener" image for Mason. 

Keep an eye out for the new vehicles around campus!