As I sit typing this, I am on my lunch break in a giant renovated warehouse at the top of the Lehigh Mountain. Indoor plants with purple flowers line the center walkway and juxtapose the gray cement floor and surrounding cinderblock walls. Square workspaces formed by dozens of whiteboards containing doodles, brainstorming notes, and bubble letters frame the building’s perimeter, housing groups of creative students, some fastidious and some mellifluous, collaborating their crazy thoughts. I am at the site of the Mountaintop Projects.
This umbrella program provides grants to research groups who want to explore some invention or theory they are passionate about, and up here all of the resources to promote thinking and creativity are provided. I am in the “Low-Energy Sustainable Farming” group researching how to integrate the Lehigh Community Garden with the campus and make it more sustainable. So far, there are two sides of the project: an environmental engineering side and an environmental studies side (perfect for IDEAS majors). The environmental engineering side involves installing solar panels at the garden to offset the energy used by the water pump for watering the plants. The environmental studies side, which surprisingly contains more challenging obstacles, involves working with Lehigh faculty and staff to devise a plan to keep the garden growing and thriving for the years to come. We have to use our knowledge of sustainable gardening and its potential impact on the community to show the faculty and staff how much potential it has! We are even looking into creating a business loop where students get paid to grow vegetables for the Lehigh dining services. Being in the IDEAS program has helped me through this project because I’ve been trained to not only look at technical aspects of a project but the social, political, and ethical aspects as well, which are equally as important. Here’s a picture of the thriving community garden, which is growing delicious broccoli, kale, tomatoes, peppers, carrots, zucchini, and much more as I type this!