The University of Maryland Office of Sustainability announced on Thursday the first round of 2015-16 Sustainability Fund grants for environmentally friendly projects.

Thus far, the office has chosen eight proposals from the first round of applicants to receive different levels of funding, said Mark Stewart, Office of Sustainability senior project manager. The first round's deadline was Oct. 15; the final deadline was Jan. 15.

The total grant money available this year is $470,000, according to the Sustainability Fund website.

The three largest funded projects for this year are a proposal that would create a sustainability coordinator position for dorms and Greek life; one for building a plant wall in McKeldin Library; and another that gives students and teachers a chance to work on local sustainability problems, according to the website.

A proposal called Transforming Student Culture through Green Housing — a partnership between the Department of Resident Life, the Department of Fraternity and Sorority Life and the Office of Sustainability — received $112,458 from the fund to create a new position focused on developing sustainability programs in dorms and Greek life chapters, said Olan Garrett, Resident Life's manager for educational and outreach programs.

This was the first time the Sustainability Fund awarded grant money for a staff position, Stewart said.

The search for the new sustainability coordinator will begin next month. The Office of Sustainability is looking for applicants who are passionate about sustainability and willing to work with students and faculty to improve green living, Garrett said.

"I'm excited to see the person come and help get the programs off the ground," Garrett said.

The purpose of the $30,000 Living Wall in University Libraries plant wall program is to bring a more pleasing atmosphere, cleaner air and color to McKeldin, said Gary White, University Libraries associate dean for public services.

The libraries will partner with plant science students to design and maintain the wall, which will be located on the first floor of the library, White said.

White said the living wall is "a very visible way that the library and the university could show that we are committed to sustainability."

Although there is no official timeline for construction yet, White said he hopes the wall will be completed by December.

Developed to tackle sustainability problems in this state's communities using student ideas and faculty expertise, the Partnership for Action Learning in Sustainability program received $25,000 to give students and teachers the opportunity to apply sustainability knowledge to the real world, said Maggie Haslam, PALS communications consultant.

This is the second year PALS has received funding, and the response to the program has continuously been positive, Haslam said.

"What excites me the most about it is the confidence and faith that our peers within the university have in the program," Haslam said. "The fact that they awarded us this funding shows that they believe in the program and see how it works."

The next round of Sustainability Fund grant recipients will be announced within the next few months, Stewart said.

Created five years ago, the Sustainability Fund awards grants to applicants to "implement the project as proposed, or as approved, by the Sustainability Council," Stewart said. "That looks different for each project."

The project proposals are first reviewed by the Sustainability Fund Review Board, a committee of undergraduate students. The board recommends projects to the Sustainability Council, which includes students and faculty, for a final decision, Stewart said.

The review board weighs each proposal carefully before making any final decisions, said Samantha Bingaman, board chairwoman and Sustainability Council undergraduate representative.

"A lot of [board members] have written proposals ourselves for the Sustainability Fund in previous years," said Bingaman, a junior environmental science and policy major. "We definitely understand how much time and effort is going into these, and we want to make sure enough time is dedicated to reviewing them."

She said the board likes to see proposals that have student involvement, lasting influence and practical applications toward bettering sustainability.

A proposal "has to have a lot of potential to raise the bar in terms of environmental awareness on-campus," she said.