Environmental Engineer's Natural Herbicide Project Wins National Campus Sustainability Award

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For years, newly minted alumna Grace Brosofsky has been driven to find a safe, organic way to control weeds.

Now she’s been recognized for her efforts as a Georgia Tech student with the Student Sustainability Leadership award for 2017 from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education. Brosofsky was honored at the group’s annual conference earlier this month for her natural herbicides project with Engineers for a Sustainable World.

“I was humbled and honored to receive the AASHE Student Sustainability Leadership Award and enjoyed the chance to meet so many amazing people dedicated to devising and implementing different ways to further sustainability,” said Brosofsky, who graduated in the spring and now studies law at Cornell University.

As an undergraduate environmental engineering student, Brosofsky worked with Engineers for a Sustainable World to test several natural herbicides on the Georgia Tech campus. In their second trial, supported by a President’s Undergraduate Research Award, they found they could make an effective — and economical — herbicide from acetic acid and d-Limonene, the bulk of the oil that’s squeezed out of the skins of citrus fruits when they’re juiced.

“In our second, larger-scale experiment, we found that 20 percent, 40 percent and 60 percent concentrations of an acetic acid and d-Limonene solution performed better over time than the organic herbicides currently on the market,” Brosofsky said, “and that the 40 percent and 60 percent concentrations worked as well as the chemical herbicide RoundUp.”

The team taught students and gardeners in low-income communities how to make and use the natural herbicide, and they worked with Students Organizing for Sustainability to control weeds in the club’s garden.

Though the project was based on research Brosofsky has been doing since high school on organic weed control, Engineers for a Sustainable World will continue the work now the she has finished her degree. Environmental engineering student Emmeline Yearwood and chemical engineering major Ilinca Birlea plan to collaborate with Georgia Tech’s facilities team on the landscaping for the new Living Building.

The AASHE sustainability awards recognize campuses and individuals who are helping lead sustainability efforts in higher education. This year, the group gave out 10 awards from more than 200 nominees. Brosofsky’s project won the only student award.


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